A Historic Day — But Just the Beginning

Across the U.S. environmentalists are rejoicing — President Barack Obama kept his word and vetoed the Keystone XL Pipeline bill! According to some articles, he vetoed quickly after it arrived at the White House.

However, while we are clinking our champaign glasses and giving toasts for this victory, we must not forget how close this bill came to passing.

I mean, lets face it — as PBS affirms — approving the Keystone XL Pipeline was the “first order of business of the Republican-led Congress this year.” Lets see… how many people are in the Congress? 535. 

And guess what? Obama’s veto has far from doused the flaming debate. If Congress can muster 2/3 majority in the House and the Senate to over-ride the President’s veto, this baby is a go!

“Energy security” and “energy independence” — these are words tossed around by pipeline enthusiasts like Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute’s Center for Energy Policy and the Environment.

“This is just a pipeline” Bryce said on the PBS News Hour this evening. “Just a pipeline like the “10,000 miles of pipeline” that have been built in the US alone this year.

You know, Bryce, I have to disagree — but not for the reasons you may be thinking.

TransCanada, the pipeline’s mother company, writes on their website the pipeline would actually, “be the safest and most advanced oil pipeline operation in North America.”

I mean, of course pipelines are safer to transport oil than rail. Rail might be used anyway to transport tar-sands to the US, as Bryce points out.

BUT do we really need this dirty, energy-intensive oil type when the oil we are currently using is much cheaper than it has been in decades? What about our boom in domestic natural gas supplies?

I mean I am not whole-heartedly defending these sources of energy, but they are better than an energy source that will increase greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent, right?

And I mean, if there is one thing that could ultimately threaten our safety — it’s global climate change. Ever think about how most of our military bases are located strategically at either coastlines or out in deserts? I hand’t, to be honest. Until I read recent a Rolling Stone article that spelled it out quite clear. Norfolk, Va., the headquarters of the U.S. Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, is experiencing almost twice the pace of sea level rise as a result of Climate Change, according to the article.

Va. Senator Tim Kaine says that military readiness is already being impacted by sea level rise — I mean, how are you going to go into battle when where you plan to refill your ship is underwater? The most recent nor’easter caused most trucks to be up to their axels in water, the article states.

There are already existing pipelines with the capacity of transporting 591,00 barrels of tar-sands oil per day to the U.S., states Mike Patton in a recent Forbes article. And yes, a Keystone Pipeline has existed since June 2010 that extends from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Wood River and Peoria, Illinois, according to Patton.

So what’s new? Is this just another “Liberal vs. Conservative” debate about enforcing polarization in these political viewpoints.

Probably partially. But there are still numbers that don’t lie about the significance of Keystone XL. It’s two parts, one that would transport oil over 435 miles from Cushing Oklahoma to Port Arthur, Texas and another 1,179 miles of pipeline that would start at Hardisty, Alberta and run to Steele City, Nebraska could transport up to 820,000 barrels per day of tar-sand oil. Combined, the two are expected to be entirely capable of transporting 1.3 million barrels per day, Forbes reveals.

So pipeline is not about safety or one political party yelling at another — it’s about the energy future of this country. By letting it as an issue fall through the cracks, like so many other pipelines below our feet, we are being passive about the future sources of our energy. Being passive did not support Obama’s decision to veto the pipeline — but there are still hundreds in Congress nipping at the bit to bring this bill back around.

So now is not just a time to celebrate, but to be ready for what is to come — not just from the Keystone XL debate, but so many others involving our precious and precarious environment.

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