The (Principled) Case for Keystone

My digital pulpit north of Lake Ontario is no guarantee that brains or intellectual nuance drive every BNV offering forward, but there are elements of the ongoing Keystone XL debate that deserve fuller scrutiny, a discussion that ought to be advanced beyond shallow ‘dirty oil’ polemics.

Only the clean oil from now on

Only the clean oil from now on. Image source: Business Insider via Pakistan Today

Keystone is not divinely inspired environmentalism. It fails a number of smell tests – literally, if one passes close enough to Fort McMurray, the Alberta Oil Sands epicenter intended as the Keystone source our petro-industry holds dear. Grimy, trace chemical-laden bitumen, mined where boreal forests stood, transformed into synthetic crude, one  eco-incursion at a time. Canada – not for the first time – seems to lead with its chin on this one, an easy mark for the professional pugilists masquerading as the media relations tyros coordinating the strident Keystone opposition.

As with so many environmental movement shibboleths, theory must yield to reality, the way sweet dreams give way to a jarring 6 am alarm. Realpolitik is beautiful Democracy’s bawling, ugly, red haired step-child, too, just as Keystone is the unloved spawn of rapacious North American energy demand, technology and corporate greed. Until all fossil fuels are abandoned, and our society is committed to renewables for ever more, the differences in degree between ‘dirty’ Alberta crude and purportedly purer extractions elsewhere are lost on me.

The Keystone opposition, emboldened by the green-tinged Obama second Inaugural, can line the Washington Mall every day for the next year to denounce the Big Pipe and nothing will change. Maybe you really can put more angels to dance on the head of this pin. Maybe the emissions that gush skyward from Northern Alberta’s grim mines really are the single biggest GHG emitter on the planet. Look hard at the facts.

Freedom of expression, however misdirected and blinkered, is a fine, enobling thing. But where was the angst and outrage when US energy security depended on regular games of footsie with King Faisal and his Saudi sheiks, lords of the lands where personal freedoms tend to be Muslim and male? Or in descending order, those loyal US oil importers Venezuela, Angola, Nigeria, and Iraq….a real rogues gallery, so long as autocracy is your thing. And nice, good neighbor Canada is an environmental pariah? Please.

Now the President can herald a new age of America the putative energy exporter! Thanks to the latest techno-wolf in sheep’s clothing – fracking, just the sustainable technology option to kick Hugo Chavez and his socialist losers square in the groin. Sure.

No one who gives a rat’s ass about the planet likes the idea of firing massive GHG volumes skyward from the Alberta Sands to be carried hither and thither…just as no one ought to like cutting edge coal-fired US electricity plants sending 10 times as much into the atmosphere every day. Races to the bottom in the environmental sweepstakes are disturbing. We can do better. But the bleating, oh so earnest Keystoners should spend less time on sloganeering and photo ops, and pay some heed to the dangers of moral relativism. It’s ugly, too.


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