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Long-term impact on the environment vs. short-term jobs [Most commented]

November 28, 2011 |  6:54 pm

"I wasn't always a disillusioned Democrat," writes Charles K. Ebinger, director of the Brookings Institution's Energy Security Initiative. "For decades, the party's policies ensured that the United States had adequate supplies of domestic oil, natural gas, coal, hydroelectric power and uranium to fuel our growing economy while providing good-paying jobs to the men and women who produced our energy and transported it. These policies helped create America's affluence of the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s." But now things have changed, he laments in an Op-Ed in Monday's pages.

How far we have fallen from those days. Today's Democratic leadership has reached a nadir in rational energy policymaking. In the last several years, congressional party leaders have squandered opportunities for a nuclear waste management storage program and have shown opposition to shale gas production. This month, the party reached a new low: The Obama administration's delay of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, in spite of its promise of an additional 750,000 barrels of oil per day and the thousands of new jobs it would create, was an inexcusable political decision unbecoming of a pragmatic leader.

The former generation of Democratic legislators would have embraced the energy opportunities before the United States today. Whoever is president in 2013, it will be the first time in 40 years that the United States has a serious chance to transform its energy landscape. The previously accepted inexorable decline in U.S. oil and gas production is being reversed: New "tight oil" -- resources trapped in low-porosity formations such as shale rock -- could provide the country with several million barrels of oil per day in the coming decades, and the country's abundant and accessible shale gas reserves may leave us gas independent for up to a century. There also are still conventional reserves to be tapped, most notably in Alaska, where the Beaufort and Chukchi seas and the North Slope hold an abundance of hydrocarbon reserves.

While some readers give Ebinger props on our discussion board, many are dismissing his argument. Here's a sampling:

Ebinger needs to get real

Ebinger has not said one word about "global climate change." Hasn't he read the latest scientific reports. We are running out of time. The Keystone project does not create many jobs -- and if Ebinger would consult Californians for Clean Energy and Growth, he'd find that the emerging industry is green tech. In addition the Keystone Project threatens the environment with all sorts of toxic chemicals -- not to mention increase carbon emissions The petro party is over. Even an oil shiekdom like Abu Dhabi recognizes this and is investing heavily in solar energy.  If Abu Dhabi recognizes the need for change, why can't we?

Obama is correct. The country that frees itself from fossil fuel will dominate the 21st century. Will that economy be the USA, China, or Abu Dhabi?

Ebigner himself needs to "get real."  He needs to asses the damages that fossil fuel bring to the planet -- not only in the form of increased toxic substances in our air and water supply, but also increased greenhouse emissions which are already wreaking havoc across this planet. 


Water trumps oil

It is insane to run an oil pipeline through the largest aquifer in the U.S., an aquifer which transformed the Great American Desert into the Great Plains.  A rupture in the proposed pipeline would turn the central U.S. into a wasteland.  It's not that we love oil less; it's that we love drinking water more.


We need conservation and alternative fuels

Your premise is remiss on several fronts.  First, the pipeline through Nebraska is for oil exportation.  Yes, it's all to be exported, mostly to South America.  Can you explain how this maneuver helps us become energy independent?  Secondly, in general terms, the absolute most we could possibly hope in domestic oil production increase (including shale oil, mostly from Canada) would be paltry compared to our fossil fuel use.  We can't drill our way out of this.  Doesn't matter how many op-eds you write, which frankly sounds more like lobbying then opinionating, we can't do it.  Very old thinking and suspiciously like the old guard way of thinking.  Perhaps you're no longer a Democrat because the Party has moved past you.  So, our best hope is conservation and alternative fuels, in that order.  While natural gas is intriguing, the issues surrounding fracking must be addressed before we move headlong on that road, and we must find ways to eliminate the ridiculous subsidies we pay to farmers for corn production (which leads to about 3% more energy, via ethanol, then it provides -- clearly a bad bet).  Solar and, to a lesser extent, wind power, have made tremendous strides in just the last few years.  You may have noticed a recent LAT article documenting that alternative energy production drew more investment dollars last year than fossil fuel production.  There's a reason for that. 


Bad for the environment, bad for people

Let's first stop trying to rewrite History, Mr Ebinger:

1) The devastating 2010 Gulf Oil Spill is popularly known as the BP Oil Spill -- or Deepwater, caused by greed, carelessness and human over-reaching;

2) Keystone XL would have only create a few thousands of TEMPORARY pipeline jobs, just as did the Alaskan pipeline, followed by a couple of hundred jobs for the permanent repair and operations crew required. Further, Keystone was a very STUPID idea which would have left billions of tons of toxic waste sitting in Texas -- or dumped into the Gulf. And, lastly, the resultant oil was meant for EXPORT through the newly expanded Panama Canal;

3) All independent evidence is that "fracking" is bad for People and the Environment;

4) While we do need to "plant the flag" to stake some sort of "claim" in the newly Climate Changed Arctic just to prevent the Russians from "over-reaching", drilling in the Arctic Ocean is daM_ed dangerous.

Meanwhile, without risking further environmental damage, safe NatGas drilling is available here in America to provide 100 years of Energy, gather-able MethGas nodules lie just off-shore to provide another century, and over 7T CCFs of NatGas have been at the well-head around Prudhoe awaiting Big Oil to get out of the way of building an Environmental-hazard-free pipeline down to the lower 48. But, Big Oil and, now, Trans-Canada have stood in the way.


*For clarity purposes, spelling errors in the above comments have been corrected.


No to the Keystone XL pipeline

Why does Obama hate polar bears?

A GOP assault on environmental regulations

Nebraskans -- and the rest of us -- can't afford Keystone XL

--Alexandra Le Tellier

Photo: A mock oil pipeline is carried during a Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline demonstration near the White House on Nov. 6. Credit: Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg

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