Thursday, December 15, 2011


A big recent political issue has been the XP pipeline. If this is ever approved, it will bring oil from Canadian tar sands to Texas for refining. Environmentalists have made several objections to the pipeline but most of them are hollow. The most commonly heard objection is the consequences of a leak. What is not mentioned is how many pipelines already carry crude oil and refined gasoline across the country. This would be one of many and would not represent a new hazard.

The real objection comes from James Hansen of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the father of global warming theory. His followers want to keep this resource untapped forever. This will not happen. Canada has made it clear that China will take the oil if we do not.

The arguments in favor of the pipeline are that it will create jobs and that it would reduce the US's reliance on oil from dictatorships. Some supporters have taken to calling the pipeline "ethical oil".

All that is needed to start work is an ok from the White House.

Rather than offend either constituency, President Obama has put the decision off until after the election. This allows him to convince both camps that he will eventually side with them.

The House of Representatives has talked about forcing the issue by tying the approval to an extension in the Social Security Payroll Tax cuts. President Obama has indicated that he would veto such a bill. This gives you a clear idea of the President's priorities.

A similar controversy has erupted around fracking (injecting water and chemicals at high pressure into a well to increase production). This has been used for decades in shallow gas and oil wells. New technology makes it possible to drill into deposits far deeper than before. When combined with fracking, this opens up huge quantities of gas and oil.

Again, the main arguments against fracking are weak, especially since it is not new. Few people admit it but the real objection is, again, to ever recovering a hydrocarbon-based fuel and is driven by fears of global warming.

The White House has stayed out of this controversy but many Democrats have jumped on board with calls for an indefinite moratorium on fracking.

During his run in 2008, Obama said that he wanted to see energy prices increase. The easiest way of doing this is to cut the US off from domestic (or near-domestic) sources of energy. Imported energy is always more expensive.

But Obama has an election to win so he can't come out and say this. But, he and the Democratic leadership cannot hide their actions. If allowed, America will resume being an exporter of gas and refined oil (but still an importer of crude oil). The Democratic leadership is trying to keep this from happening.

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