Adam Davis, Contributing Writer
America is a global force for good on key fronts such as democracy, energy and environmentalism. President Barack Obama’s chapter in the history of American environmentalism ought not end with the expansion of renewable energy grants, fuel economy standards and green job opportunities, however. Every American cares deeply about cleaner air and water, but he also wishes for a robust energy future. In pursuit of both of these ends, the State Department ought to approve Phase Four of the Keystone pipeline and allow America a brighter energy future in return for relatively low environmental risks.
Completion of the pipeline would improve ties with our northern neighbor (Canada) and bring us closer to surpassing Russia as the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.
More significantly, though, it would be a giant step forward toward real American energy independence. Shorter transportation distances would likely be reflected in a relatively lower price when compared to alternative imports from Venezuela, the Middle East or Nigeria. Therefore, the market would do better to protect the pipeline as an import, not an export, pipeline.
According to the Energy Information Administration, domestic oil demand remains robust. Per person consumption of oil in the U.S. ranks first globally, with total daily expenditure in barrels reaching 19,000, according to data accrued by British Petroleum in 2012 – a total equal to the daily consumption of Europe and Eurasia combined.
Population density is another important reason to support Phase Four. The United States has an ever-burgeoning population of around 300 million people – three times that of Mexico and 10 times that of Canada. Demand may have slowed this year, but temporary fluctuations in demand will be overridden in the long run by the sheer number of consumers thirsty for oil within U.S. borders.
Furthermore, approval of Phase Four of the Keystone pipeline aligns well with market trends. Mexican demand for U.S. oil and gas continues to rise despite talk of it liberalizing its sole petroleum company, Pemex. Domestic petroleum output is expected to grow 20 percent over the next decade. Mexico, Europe and South America are, and will continue to be, reliable consumers of cheap oil from the U.S.
Phase Four begins in Canada, runs through Nebraska and ends up in Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Ecologically sensitive regions once under the route are no longer jeopardized. TransCanada compromised by pulling out of the ecologically sensitive “Sand Hills” region. Thus, the pipeline is relatively ecologically friendly.
The alternatives to the pipeline considered publicly by restless Canadian officials would result in considerably more carbon emissions than Phase Four. Transportation by rail or tanker is not environmentally friendly and would produce far more pollution in the atmosphere than moving the oil through a pipeline system. If environmental risks are weighed carefully, it is clear that greater access to affordable energy, profitable exports and employment outweigh the environmental risks posed by Phase Four.
On top of this, the American public supports the Keystone pipeline. According to recent polls by Pew, Gallop and Rasmussen, Americans are overwhelmingly supportive of the pipeline, with an average of 60 percent in favor, 20 percent opposed. Americans know a deal when they see one, and they recognize the tangible benefits of this pipeline.
Phase Four has been politicized. However, the payoff from Canadian infrastructure investment, lower gas prices and jobs in Texas would result in a stronger economy with better access to affordable energy. The State Department must, therefore, approve the final phase of the pipeline for American workers and consumers. Our energy future depends upon it.