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Editorial: Stuck on the pipeline

In his State of the Union address last week, President Obama tweaked Republicans for their championing so vigorously the Keystone pipeline project. “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,” he nudged.

Good idea, if the objective is a comprehensive plan to update the nation’s public works, including broadband. Worthy, too, is the notion that if the pipeline amounts to little in the larger scheme, then it long ago warranted approval from the Obama White House.

Far too much has been made of the project, the second half of a pipeline that already exists, designed to bring oil from the Alberta tar sands to the Gulf Coast. The pipeline represents neither the big job creator its proponents claim nor the grave environmental threat portrayed by opponents. The project would generate an estimated 42,000 temporary jobs during the two-year construction period. Just 35 jobs would be permanent. For perspective, the country created an average 246,000 jobs per month last year.

Related: Summit Midstream unsure when pipeline will resume operation

No question, extracting oil from tar sands results in 17 percent more carbon pollution than the production of conventional oil. Yet the federal Environmental Protection Agency calculates that the Keystone pipeline would add less than 1 percent to American greenhouse emissions.

Consider the element of plunging oil prices, and the pipeline projects fades further into the surrounding landscape, questions surfacing about when, exactly, its construction would proceed. The broader environmental matter involves whether countries will join to curb their greenhouse emissions at a substantial enough pace. In that way, the president’s recent agreement with Chinese leaders on seeking to do just that is much more significant.

Erect a comprehensive approach, and the question becomes: How do the tar sands fit? For now, one other thing should not be overlooked. Canada wants the pipeline built. It is an ally, partner and neighbor, and the reality is, its request isn’t all that significant.

 

This article was from The Akron Beacon Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.