As news of a gas pipeline being completed under the Baltic to bring gas from Russia to Europe breaks, in the other part of the Northern Hemisphere news of a scandal comes, about another pipeline, this time bearing oil. This is the Keystone XL, which carries oil taken from Canada’s oil tar sands and which runs from Hardisty in Alberta to Pakota in Illinois and to Cushing in Oklahoma.
The US State Department is now dealing with an application to build another pipeline through Montana, Nebraska and South Dakota and extend the existing pipeline to Houston.
The way in which the State Department is handling the new application is being reviewed, after allegations of wrongdoing were raised. I do not know whether there is any substance in the allegations. It would not be the first time that oil companies have carried out wrongdoing in the ordinary course of their businesses. That, however, is a separate issue; it is more important to concentrate on the big picture.
The most important aspect of the pipeline is the environmental aspect. Extracting oil from tar sands causes massive environmental damage, but Canada does not care about it. The exploitation of the oil sands has damaged the environment in which the native Canadians live and the environment in parts of Canada where the oil tars are exploited. That is important.
The oil will be used in the United States, with its addiction to cheap oil and energy that it wastes as much as it uses, also causes massive environmental damage, not just to the USA but also to the whole world. If the pipeline is not built then many jobs will not be created and that causes hardship to people who need those jobs. If the pipeline is built then in the short term jobs are created but in the long term the damage is done to our climate and our environment and we continue the vicious of circle: the more cheap energy we use the more energy we want.
The solution is of course to create the jobs in renewable energy, particularly in clean renewable energy. That energy will be more expensive in the short term, but cheaper in the long term. It is all a question of whether political expediency will prevail over America’s long term interests. I think that we know which will prevail.