On second thought

Astute readers will recall that back in February, I wrote that I thought the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project should be denied by President Obama because to do so would royally peeve the supremely evil Koch Brothers, who stand to profit gigantically from business involving Alberta tar sands oil (“Koch this,” RN&R, Feb. 13). Granted, upon reading it I thought my reasoning was a bit specious, maybe even petty. But I still thought it was justified because, well, you know—nuts to the Koch Brothers. FTKB and so forth.

Well, now I want to backtrack and totally flip flop and declare that I don't give a flaming fig which way the POTUS rolls on this call. I'm now officially on the fence and firmly entrenched on a comfy little spot, mainly because of one rather important reason—the Keystone Pipeline, as of this past January, became fully operational. As in, that sludgy tar sand crude from Alberta is literally flowing into Houston refineries as you read this, at the rate of about 600,000 barrels a day. This new reality has seriously mootified most, if not all, of this issue. For me, anyway.

On Jan. 23, the gates were thrown open on the final section of the Keystone, a 487-mile stretch that runs from Cushing, Okla., to Houston. This was Phase 3 of Keystone, connecting Phase 1 (Alberta to Steel City, Nebraska via Manitoba and North Dakota) to Phase 2 (Steel City to Cushing. Google the Keystone Pipeline map. Very helpful). This means that that nasty slop from Alberta can flow, right now, all the way on down to Texas via pipeline. It should also be pointed out that both Phases 1 and 2 have been operational for three years with no major problems. So why is everybody screeching a blue veiner about the Keystone?

Well, they're not. They're screeching about the Keystone XL, not the Keystone. Big diff. The XL proposal is an improvement to the Keystone in that it would cut a shorter, diagonal path from lower Alberta straight over to Steel City, and it would also significantly increase the volume of flow. But in the big pic, all this arguing about XL is nothing more than arguing about what is essentially a tweak job. It's not arguing about whether or not to build the entire pipeline. The entire pipeline is finished and delivering crude every day to Houston. With XL, that daily capacity would rise from 600,000 barrels to about a million. But, game over for the planet? Well, that might be just a tad melodramatic.

Obama can't lose here. If he denies, he makes us greenies happy. Plus, he still gets the pleasure of pissing off the Kochs. If he permits, he gets to look like a job creator (2,000 jobs for about a year) while not doing that much more to mangle the planet. One thing he should do, though, is demand Trans Canada and all the oil pigs put a couple of billion into a pipeline repair fund and monitor the heck out of that thing.