I've been watching the developments around the Keystone XL pipeline project closely since November. It has been one of the most ironic issues I've ever seen.
Let's recap: in a move that surprised just about everybody, President Obama vetoed the project last fall.
He rejected it again when Republicans – in a big bear hug that showed the party's absolute loyalty to both the energy industry and the one percent – tied the Keystone XL to the payroll tax cuts, instead of approving Obama's proposal of paying for the payroll tax cut with a surtax on millionaires.
Just to conclude, the party that likes to think of itself as the fiscally responsible one decided instead to just let the cuts go unpaid.
But then President Obama went ahead and endorsed Keystone XL. Or part of it. Or something.
The inevitable conclusion
I realized this was inevitable as soon as White House press secretary Jay Carney claimed that Republicans forced Obama to deny the permit for the construction in late February.
Oh, so Obama wants the pipeline to be approved, he just wants a little time. Makes sense - he wants to make sure it gets reviewed for safety. So... is the entire thing inevitable, no matter who we have in office?
While the nature-loving part of me writhes in pain when thinking about a huge pipe lying like a steel-bellied snake across thousands of miles of the Midwest, leaking puddles of God-knows-what into water sources.
And that's not to mention the fact that the 230 billion tons of carbon locked in the tar sands, if used, would be “game over” for the planet, according to James Hansen, NASA's leading climate scientist.
But, okay, President Obama only approved part of the pipeline. Maybe it's only kind of game over?
Honestly, the most ironic part is that Keystone XL won't benefit us in the slightest.
Opponents say that the pipeline will perpetuate our dependence on oil.
Unfortunately, our habits perpetuate our dependence on oil more than anything else. As long as people keep driving, we're consuming the same amount of gasoline as always... right?
Oh wait, the recession cut our total miles driven by more than 50 billion. Yet the magic of a global economy means that our land will now be destroyed & poisoned for the sake of the record-high demands coming from emerging powers like China.
TransCanada's operation is only catering to consumer demand. We're the consumers. And by we, I mean the world. There's no escape from the global economy.
But at least gas prices will be lower, right?
No. Not at all. Today, oil speculators account for 64% of all oil contracts, which leaves supply and demand on the shelf a lot of the time.
Even then, we just don't have much influence on energy consumption anymore.
Since 2009, oil production in the United States has increased 15% and, during those three years, prices have gone from $2.07 to $3.58 a gallon.
In 2003, when domestic production levels were about the same as they are now, gas cost $2.10 a gallon.
Oh, and Transcanda itself actually estimated that prices in the Midwest region will rise because the pipeline will better transport regional oil to international markets. So, you know, that's helpful.
But the pipeline will create jobs.
Construction jobs are seasonal and temporary. If the entire project gets green-lighted, there's a chance that some 13,000 jobs will be created, although those estimates have been disputed.
And let's not forget something else:
A study estimates there will be 91 significant spills within 50 years from the pipeline.
Oil from tar-sands are also more difficult to clean up, so there's that, too. Better yet, the economic damage to the land from these spills will probably more than compensate for the temporary construction jobs that the project will create.
So what do we learn?
I learned three things from this:
1. Capitalism continues to turn against us as the world goes global. Americans have fewer and fewer skills to offer that can't be purchased or manufactured at a cheaper rate overseas, so now we get to depend on people wanting our natural resources
2. President Obama can Etch-A-Sketch like the rest of them, except he's so good at etching that he actually shakes two moves ahead.
After all, according to CNN, "Even when Obama blocked the full Keystone project earlier this year, he said he was in favor of this Cushing-to-Gulf portion. And that is the only portion he is backing now."
Obama the centrist strikes again.
3. Americans don't much care for following issues. A Gallup poll found that 57% of national adults think the Keystone Pipeline XL project should be approved. 20% said they were following the topic closely.