The Relative Comment

soothing waves of relativity

The Keystone XL Choice is complicated. Seriously.

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I am not envious of the position of the President of the United States. Making decisions as the chief-executive means at least one consistent reality: Somebody, probably a whole lot of people, will be very, very upset no matter what you decide.

This dynamic will never be more clear than with President Obama’s decision to re-study (read: punt, delay, cave, etc) the Keystone XL pipeline route. TRC’s opinion of this decision has previously been discussed and is unchanged in the past 10 days or so.

Since the President made his decision on this, TRC has read more than a few “editorials” that laid out what choices the President faced. The context of making a decision to run an oil pipeline from the earth’s dirtiest extraction project, through a valuable aquifer, and across the entire country makes any decision grave, and difficult. That’s the bottom line. I oppose that pipeline, but it’s not difficult for me to see why people want it. There are economics and jobs considerations, environmental concerns, geopolitical and ideological ramifications, national security worries, constitutional questions regarding the nature of federalism, etc. etc. etc. But to read the ideologues, one might have no idea that these are delicate matters to weigh. To these folks, KXL is a not a sensitive policy question, with real consequences. It is obvious, and there is clearly only one choice. In case you wondered what it is, here’s the decision, as they see it.

(Note that these are just 2 of hundreds of such articles written since Obama decided to delay the project. I selected these two at random; most of them make a variation of these 2 arguments.)

Kenneth Green, AEI: But the Keystone decision shows the reality of the Obama energy agenda: stifling all forms of fossil fuel production, acquisition and use in favor of replacing a small fraction of that energy with expensive, intermittent renewables constructed by crony corporations like Solyndra, General Motors and General Electric.

Choices: the happy world of fossil-fuels vs. the energy policy of cronyism and corruption.

Marita Noon, Energy Makes America Great (nice): First, we all know that the President is fundamentally opposed to all carbon-based fuels (think Solyndra, et al)—so the pipeline’s approval was a longshot… With less than twelve months until the 2012 election, both the unions and the environmentalists will be buying—oops, I mean vying for—his favor. While some are calling his punt indecisive or a debacle, it could be the most brilliant fundraising tactic as both sides over-donate in support of their positions.

Choices: fossil-fuel wonderful goodness or pure political acumen to place influential constituencies in the pocket of the President, while keeping the poor out of work.

Why else could anyone disagree? Oil is good. Environmentalism is a sham, and disagreement points to an anti-American worldview. In the world of these writers, the decision could not be starker: Help America by choosing the pipeline, or  continue to destroy America for purely political gain.

I know this is low-hanging fruit. That these are people who are going to oppose President Obama anyway, who are solely in the interest opposing any 21st century energy policy, and who are fundamentally tied to the pursuit of fossil-fuel consumption and exploration. It is not a surprise that such articles are floating about the conservative corners of the internets.

But that doesn’t make the need to counter such claims any less necessary. Policy decisions are always hard, people. And energy policy is particularly complex and sensitive. The consequences of bad energy choices can be felt for centuries, in some cases. And as the election cycle gears up, and Keystone XL continues to be used to browbeat the President, it remains important to call out the carelessness of casting decisions like KXL in such a shallow manner. It is as difficult, and important, a decision as any the President is likely to face.

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Written by Christopher ZF

November 21, 2011 at 11:00

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