The sky is not falling (not today), and of things I am concerned about, the Keystone XL Pipeline does not top the list. But a decision is said to be imminent, the consequences of which we will live with for a long time, so I am posting yet again.
The XL Pipeline decision is complicated. The benefits are said to be continued affordable energy, energy security for our country, and many new jobs. A new larger pipeline would provide safer petroleum transport than rail, truck, barge, or smaller aging pipelines (which it would hopefully replace). On the flip side, serious environmental concerns have been raised, including increased greenhouse gas emissions, spill hazards along the pipeline route, and destruction of the Canadian boreal forests to name a few. These pros and cons have pros and cons of their own, and the evidence for or against each position is controversial. The questions do not have yes-or-no answers and the decision is not black-and-white. Thoughtful people may reasonably disagree.
In the end, though, either the pipeline will be approved and be built or it won't. There is no middle ground. Even if the arguments were exactly fifty-fifty, the outcome is all-or-nothing. Do we just flip a coin, then, and see how it lands? What decision would I make if it were up to me?
I have already written one "thoughtful essay" about a few of the more objective arguments, and I may write more. Today, however, I want to try out a subjective approach. My heart says we should just say no and reject the XL Pipeline.
If we allow the Keystone XL Pipeline to be constructed across a wide swath of our country it would mean business-as-usual, more of the same old get-while-the-getting-is-good mentality. This has (admiringly) been called an "all-of-the-above" strategy, but "have-our-cake-and-eat-it-too" is more appropriate. If it can be exploited we should take advantage, never mind the consequences. We hide-our-heads-in-the-sand and pretend that there are no consequences.
Proponents of the pipeline say that providing clean energy alternatives would cost too much and inhibit growth. This is because the true costs of fossil fuels, especially the dirtiest of them, the tar sands, are hidden. In truth, feeding our addiction to comfort and convenience by accepting this pipeline would stifle innovation and postpone addressing the issues facing us.
If we say no, on the other hand, we as a nation would take seriously for the first time our responsibility to preserve the environment. It would mean facing up to the true costs of a fossil-fuel based economy. Yes, we would still need oil, coal, and gas for the foreseeable future, but paying the true price of these would lead to innovation and constructive change. If we dare to dream (as we did when we accepted the challenge to put a man on the moon) we would reap the same benefits of new technology, skilled jobs, and a revitalized economy.
So I say no. Your mileage may vary (no pun intended).