This weekend marked an important anniversary, but it wasn’t one worth celebrating. It has now been seven years since TransCanada applied for permission to construct the Keystone XL pipeline connecting Alberta’s oil sands with America’s Gulf Coast refineries, and the entire project is still stuck in political limbo. Perhaps to mark the occasion, Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton followed through on her promise last week to reveal her position (which for these last seven years has been “undecided”) “soon,” and yesterday came out in opposition to the controversial project.
Hillary’s past reticence made some sense. She was, after all, the Secretary of State for four of the seven years that Keystone has languished in limbo, and it’s the State Department that’s supposed to be approving or denying the project. But now, as campaigns rev up for next year’s election, it’s time once again for the pipeline to be used as some bizarre litmus test on how “green” potential candidates might be, and thus for Secretary Clinton to revert to her political self. Hillary framed it as just that, calling Keystone “a distraction from the important work we have to do on climate change.”
Predictably, greens have been falling over themselves in their rush to heap praise on Hillary’s announcement. Politico reports:
“I think she’s really coming to understand that climate is going to be a defining issue of this election,” [Bill McKibben] told POLITICO. “And maybe, if you also look at her stand on Arctic drilling, she’s concluding that the most visible way to make quick progress is to keep carbon in the ground.”
Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior vice president at the League of Conservation Voters Action Fund, also cited Clinton’s opposition to Arctic drilling in calling the candidate’s Keystone move “inspiring and exciting.”
Again, the environmental movement misses the point on Keystone here. Sure, oil is a fossil fuel, and yes, drilling in Canada’s oil sands is particularly energy-intensive. That environmentalists are opposed to Alberta’s crude isn’t surprising—though it does reflect their naïveté that they suppose green ideals alone might trump the economic and energy security gains that resource brings to Canada.
But what is so bewildering is why greens can’t understand that Keystone XL will not make or break those Albertan projects, even after being told just that in report after State Department report. Until and unless the world decides to throw off the trappings of modern civilization, there will be demand for oil. This demand will be met by supplies like the oil sands in question, and producers will find a way to transport their product to market. Pipelines are the safest and most efficient option, and out of all discussed pipelines Keystone certainly makes the most sense, but alternatives exist.
And yet, and yet…greens persist in making Keystone XL their marquee issue, letting the interests of America’s most important trading partner be crushed underneath unexamined eco-ideology. Hillary can shore up her green base by opposing Keystone, but make no mistake: she’s not saving the planet.