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By rejecting Keystone, President Obama cements his climate legacy

Posted on 9 November 2015 by John Abraham

The stupid-from-the-beginning Keystone XL pipeline is dead. It was designed to make it easier to sell the dirtiest of all fuels (tar sands and petcoke), which pollute our air and are inefficient as fuels. The proposed project was incompatible with solving climate changeSecretary of State John Kerry and President Obama have now decided that building the pipeline is not in our best interest.

This latest decision was often used as a symbol for all of Obama’s actions on the environment. The reality is that Obama’s decision on Keystone is only one part of his legacy. Under the Obama Administration, we have gone from being a laggard to a leader. We have created multiple international agreements with other countries like China to deal with pollution and climate change. 

These agreements are tough for everyone involved. But, they are doable and they are necessary if we are going to solve this climate problem. The Obama Administration has also introduced increased efficiency requirements for vehicles and pollution rules for coal-based electricity in the U.S.

Simply put, the U.S. is now the global leader on climate change. We are also now a global leader in the new energy economy. 

The State Department recommended rejection for many reasons:

  1. The pipeline does not make a meaningful contribution to the US economy. This is not the way to make jobs. The number of permanent jobs this expensive pipeline would create is dwarfed by the jobs created in just one day by our U.S. economy. In fact, the number of permanent jobs created by Keystone would be equal to that created in just 6 minutes in the rest of the economy.
  2. The pipeline would not lower gas prices for U.S. consumers. In fact, people who are concerned about gas prices need to note that gas prices have gone down significantly without the pipeline.
  3. Shipping dirtier crude oil does not help with a diversified energy supply. Instead, a better approach is to develop our own domestic clean energy supplies. We’ve done that, we’re are using our energy more wisely. As a result, our emissions and our costs are down. We are now in a position where wind and solar can compete with fossil fuels. Why would we want to go back to the last century by paying other countries to pollute and killing energy jobs in the U.S? It just doesn’t make sense. 

These reasons are right. They are based on sound science and sound economics.

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Comments 1 to 5:

  1. Suggested supplemental reading:

    Keystone pipeline rejected: Is TransCanada out of options? by Michael D. Regan, The Christian Science Monitor, Nov 8, 2015

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  2. "When we look back, the Obama Administration will be acknowledged as the first Administration to take climate change seriously"

    If true, how sad, given that the Clinton Administration include Al Gore as VP. But I'm not sure one decision out weighs years of 'all of the above' policies that saw big increases in domestic oil drilling, huge increases in fracking, and continued mining of coal, much of which was sent oversees to be burnt. And of course, TransCanada may well try again with the next administration.

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  3. Obama's he climate policy legacy may be overstated by this article.

    Most of his policies, including XL rejection and fracking industry expansion, can be attributed to his desire to free US dependence on foreign fossil fuels rather to care about environment.

    Perhaps his car and power plant regulations and talks with China are driven by env concerns but this XL may be not.

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  4. Tar sands oil will still be extracted, transported and consumed whether the pipeline is there or not.  Can't quite see how this pipeline ban will affect this except to increase transport complexity.

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  5. ryland @4, another way of saying there is an increase in transport complexity is to say that the cost of the tar sands oil, delivered to market, will be greater.  And if the cost is greater, sales will be less.  From that it follows that, on your own assumptions, less tar sands per unit time will be consumed, because of the pipeline ban.  As other, renewable energy sources become cheaper and more available, that in turn means that less tar sand oils will be consumed overall.  So, from your own assumptions, it is clear that your first claim is mistaken.

    Apart from that consideration, in moral issues (and the bringing of new sources of CO2 emissions to market is definitely a moral issue in todays world), that the immoral act will be done anyway by some other never excuses doing it yourself.  The appeal that the tar sands oil will be transported by some other means is just the naked claim that moral considerations should be excluded from economic considerations.  It do not subscribe to that sociopathy.

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