Why 'that Pipeline from Canada' Won’t Deliver the Energy Policy America Needs
In last night’s town hall debate, Governor Romney suggested that the President was wrong in rejecting “that pipeline from Canada.” Governor Romney was referring to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that benefits the oil industry by linking tar sands to the deepwater ports of the Gulf Coast while putting our climate, fresh water and lands at risk. But it was the governor who was wrong in equating this tar sands pipeline to attaining North American energy independence.
Putting energy use in the rest of North America aside, the reality is that neither this tar sands pipeline, nor drilling on our public and private lands and off our coasts, is going to deliver the U.S. “energy independence.” As the president rightly said the path to energy independence is found in reducing our demand for fossil fuels. Only by reducing our demand for fossil fuels—using energy efficiently—and growing our use of clean, homegrown energy can we come closer to energy independence. Relying on a dirty tar sands oil pipeline from Canada is nothing but a pipedream. And here’s why:
1) Keystone XL and tar sands oil will not make the U.S. more energy independent: Governor Romney implied that bringing the tar sands pipeline down from Canada will make us more energy independent. But the reality is that, as long as we are dependent on oil, we will be vulnerable to the price and political volatility of this globally traded commodity. That is why military leaders, like Retired General Steven Anderson, General Petraeus’ right hand in Iraq, have said that this pipeline will do nothing to increase U.S. energy security. Additionally, it will allow, for the first time, large quantities of tar sands oil to reach the global market through the Gulf of Mexico. Once it reaches the Gulf, the oil industry has made its desire clear to export tar sands all over the world, undercutting the argument that this as a new source of oil for the U.S.
2) Keystone XL will not provide the nation-wide jobs essential to a sustained recovery: Governor Romney referred to “energy independence” as a key piece of his plan for economic recovery. The reality is that for this pipeline project he is using highly inflated job figures. The pipeline company itself has estimated that there would be 6,000 jobs created in building the pipeline and only a few hundred in maintaining it. And even those numbers are overstated. Studies by Cornell University found that there would be 2500-4650 jobs created in construction (many of which have already been created in laying the pipe and other preparations) and that the risks of spills could wipe out many more jobs in agriculture, tourism and other sectors. Orders of magnitude more jobs are being created in clean energy—The Peri Institute at U. Mass estimates 2 million jobs can be created with programs to boost private and public investment in retrofitting buildings, improving energy efficiency, expanding mass transit and freight rail, constructing ‘smart’ electrical grid transmission systems, and investing in wind, solar and next-generation biofuels.
3) Keystone XL will not lower gas prices and may even increase them: Governor Romney implied that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would bring our gas prices down. But analysts like Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations has repeatedly stated that the pipeline will do nothing to change the global price of oil or our gas prices. The reality is that the price of oil is set on the global market. When gas prices spike, Canada does not give the U.S. a break on the price of oil. So relying on a pipeline from Canada to reduce gas prices makes little sense. In fact, leading oil economists predict that the pipeline will actually increase gas prices by diverting oil from the Midwest to the Gulf. Tar sands oil sells for less than lighter crudes in the Midwest because of the cost of refining it. By moving it to the Gulf, gas prices will actually increase in the Midwest. And once it gets to an international port in the Gulf, the price will be determined by the highest bidder. In other words, savings in the pockets of Midwesterners today will be profits in the pockets of the oil industry tomorrow.
The president made it clear last night that the issue isn’t about building one more pipeline, saying we’ve built enough pipelines to wrap around the entire earth once. He said the real focus should be on the kind of energy policy makes us more secure and that helps create high paying jobs in the manufacturing sector—referring to the thousands of jobs building wind turbines in Colorado and Iowa. The president underscored that this is an energy future we need to win.
Building “that pipeline from Canada,” as Governor Romney has promised to approve on day one, won’t deliver the 21st century energy policy we need, it will take us dangerously backwards, putting that energy future we need to win at risk.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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