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

October 3, 2011 |  1:05 pm

Keystone XL demonstration 

What happens to a red state when it faces a choice between black (gold) and green?

Why, it turns ... blue!

Times staff writer Kim Murphy's article Monday on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline detailed the clash between jobs and the environment that's taking place in the Midwest -- in this case, Nebraska.

Reporting from Atkinson, Murphy described the scene at a recent public gathering:

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline -- the subject of public hearings convened by the State Department last week along the route from Montana to Texas -- was alternately described as a plot by a foreign corporation to exploit America, a potentially perilous polluter of the nation's greatest freshwater resource, the answer to America's energy insecurity, a generator of the last great family-wage jobs and, oh yes, a dangerous new instigator of global warming.

But the most telling line from Murphy's story was this:

The hometown crowd was sympathetic -- their children will probably go down and apply for jobs too, if it comes to it -- but couldn't they build it, people kept wondering, somewhere else? Somewhere not so magical as the Sandhills?

Ah, yes. Isn't that always the catch?  We want jobs, we want oil, we want government out of our lives -- but we also don't want that nasty pipeline in our backyard. 

Can't you build it in Iowa?  Or Colorado?

Or California?  Yeah, out there where all those liberals are always mouthing off about the environment! Yes, let them have the pipeline, and let them open up their coast to offshore oil drilling. Don't they know America needs the oil?

Nebraska hasn't voted for a Democrat for president since 1964.  It's among the reddest of red states.  Rick Perry? You bet! Michele Bachmann? Sure. Anyone who hates the EPA?  Right on!

But build a pipeline through the state's sandy western half, home to a few thousand people and some cranes and the like? You can't do that -- it's precious. It's unique. It's, well, worth protecting.

And you know what? It is. It should be protected. It shouldn't be sacrificed on the altar of the almighty job-creation bandwagon.

But I wonder if the good people of Nebraska will remember, come election day, that neither Rick Perry, nor Mitt Romney, nor Herman Cain, nor any of the other Republican standard-bearers is on their side?

And neither are the Republicans in Congress, who hold a Democratic president's feet to the fire, trying to force him to choose jobs over the environment.

And that when you chant "Drill, baby, drill," that can mean that the drilling -- or the pipelines -- are in your backyard. 

So you want to protect the Sandhills? Good.

But the solution isn't to spoil someone else's land. It's to remember that if the price is too high for you, it's too high for all of us.


Canada-Texas oil pipeline moves forward

Graphic: Keystone pipeline and Ogallala aquifer

 $44.4-million settlement reached in San Francisco Bay oil spill

Yellowstone River oil spill: It's not enough to simply clean up the river

-- Paul Whitefield

Photo: Opponents and supporters of the Keystone XL oil pipeline project demonstrate near the state Capitol in Lincoln, Neb. Credit: Nati Harnik / Associated Press

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