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Keystone XL: America's Italian cruise ship?

January 18, 2012 | 12:18 pm

Keystone XL protesters in Washington

Why is it that when I picture the Keystone XL pipeline, I see a half-submerged cruise ship in the Mediterranean?

Maybe it's because the wreck of the Costa Concordia off Italy's coast is a reminder that, well, stuff happens.

Which is why it's good news that the Obama administration has decided against issuing a permit for the Keystone project just yet.

Like it or not, pipelines -- like cruise ships and nuclear reactors and the things people make, or operate -- aren't foolproof. Stuff happens.

I'm against building the Keystone. But if we are going to go ahead with it, we'd better make sure we've done everything we can to make it as safe as possible.

And that means not rushing the permit process.

Sadly, President Obama's Republican opponents never miss an opportunity to make political points, even when it's their voters -– such as the ones in Nebraska -– who are also objecting to the project. As The Times reported Wednesday:

"President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. "The president won't stand up to his political base even to create American jobs. This is not the end of this fight."

Which is utter nonsense. The pipeline's oil would go into the global pool. U.S. refiners would probably continue the growing trend of selling their products to foreign markets. And the number of jobs created would be a relative handful -– 20,000 according to proponents, 6,000 according to the State Department and others.

All for what? So we can put at risk a precious aquifer in the nation's breadbasket?

And then there's the questionable strategy of our dependence on oil in the first place. Go read 350.org founder Bill McKibben's Op-Ed article in Wednesday's Times, "Burning America's future," for a chilling analysis of where that path will lead the planet.

If you don't have the time, here's his kicker:

It may not be aerosol cheese or cryogenics, but can't we all agree that burning every molecule of fossil fuel we can find is a spectacularly bad idea?

We're stuck with oil, and gas, and coal, and, yes, nuclear for now. But we don't have to stay stuck. 

And we certainly don't have to take giant risks for the small return that the Keystone XL pipeline would bring.

After all, the Costa Concordia wreck will probably prove to be a job creator too. 

For cleanup workers.


Graphic: No permit for pipeline

Full coverage: Keystone XL pipeline

Italy's Costa Concordia catastrophe: Why?

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Protesters march against the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline during a demonstration in Washington in November. Credit: Daniel Lippman / MCT


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