Ever since the idea of the Keystone XL pipeline was announced, it has been a highly contested plan. Conservatives have touted the pipeline as the key to opening new jobs in the energy business. Liberals have used opposition to the pipeline as a figurehead for the environmentally conscious.
On Nov. 20, 2017, Nebraska state legislature approved the pipeline to pass through the state. Although it will be forced to follow a different path than what was originally intended, the ramifications of this love child of big oil and deranged politicians are still potentially staggering.
The reason the pipeline should not be built is complicated. Pipelines are seen as an effective and safe way to transport oil from place to place when compared to the other options. However, just last week according to New Scientist, 5,000 barrels of oil were spilled near Amherst, South Dakota. A spill of that magnitude in the original proposed Nebraska route risks damaging the environmentally delicate sandhills and poisoning the Ogallala Aquifer, Nebraska’s largest source of water.
In the end, oil transportation does not create more energy jobs. It creates more oil jobs in a time where those careers should be transitioned into the clean energy sector. While it is highly unlikely that oil will be phased out completely in the next few years, the U.S. should be moving in that direction. That does not include creating a faster way to move massive amounts of oil.
According to Bruce Johansen, a UNO professor of communication well known for his published works on environmental and Native American issues, the pipeline will “combine all the worst attributes of fossil fuels: spill potential, the carbon footprint of coal and the environmental damage of coal strip mining.” In his article “The Keystone Pipeline: Triple Trouble” on NebraskansforPeace.org, Johansen says, “Not only does the extraction of tar sands scar the environment in ways that drilling for petroleum does not, but refining it to a useful product is considerably more energy intensive than ‘ordinary’ oil.”
The Keystone XL pipeline could boost global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 110 million tonnes per year, according to a 2014 report by Michael Lazarus and Peter Erickson. This is an unacceptable gain, especially for a world that should be attempting to reverse and limit the human-made damage to the environment.
Creating more jobs in a dying industry is short-sighted at best. Eventually, those who have geared their entire lives to the new oil jobs will be left hung out to dry again as oil becomes less and less relevant. The loss of these jobs is inevitable. Reviving them temporarily is a vanity project of the Trump administration that can only end in further devastation for the workers and their families, this time more permanent.
The pipeline has the potential to earn oil barons millions of dollars. Their drive for cash could push the world into more pollution and environmental damage than has been seen in recent years, but Trump is all for it because of the potential payout he and his friends will receive the second oil passes through Nebraska land.
The Keystone XL pipeline is an ill-advised and potentially damaging venture. It should be kept as far from Nebraska as possible.