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Greens Dig In
The Futile Symbolism of Keystone

After the House of Representatives passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, the Senate had its turn to vote on its own version last night, but the ayes fell just one vote short of the 60 necessary to avoid a filibuster. Democrats wary of alienating their green base stuck to their guns, voting against the bill that was proposed by a fairly desperate and potentially outgoing Senator from Louisiana, Mary Landrieu, who had hoped to use Keystone maneuvering as a way to motivate voters ahead of a December 6th runoff vote.

The failed vote means little, as the new Congress is likely to pass this come January. It does kick the Keystone can just a bit further down the road for the President, though, who many believe would have vetoed the bill had Congress passed it. Come January, he may indeed exercise that veto, using a Nebraska court’s pending decision (also due in January) as a fig leaf to justify his move.

Taking a step back, though, it’s difficult to understand how we arrived at this absurd point, some six years after Keystone initially proposed the project. The pipeline project was seized upon by the environmental movement as a make-or-break issue for the President’s green legacy, despite the fact that the State Department, operating under the simple logic that Canada’s oil sands crude will find a way to market whether the pipeline is built or not, has said repeatedly that Keystone will not have a net impact on global emissions. Indeed, a green argument can be made for constructing the pipeline: it would channel Canadian oil sands crude down to American gulf coast refineries more safely and efficiently than the trucks and rails on which it’s currently riding.

We don’t know for certain how President Obama would have acted had the bill passed now at the behest of the Democratic Senator from Louisiana. But we have to assume that the new, combative President we have seen since the midterms will relish sticking his finger in the eye of the incoming congress by sending the bill back when it passes next year. It’s a pity: there is an important debate to be had about energy policy in this country. The desperate posturing over Keystone is not that debate.

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  • S.C. Schwarz

    Leftist policy prescriptions don’t, in general, work. Witness the anemic economic growth of the last six years, the lack of progress for African-Americans, and our current foreign policy chaos, just to name three obvious examples. So, if the left can’t deliver real results it must distract. For example, we see “war on women,” the republicans want to bring back slavery, and, here, catastrophic environmentalism which,naturally, only the democrats can save us from. The democrats have no interest in actually solving any of these problems, if indeed problems they are, because how then would they distract the “stupid voter,” to paraphrase Mr. Gruber.

    All this is working exactly as intended.

    • FriendlyGoat

      Are you unaware that American economic policy is currently being directed from the right, not the left?

      • S.C. Schwarz

        I would disagree. Crony capitalism is not directing economic policy from the right. An enhanced and ever growing regulatory state is not directing economic policy from the right. Crushing environmental regulations are not directing economic policy from the right. And a general hostility to business, unless the business is in the Democratic Party donor class, is not directing economic policy from the right.

  • Boritz

    “The pipeline project was seized upon by the environmental movement as a make-or-break issue for the President’s green legacy..”

    Remember when the environmental make-or-break issue was ANWR? The greens and the Democrats won that handily because you can’t “drill your way out” and the issue is dead. Maybe they will win this one too. They have no reason to do anything but resist. But to say the vote means little….It sure meant a lot to Mary Landrieu.

    • Arkeygeezer

      The greens won nothing from ANWR other than preventing oil derricks being erected on National Park property. Nothing prevents the oil companies from drilling horizontally from the Prudho Bay area into the ground under the Park, which is what they are doing now.

  • Pete

    1. It was interesting to see Sen. Mary “Baby Fat” Landrieu finally fight for a Senate vote on Keystone.

    2. If Obama vetoes a Keystone bill next year, the odds are not that bad that the Senate will over ride him.

  • f1b0nacc1

    59 votes this time, and 8 new GOP senators coming up in the new session…looks like enough for a veto override to me.
    My guess is that the real reason this was defeated was so Obama could veto it next term, get it overridden, then blame the whole thing on those nasty Republicans when it happens. He gets an excuse for his environmentalist friends, the pipeline gets built anyway…

    • Fat_Man

      Many of the Dem Senators who voted for are on their way out. So 8 is a double count.

      • f1b0nacc1

        Likely yes (Landrieu is a good example), but I wonder about how many really want to go on record sustaining a veto. It is one thing to vote for (or against a bill), another to sustain a presidential veto which would almost certainly be based upon an assertion of executive authority…

  • Anthony

    Unpopular choices – why Americans can’t govern. We avoid unpopular choices by throwing up ideological proffers; whether midterm results modify this remains to be seen.

    “The choices (governing) we receive are skewed and selective.They play up the respective parties’ ideological tribes and distort the ultimate consequences for the country. Our political culture increasingly values symbolism (title of this piece) over substance. Political behavior is shaped by beliefs that are false and goals so impracticable as to be unobtainable. But this symbolism has consequences because it inspires feel-good agendas that elected leaders are expected to achieve.”

    Fail as they (feel good agendas) may, ideological fervor continues to preclude pragmatic realism even as popular disillusion develops. To govern is to choose and choices must be presented honestly to govern effectively. Recent XL Senate vote only reflects how far removed we are from effective governing and how addiction of political escapism remains (self serving fictions rather than messy realities).

  • Arkeygeezer

    The Keystone XL pipeline conflict is purely a political kerfuffle. Passage or non passage of the XL pipeline would have absolutely no environmental impact on the U.S. and would create very few long term, permanent jobs.

    Keystone XL is the 4th phase of the Keystone pipeline project which transports oil from Alberta Canada to Port Arthur Texas. The first three phases of the pipeline have been built and are currently pumping oil from Canada to refineries in Illinois and Texas. (look up “Keystone Pipeline” in Wikopedia)

    Keystone XL is a duplicate pipeline that pumps more oil from Canada through Montana, picks up some American oil, and pumps it to Kansas where it joins the existing pipeline down to Texas. It would be privately financed and has no economic benefit or detriment to the U.S.

    • Josephbleau

      In the words of the Buddha (or perhaps Frank Zappa), , nothing is what I want.

    • Josephbleau

      I want Canadian oil to be processed by French Canadian Louisianans and shipped to France.

  • Corlyss

    David Drucker, usually pretty reliable source, told Batchelor’s listeners last night that the prospects for override in the next Congress were iffy. There were only 56 solid votes for it among Republicans, the rest would have to come from Dims and he saw zero prospects that the Dims would want to give a win to the party that most benefitted from the Dims’ misrule under Doofus. The last 9 min. if you don’t want to hear the whole thing. However, Roy and Blahous have some very cogent things to say about health care.

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