Retired Brigadier General says Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would feed "dangerous addiction" and do nothing to lower gas prices
Posted April 27, 2012 in Moving Beyond Oil
In today’s Politico, the former chief logistician responsible for moving troops in Iraq, Retired Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson, in a piece entitled, "Keystone feeds dangerous addiction", calls on all politicians to make weaning ourselves off oil a top priority. He writes that this is both an energy and a national security priority, citing the costs to our economy, to our soldiers in the field of combat, and to efforts to address accelerating global warming. But the main thrust of his piece is about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which he says would “maintain the status quo of an unhealthy reliance on oil” and do nothing to reduce gas prices. “Those who support the pipeline cling to the idea that Keystone XL will reduce gas prices, while ignoring the national security concerns. But these claims have no basis in reality”.
A battle has been raging in Congress since the President said in November that additional time was needed to consider the environmental impact of the pipeline, especially in the sensitive Sandhills area of Nebraska, where the Ogallala aquifer runs so near to the surface that the pipeline would have been dug into it. Even though there was no agreed routing, Republican leaders in the House and Senate insisted that language be added to the payroll tax extension bill approved in late December forcing the President to make a decision within 60-days. The President made it clear that that left him little choice but to reject the permit, which he did on January 18th. Since then, there have been multiple attempts to pass language that would override the approval process and grant the permit to the pipeline by Congressional fiat. The debate culminated last week in the passage in the House of the transportation overhaul with this poison pill attached.
Since the start, Congressional Republicans have argued that the pipeline, which is a huge priority for Big Oil, would ease gas prices, rhetoric that even Big Oil’s trade group, the American Petroleum Institute, admitted last week needs to be toned down. In an E&E article, API was quoted saying that “…Keystone XL supporters could begin dialing back rhetorical links between the pipeline's approval and a decrease in near-term gas prices”. While economists and plenty of others have weighed in that the pipeline will do little to ease gas prices, the rhetoric has continued unabated. House Speaker Boehner's recent comments - that, “[The President] should listen to the voices of the American people and unlock the project so we can get Americans working and address high gas prices” - are comments that have been made over and over again by Republican leaders. In a recently released fact sheet, NRDC details why the pipeline will actually increase gas prices.
General Anderson’s piece today is a shot across the bow. He writes that getting real on the impacts of our oil addiction starts with “dealing with the facts – not fiction – about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and its nonexistent role in lowering gas prices”. But he also challenges us to raise our sights higher than today’s debate and consider the impact of the pipeline on broader, ultimately more critical issues , linked to our profligate use of oil and to the growing threat of climate change. In his words:
“It matters not that the oil would come from our friends to the north – it does nothing to slake our unquenchable thirst, which empowers all oil-exporting countries, including those that would harm us. In addition Keystone XL would contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions and climate change – which the Defense Department said “act as an accelerant to instability and conflict”.
General Anderson goes on to cite one scary and one heartbreaking statistic – that fueling our military costs $30 billion annually and has cost the lives of at least 1000 soldiers executing fuel missions. Think of a world in which we fueled our transportation, military and otherwise, with alternatives to oil. Think of a world where we didn’t have to scrape the bottom of the barrel for our oil in the form of destructive tar sands oil. Think of a world where alternatives and energy conservation truly move us closer to energy independence and away from climate change. That is the world that he is asking us not only to imagine but to start to put in place now.
This week, the President weighed in in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine. When asked about Keystone XL, the President acknowledged that the pipeline debate is part and parcel of a larger debate about inaction – both internationally and at home – on climate change. He said “those who have looked at the science of climate change are scared and concerned about a general lack of sufficient movement to deal with the problem.”
So the debate over the pipeline – which has become a surrogate for the debate over our energy future - will next play out when the House and Senate meet in conference on the transportation bill in early May. This week, as conferees were announced, both the Democratic leadership in the Senate and conferees spoke out powerfully to say that Keystone XL had no place in the bill that will be sent to the President. Even Senator Baucus, who has supported the pipeline because it would carry some of the oil being produced in his home state, warned that the debate over Keystone XL should “not put more than 1 million American jobs supported by the highway bill in jeopardy”.
In closing, General Anderson writes, “Keystone XL demonstrates that America is at an energy crossroads. We can choose to unhook from Big Oil. We can choose to distance ourselves from volatile regimes. We can choose to focus instead on energy efficiency and innovation – and harness our innate American creativity and drive to overcome challenges. Becoming energy independent must be a top priority for the U.S.”
In this piece, General Anderson let readers know that he is a political conservative and longtime registered Republican. To date, the Republican party leadership has been reckless in its pursuit of this massive dirty energy pipeline – both in the peddling of mistruths and in holding hostage critical legislation that would benefit millions of Americans. Let’s hope that some of what he has to say will resonate among his party and shift the politics of this pipeline battle onto higher ground.
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