Thursday, January 15, 2015

Open Letter II to Senator Boozman

Senator Boozman,

A few days ago I wrote to you expressing my concerns about the Keystone XL Pipeline. Your answer seemed familiar because we've had much this same exchange before. This time you wrote:

Thank you for contacting me to express your views regarding the Keystone Pipeline. It is good to hear from you.

I understand the many diverse opinions that have been expressed about the pipeline. I feel strongly that we need to make sure that the transportation of fuels and energy is carried out in the safest manner possible. I also believe we should use the vast energy resources we have in North America to lower gas prices and lessen our dependence on foreign oil from unstable regions. This pipeline would add more energy to the supply lines while creating and sustaining jobs. American manufacturers need access to affordable energy so that our country can remain competitive. The best way to lower gas prices for Arkansas families is to rely on North American resources.

Also, the Canadians are developing their resources, so the question is whether our country will benefit or whether those resources will go to our competitors, like China. We must also consider that when oil is not shipped by a pipeline it is often moved by other methods of transportation, like railroads. While we may not see completely eye-to-eye on this issue, you should know that I respect your views. At this time, the federal government has not made a final decision on the pipeline. Please know that I will keep your concerns in mind as we move forward debating energy issues like this pipeline.

Again, thank you for contacting me on this very important issue. Please be sure to visit our website at . I look forward to your continued correspondence.

John Boozman
U.S. Senator

See how similar it is? Senator, it seems clear that you did not read my previous reply because you have not answered any of the challenges raised there. Rather than just repeat them, however, let me take a different approach.

First, please know that I have not always opposed the Keystone XL Pipeline. Prior to 2013 I was uninformed and fairly neutral. I knew there were environmental concerns, but I also thought there were economic and safety reasons why a new pipeline would be worth the risks. The Mayflower Oil Spill changed all that for me, not because it was such a terrible disaster -- as environmental disasters go, it was not nearly the worst -- but it took that event to jar me from my apathy to examine the issues for myself. My previous response to you grew out of that personal study.

Second, I am extremely concerned that science has become so badly distorted and denigrated in our society, particularly among leaders such as you. This reminds me of when I was in medical school and the science of tobacco health risks were belittled by Big Tobacco. Surely you remember this yourself. Millions of people lost their lives because of this. Spreading doubt and denial was extremely costly then and it is more so now. Senator, why do you follow this same path today? You can hide your head in the sand, but the scientists are in 97%(+) agreement, and you are on the wrong side of this one. Science is NOT an opinion poll. It always catches up. As a scientist I beg you to take the science seriously.

If you still "look forward to continued correspondence" I would appreciate hearing your answers to the specific questions I raised before, and if need be I would be happy to bring them to your attention again.

Donnal Walter, MD, PhD