The Keystone Kops’ Kontinued Kraziness


The State Department has finally released its exhaustive study of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would allow the easy transport of Canadian oil-sands production down to Texas, where it can be refined and shipped abroad.

This has to be the billionth freaking study, and for the billionth freaking time, the study showed that the project will have little if any impact on global warming. (As if to underline the point, the report was issued at a time when most of the country was battling below-freezing temperatures and massive amounts of snow.) The operative point is that this oil will be produced and used no matter what; the only question is whether it will be brought to market in a way that benefits America (with jobs, tax revenue, and so on) or in a way that benefits only other countries — mainly China.

This report is nothing if not thorough — it is 11 volumes long. Alas, however, it isn’t the end of the matter. There will be a final State Department study to see if the pipeline “is in the nation’s best interest . . .”

Duh . . . more jobs (estimated at over 40,000 high-paying blue-collar jobs), more energy independence from terrorist-loving Middle Eastern despots, higher tax revenues for the states, and safer delivery of the product . . . it seems pretty much a no-brainer.

Naturally, the major opponents of the project are the Gaia-worshipping environmentalists, many of whom have lots of money (such as San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer) or lots of fame (such as actress Daryl Hannah), but little intellect.

The report draws no conclusions. It leaves that to the two Keystone Kops — Secretary of State John Kerry and (of course) President Obama himself.

We are in incompetent hands, indeed.

The Republicans in Congress have rightly been pushing this useless administration to finally approve the pipeline. They especially stress the need for more jobs, amid the Obama non-recovery recovery. Obama is also under pressure from the Canadian government, which is rightly tired of his low-level trade war against Canada, one of our most steadfast allies.

But then, pissing on friendly nations is one of Obama’s favorite pastimes. Just ask the Poles, Israelis, Brits . . . no, don’t ask. You don’t want to hear the shouting.

As a recent Wall Street Journal editorial notes, the alternative to moving this oil by pipeline is transporting it by rail or tanker. The State Department estimates that distributing the oil by rail and tanker results in about a 28% increase in greenhouse gas emissions; distributing it by rail to existing pipelines results in a 40% increase; and transporting it by rail to the Gulf of Mexico results in a 42% increase.

But this is logic. And Obama cares infinitely more about collecting millions of dollars in campaign cash for this year’s election than he does for logic — or the jobs of thousands of Americans, for that matter.

Speaking of campaign donations, we shouldn’t overlook the money and advice that Warren Buffett has obtained for Obama — and if the pipeline isn’t built, the oil will keep being shipped (as it has increasingly been) by rail. Buffett just happens to own one of country’s biggest railroads, one that will doubtless benefit if the pipeline remains unbuilt.

This brings up another thing Obama and his billionaire backers care little for: American lives. Moving large amounts of oil by rail increases dramatically the likelihood that there will be accidents and attendant explosions, as happened recently in Lac-Megantic, Quebec. To spell this out clearly enough so that even actresses can grasp the point, pipelines are routed through sparsely populated areas, while railways are routed through cities (because the lines carry freight and passengers as well as oil). Another “duh.”

The latest news is that Obama is passing the decision to that renowned expert on oil and pipelines, Secretary of State Kerry. This is yet another case of Obama’s legendary “lead from behind” approach to governance, and it doesn’t augur well. While the State Department maintains that Kerry will keep an open mind, he has famously written, “If we can put an end to the era of dirty fossil fuels, we can begin an era of sustainability . . . for our nation and our world.” And two years ago, when he was still a senator, he voted against an amendment favoring the pipeline.

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Thomas L. Knapp

In a free society, "the end of the matter" would have been reached as soon as it became apparent that the pipeline couldn't be built without stealing property from people who didn't care to sell.

And in a not necessarily free, but at least nominally "rule of law" oriented society, "the end of the matter" would have been reached as soon as it became apparent that the pipeline couldn't be built without violating treaty obligations to Indian tribes who don't want the damn thing crossing their land.

It's only in a society with an all-powerful, but lawless, government that the pipeline could conceivably be built.

Gary Jason

By your logic, all pipelines, railroads, and freeways ever built should never have been built. That's your view, and you are certainly welcome to it.

My view is that this pipeline is no more problematic than any of the other hundreds of pipelines we have built, and is a lot safer than hauling the fuel over railroad tracks--which is what will happen if the pipeline isn't built. And those railroad lines also involved eminent domain and crossing formerly Indian lands.


This is a sad response to the objection stated concerning eminent domain. There are other ways for large infrastructure to be built than by way of eminent domain. There have been roads, lighthouses, railroads built by private action without eminent domain. It is sad that someone on a purportedly libertarian magazine responds with, basically, "muh, roads."

Gary Jason

I'm sorry, but what is sad is to be tricked by distraction by critics of this project.

There is a specific issue: should we build the Keystone pipeline. The people who oppose it are motivated ENTIRELY by environmentalist reasons. But now that the State Department's own report debunks those concerns, people who oppose it for environmentalist reasons come up with new objections, which include sudden worries about the legitimacy of eminent domain--something that amazingly never bothered them before with the hundreds of thousands of pipelines, roads, schools, sewers, railroads, bridges, canals and so on that have been built up till now. No, it is KEYSTONE that makes them come up with this stuff.

Pardon me for not falling for the faux concern.

Generally speaking, I certainly oppose the Kelo decision as a perversion of the Constitution. Eminent domain to seize property so as to increase the property taxes of a government is crazy. But eminent domain when done for building major public projects is quite Constitutional, when done with full market value compensation. If you want to write an article arguing that we should amend the Constitution to completely prohibit all forms of eminent domain, fine, go for it. But it is obvious sophistry to raise it for this one specific project.

Thomas L. Knapp

"There is a specific issue: should we build the Keystone pipeline."

Who's this "we" you're referring to? I am neither an owner nor an investor in any of the enterprises involved in the pipeline's construction or operation.

"The people who oppose it are motivated ENTIRELY by environmentalist reasons."

Nice try. No cigar. I oppose it because I oppose theft. I oppose theft because I'm a libertarian. Not a constitutionalist, a libertarian. There's a difference.


In a free society, Indians wouldn't be paid to stay on socialist, race-based reservations where they're not allowed to manage private property, but subject instead to the rule of the "tribe." In a free society those folks might be more amenable to negotiating a price for the pipeline crossing their private property.

However, we're not living in a free society, are we? No, we are living in this flawed society where we have to deal with the world the way it is. In that world one side is trying to force us to build wind farms and solar arrays on land condemned by eminent domain for the construction thereof. That side is trying to block us from shipping coal to the Chinese on railroads already sited and requiring no further intrusions upon the inviolate rights you cherish so dearly. They want to tax carbon dioxide, the stuff you exhale.

Pardon me if I choose sides. It just seems like the thing to do.

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