With one side clamoring for independence from foreign oil and the other for environmental awareness, the Keystone Pipeline has the attention of the nation. Extracting oil from Canada’s tar sands, the pipeline is to stretch 1,179 miles, beginning in Alberta and ending in Texas. Since the project travels through the United States, it requires the approval of President Obama. The issue has become pivotal to Obama’s presidency.
The environmentalist side, which includes the 40,000 that protested in Washington D.C., fears that the pipeline may be a final weight that tips the scale in the global warming issue. There is a possibility that the pipeline could leak, expelling greenhouse gases and damaging America’s heartland.
On the other hand, the economic boost is a positive point. The project will bring upwards of 20,000 jobs to the United States, a possible lifeline to those out of work. It would also promote U.S. energy independence by delivering about 830,000 barrels of oil per day, decreasing imported oil from the Middle East and Venezuela.
With virtually no oil to extract in the lower 48 states, the U.S. relies on sources that are both far-away and dirty. The fact is, adding any more fossil carbon to Earth’s atmosphere will be bad news. Making the problem worse than before, Canada’s tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide ever emitted.
However, oil transportation from Canada is still possible, even if the pipeline project is denied. Oil from the tar sands is in use now, just in a smaller fraction than it would be if Obama gives his blessing to the pipeline. Eventually shutting down that use will become impossible if the action comes to pass.
Difficult questions loom for the Obama administration. Do the economic boosts outweigh the increasing risks of global warming? Once the project is completed, how many jobs will survive to maintain the pipeline? Earth’s atmosphere is already in bad shape, and greenhouse gas emissions are only going to increase. How long can we continue to table the issue of global warming?
If the pipeline is constructed, we may win our independence from foreign oil, but we will become trapped under the longer-lasting tyranny of unclean energy. We may be locally delivering 830,000 oil barrels a day, but that’s 830,000 barrels closer to environmental disaster. A better, cleaner solution needs to be found.
Dalton Carver is a sophomore majoring in communication. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet him @dalty_james.