Legitimate question: What is it that eco-radicals are failing (refusing?) to grasp about the Keystone XL pipeline? As one wayward protester aptly demonstrated during President Obama’s zillionth speech trying to make the case for his signature legislative achievement on Wednesday, time (as in, five years) has done nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of their crusade against the extension of the already-existent southern portion of the pipeline, and yet their main point of contention is still the development of the Canadian oil sands — the transport of which part of the Keystone XL’s capacity will be dedicated.

The only (huge, glaring, obvious) problem with that argument, as oil and gas companies are already aptly demonstrating, is that those oil sands are going to be developed with or without Keystone XL, and in the meantime, companies are going with the less safe, less environmentally friendly transport options of rail, trucks, and tankers. Via the NYT (for goodness’ sake!):

Over the past two years, environmentalists have chained themselves to the White House fence and otherwise coalesced around stopping the Keystone XL pipeline as their top priority in the fight against global warming.

But even if President Obama rejects the pipeline, it might not matter much. Oil companies are already building rail terminals to deliver oil from western Canada to the United States, and even to Asia.

Since July, plans have been announced for three large loading terminals in western Canada with the combined capacity of 350,000 barrels a day — equivalent to roughly 40 percent of the capacity of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that is designed to bring oil from western Alberta to refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Over all, Canada is poised to quadruple its rail-loading capacity over the next few years to as much as 900,000 barrels a day, up from 180,000 today.

The only realistic thing the environmental lobby could possibly hope to achieve here is perhaps slightly slowing down the oil sands’ development, but in the meantime, they are actively incentivizing energy companies to go with the transport method that results in more spills and emissions expenditures. Why the disconnect? I suppose that, once they decided to make a huge stand on the issue, they can’t very well back off — the counterproductivity of their methods be damned.