As protests go, the anti-Keystone XL Pipeline march doesn’t seem terribly effective. First, organizers scheduled it during a vacation weekend for Barack Obama, when the President hit the links with Tiger Woods and left the White House press corps steaming over a lack of photo ops. Its turnout failed to get even 10% of the turnout for the March for Life a month ago, coming in at just 35,000.
However, at least they got more press coverage than abortion opponents got, including nineteen seconds on CBS Evening News:
A crowd that organizers said numbered approximately 35,000 braved the cold on Sunday and marched to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and to show leadership on other climate issues they called urgent.
The group rallied on a slice of the Mall just north of the Washington Monument before heading down Constitution Avenue, up 17th Street and past the White House chanting slogans such as “We are unstoppable, another world is possible” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Keystone pipeline’s got to go.”
Hey hey ho ho! I’m actually a fan of peaceful protests, no matter the cause, as that freedom reminds us all that political change comes through peaceful action in this republic. Still, it would be nice if protesters could expand their repertoires to include something more than the mindless, fill-in-the-blank chants from two generations ago. In this case, it doesn’t even apply, since Keystone isn’t here yet, and so can’t “go.”
What alternatives do these protesters want for the US to meet its energy needs? They must want domestic oil production enhanced instead of all that dirty Canadian oil, or perhaps more emphasis on natural gas, right? Not exactly:
But the demonstrators tried to send him a message nonetheless, carrying signs opposing not only the proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas, but also opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and coal plants. “Windmills, not oil spills,” one placard said. Another said, “Fossil fuels? Fossil fools.” And another: “Read my lips: no new carbons.”
No oil, no coal, and no natural gas. In other words, America needs to go on an energy diet and eliminate 58% of our energy (2011 statistics). Assuming the same crowd would reject nuclear power, we get to two-thirds of all power generated in the US. Either we turn off all the lights and crash our economy, or only the very wealthiest individuals will be able to wash their clothes by anything but hand, and everyone else will have to heat their food by wood-burning stove. I wonder how many of them communicated by computer to organize the protest. Skip that in the future, too.
Hey hey, ho ho. Rationality’s got to go, I guess. Speaking of rationality, Reason TV offers this rebuttal to the protesters and their rhyming irrationality with three good reasons to approve the Keystone XL pipeline:
1. The oil isn’t going to stay buried.
American environmentalists oppose the pipeline partly because they oppose the burning of fossil fuels — especially those extracted from relatively dirty “oil sands.” But if America doesn’t build the pipeline, that oil is still going to be processed and enter the environment. It’ll just get bought by China and other countries looking for cheap and plentiful energy. And TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, is already working on contingency plans to do just that.
2. The pipeline isn’t a disaster waiting to happen.
Opponents say that the proposed route dangerously strays over part of the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, which supplies water for 20 million people. The governor of nebraska has urged president obama to start building. TransCanada, has already agreed to redirect the pipeline to minimize hazards. It’s also agreed to encase the pipeline in cement and post a $100 million bond to cover any possible cleanups.
3. It will help the economy.
Estimates for jobs related to the pipepline run everywhere from 6,000 to a quarter of a million, with TransCanada saying it will hire 15,000 workers to build the thing. The exact figures are unknowable, but once it’s up and running, Keystone XL will adds billions of dollars in ongoing economic activity and tax revenues.
President Obama has the authority to stop the pipeline if he determines that it’s not “in the national interest.” Given the potential upsides of the project, the relative ease with which environmental concerns can be addressed, and the president’s own commitment to what he calls “an all of the above energy strategy,” it’s hard to conjure up a strong case against building the Keystone XL pipeline.
This project is a no-brainer … which is why we’re worried that Washington will listen to the chanters instead of reason.