Pitted against the pipeline

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A topic of contention since 2012, the Keystone Pipeline was again thrust in front of Americans on Feb. 11, when the bill proposing it cleared both Houses. Now that the bill has passed, it’s time people re-educate themselves on the implications of this massive project, and learn why a presidential veto is absolutely needed- from the perspective of a Nebraska native.

First, the plan proposed by TransCanada, the company in charge of building the Keystone Pipeline, is to have a system that carries 830,000 barrels of oil per day from tar pits in Western Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with an existing pipeline and carry oil to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. There are a number of problems with this proposal, including those of economic and environmental nature.

Environmentally, the oil in the Canadian tar sands is not clean oil, so to speak, and must go through an extensive extraction process to produce a usable form. Strip mining the sands, one of the extraction methods, creates 17 percent more carbon pollution than the production of conventional oil, according to the State Department. This method has already destroyed a portion of Alberta’s forests, and there’s no telling how much more would be destroyed with the new pipeline. The other extraction method, which involves large amounts of water and natural gas to pump steam into the sands, creates excessive, toxic runoffs.

Among other environmental concerns is the fact that the pipeline would tear up massive property throughout the Midwest, property that is already owned by farmers. While they would be compensated, there is no adequate relief for tearing up thousands of acres of land.

Another problem with the pipeline plan is the implications it has for climate change. Ironically, one of the riders on the bill is recognition by Congress that the climate is in fact changing, and the fact that the bill recognizes one of the main consequences of the pipeline is almost humorous. There is some speculation about how much the climate could change with the construction of the pipeline, but the Labor Network for Sustainability estimates a minimum raise of 2 degrees Celsius.

One of the main arguments in favor of the pipeline is the number of jobs the project would create. While it is true that the pipeline would create temporary construction jobs, the total permanent jobs the pipeline would create is about 35. This completely nullifies the argument for creation of jobs; anyone could see that 35 jobs do not really have widespread economic impact.

Another misconception about the pipeline is that it would reduce American’s dependence on foreign oil, and lower oil prices. Oil prices per barrel are already the lowest they’ve been since the financial crisis of 2008, according to NASDAQ. America  used an average of 18.89 million barrels of oil per day in 2013, according to the Energy Information Administration. Since the pipeline only carries 830,000 barrels per day, this will not even put a dent in the amount of oil American uses, thus not really decreasing any foreign dependence.

The route of the pipeline is questionable, as it carries oil to Gulf Coast ports. Since the oil is being carried to a port, the question could be raised  if the oil would even stay in the United States?

The speaker of the House, specifically, has been using the argument that most Americans support the pipeline to strong-arm the President out of vetoing the bill. However, a lawsuit in Nebraska, by Nebraskan landowners, questioning the constitutionality of the pipeline, found the pipeline unconstitutional in a district court. When the decision was appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court, 4 out of 7 judges ruled saying that the pipeline wasn’t constitutional, agreeing with the landowners. However, because of the super majority rule, requiring five judges to affirm the lower court, the pipeline plan was said to be constitutional. This demonstrates that there is opposition to the bill, and comes from one of the key states involved.

The bill will be placed on the President’s desk any day, after which he has 10 days to act. The bill, passing with a 270-152 vote in the House, and 62-36 in the Senate, does not have enough votes to override a veto.

While this may seem a singular issue with limited effects, the pipeline will affect all Americans; climate change affects everyone in many ways. I urge everyone to read articles, get informed about the real logistics of this pipeline and hope for a presidential veto.