The Keystone Pipeline debate has been going on for about six years ago, and by the looks of it, Congress should allow for its construction soon enough. A lot of the debate behind it seems to be symbolic from both sides, which might explain why former Energy Secretary Chu said that the decisions behind Keystone are political. Republicans want to make it look like they're creating jobs and stimulating the economy. Democrats want to appear as the protectors of the environment.
In the grand scheme of things, I have to ask why building this is a big deal. The United States already has more than 190,000 miles of oil pipelines running through its infrastructure. Will another 1,179 miles do that much harm? If pipelines were so harmful that they cause an exceptionally high level of oil spills that spoil Mother Nature, don't you think we would have heard about pipeline safety issues by now? According to the Department of State's environmental impact statement, it "remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil lands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States (p. ES-9)." Allowing for this pipeline would create 18.7 million metric tons of carbon per annum, which might sound like a lot, but if we used a climate model developed at NASA, we would see that building Keystone would only increase the planet's temperature by 0.00001ºC, or a hundred-thousandth of a degree. Even climate activists concede that Keystone would only be 0.2 percent of the world's "carbon budget."
We're talking 168 billion gallons of untapped oil, which is only third to Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Do you think that Canada is going to sit on that metaphorical gold mine and do nothing? Good luck with that! If Keystone doesn't get passed, they're still going to extract it and find a different way to transport it, or even find a different purchaser for all that precious oil. Did the protesters think that it was more than a distinct possibility that alternative methods of transporting the oil would be more expensive, increase risk for oil spills, or increase carbon emissions even more? Pipelines are the safest way to transport oil, so if naysayers have a better way of transporting the oil, I'm all ears.
And let's talk about some of the benefits. There is no significant effect on federal spending. Oklahoma and Texas have already experienced a combined $5.7 billion boom to their economies for the construction of the southern leg of the pipeline, so it's reasonable to assume finishing the pipeline will have similar effects for the affected states. There's also that estimated $54 million in tax revenues. Even the Left-leaning CEPR admits there would be some job creation (granted, most of it would be temporary, but at least that speaks to how low-maintenced oil pipelines are, which is a good thing because it speaks to their overall safety). None of this gets into how increasing supply will make oil even cheaper.
Until renewable energy makes itself as price-effective with a capacity to meet our energy demands, we're "stuck" with oil, coal, and natural gas as our main providers of energy. Much like with fracking, there are residual risks to the construction of this pipeline. We have a safe way to bring affordable energy to many while boosting the economy. The fact that environmentalists' imaginations like to run wild on these matters should be no basis for dictating public policy.