Over at E magazine, Scott Dworkin talks about Obama’s recent decision to deny the Keystone XL project. Environmentalists win this round, but as Dworkin points out, the win could be temporary and there is a real messaging problem.
supporters of Keystone XL and other polluting resource extraction initiatives have effectively framed the debate for voters and politicians alike around jobs and short-term economic gains instead of long-term damage to the planet and profiting off of technological stagnation or rampant consumerism. When Americans see a blueprint for an oil pipeline, they see energy and infrastructure progress. And when they see the president denying a permit for such a plan, no matter what the context, they often fall for the right-wing squawking (this time from GOP presidential hopefuls) about liberals being destructive to the economy and catering to extremist environmental groups.
So what can we environmentalists do to change the way this debate is unfolding within the chaotic presidential race? I propose that we would do well to stick to our guns on the most potent weapon in our arsenal: scientific and demonstrable truth. Not only are the details surrounding Obama’s decision important—he was legally bound to ensure the appropriate impact assessments were undergone and was pressured by Canadian officials to ignore environmental impacts they de facto acknowledged—but the details about the pipeline itself must be cleared up.
Keystone, if built, would indeed create several thousand construction jobs. But these jobs would only be temporary, and estimates by the State Department place the number of permanent American jobs created by this gargantuan project at about 20. That’s right. Twenty. With regards to energy production, most of the oil extracted at a high environmental cost from Canadian tar sands would be exported to China. And, further exposing the Keystone scam, the pipeline would not necessarily increase the amount of oil we import from Canada at all or solidify our so-called energy security; Canada’s crude export pipelines currently only run at about half capacity.
Keystone is a bad idea, but fighting the “jobs” argument will be tough. Clean energy is the way forward, and we need to stay focused