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By Robert Rapier on Nov 21, 2011 with 101 responses

How I Would Decide the Keystone XL Pipeline Issue

The following is a lengthy essay explaining why I would approve the Keystone pipeline despite finding myself on the side of those concerned over the negative environmental impact of tar sands development. I will debunk much of the misinformation going on in the pipeline debate and ultimately lay out my conclusions. I intend for this to be an alternative to the administration’s announcement to punt the decision for a later time, which I criticized heavily in a previous post.

Tip of the Hat to McKibben and the Pipeline Protesters

I have to hand it to Bill McKibben. Whether or not you agree with his position, take a look at what he accomplished. McKibben, an environmentalist and journalist, has been described as “probably the nation’s leading environmentalist” and “the world’s best green journalist.” McKibben has written extensively about the dangers of climate change, and he acts according to his convictions. When it looked like the Obama Administration was headed toward approving the Keystone XL Pipeline project, McKibben organized a huge protest at the White House. The protesters demanded that President Obama live up to his campaign promises, because Candidate Obama campaigned against the “tyranny of oil.”

As a result of the protests, many protesters — including McKibben — were arrested. But President Obama could not ignore those protests, and his administration announced a delay in approving the pipeline until after the 2012 presidential election. Opponents of the pipeline cheered the decision, even as the White House denied that the protests had influenced the decision. But most agree that McKibben’s actions directly led to the delay, and I for one admire him for standing up for his cause and being an effective change agent.

But while I agree with many of McKibben’s positions, I am going to lay out the reasons here that I disagree on this particular issue. For many opponents of the pipeline, my reasoning won’t make any difference. You are either with them (i.e., you care about the environment) or against them (in which case you don’t care about the environment). But as I have watched this debate play out, I saw an incredible degree of naivety and quite a few disingenuous and specious arguments, and thus I feel like I need to make my stand. My goal is to raise the level of energy dialogue, and at times I was appalled at the misinformation being put out there (on both sides) over this issue.

My Views on Energy

Let me first review some of the things I believe about energy, to highlight why I come down on the opposite side of this issue from Bill McKibben. Like Bill, I want to see the world become less dependent upon oil. For the U.S. in particular, there are issues of national security, as well as environmental issues because of our heavy dependence on oil. Our economy is at risk due to high oil prices that are are being influenced by many factors the U.S. can’t directly control. Because I believe oil prices are likely to remain highly volatile, I believe this is an intolerable risk for the U.S. (and global) economy. Further, oil is a depleting resource, and uncertainty about future oil supplies increases the risk to the global economy. There are also legitimate environmental concerns over tar sands development — both in the disposal of the tailings and the greenhouse gas intensity of the oil sands themselves.

So to recap my views on energy:

  • I want to see less dependence on oil
  • Oil dependence is a national security issue for the U.S.
  • Oil dependence poses environmental problems
  • Volatility in oil prices pose grave economic risks
  • Oil is a depleting resource
  • There are legitimate environmental concerns with oil sands development

Methods That Can Reduce Oil Consumption

There are some effective ways of reducing oil consumption. One is through higher prices. Because the U.S. is heavily dependent upon oil, high prices have had a chilling impact on the economy. Economic activity has slowed, and people have started making choices for more fuel efficient cars and mass transit. The net result is that in the U.S., oil consumption has fallen by 1.5 million barrels per day in the past five years. (However, in developing countries that are less dependent upon oil, consumption growth more than offset declines in the developed world).

Another way to limit oil consumption is by simply cutting off the flow of oil. This is what happened to the U.S. during the 1973 oil embargo. Overnight, we saw a drastic curtailing of our oil imports, and an ensuing economic crisis. Longer-term, the impacts of the oil embargo were to shift the U.S. automotive industry toward more fuel efficient cars, but in the short-term many people were hit hard by much higher oil prices. If we had done more forward planning and began the transition to more fuel efficient cars before we had a crisis, much of the pain could have likely been avoided.

I believe the ideal situation is to make sure we have stable supplies of oil while working hard to make sure we don’t need them. This is similar to the reason we have a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. It is there in case we really need it, but we hope we don’t have to use it. This describes my feelings about offshore drilling, continued oil exploration, and development of the oil sands. I hope that we can manage a “peak demand” scenario in which oil production goes into decline because we are moving in the direction of alternatives and conservation and simply don’t need the oil. But I think it is an extremely risky strategy to try to hasten the move to alternatives by restricting oil supplies. In fact, there are numerous risks inherent in such a strategy, the biggest of which is that supplies fall short before alternatives can fill the gap. In this case, economies are wrecked and people suffer. But this is effectively the strategy being pursued by those who are opposed to the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Naivete on WHY We’re Addicted to Oil

The truth is that most opponents of the pipeline — just like the rest of society — are dependent upon oil, but they rationalize this as being due to reasons other than the fact that oil is the most affordable liquid fuel option. They have convinced themselves that our addiction to oil is because of the oil companies, rather than our own personal preferences. Gas taxes are something politicians deathly fear for good reason — people get angry about higher energy costs. Thus, I think the pipeline opponents underestimate the potential impacts of there not being enough supply to meet demand in the future. Bill McKibben recently appeared on The Colbert Report (one show I never miss) and was confronted with this by Stephen Colbert (who is a Democrat, but plays the role of a conservative talk show host):

The Colbert Report

At the 5:20 mark in the video is the following exchange:

Colbert: You are from Vermont?

McKibben: Yes.

Colbert: Did you ride your bicycle down here? Or did you ride an ox cart? How did you get down here? Or do you have a vehicle that runs on hypocrisy?

McKibben: There is no doubt, that I am a hypocrite. I have spent the last four years on the move, around the planet, building this big global climate movement — and spewing carbon behind me as I went. It’s possible that I can’t make up for as much as I put out, but I hope that this movement that we are building, that the people who were willing to go to jail and to sit in outside the White House and do all the other things may be making enough difference to make up for that kind of carbon.

Thus, even those who are most adamant that climate change is such a grave threat that we must take drastic measures to stop it — still rely on oil to do their business. And they really have no idea how society might respond to insufficient oil supplies — yet they are willing to take that risk for us all. But while they are aware of the threat posed by climate change, I get the impression that they are not aware of threats posed by relying on unstable regions of the world for our oil supplies.

The Climate Change Argument

Opponents believe this risk is worthwhile given their dire assessment of climate change if the oil sands development continues. In fact, Keystone opponent and NASA scientist Jim Hansen has said that the pipeline would be the “fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet” and that if it is built it is “game over” for the climate.

There are many things to be said here regarding oil sands and climate change.

Over the past few decades, production from the oil sands has grown steadily with no signs of slowing. Current production is more than 1.5 million barrels per day, with most of that being exported to the United States. Canada projects that by 2020 production will be over 3 million bpd, and by 2030 it will be 5 million bpd. None of this growth is contingent upon the U.S. approving this pipeline. Instead, it hinges upon oil prices, and my view is that 1). The world will continue to demand oil; 2). Supply will be unable to stay ahead of demand growth, and 3). Renewable substitutes will not be be able to scale quickly enough to close the gap (see the electric car example later in this essay).

Thus, the oil sands will continue to be developed regardless of whether the U.S. tries to block additional supplies from entering into the U.S. That was even the view of the State Department’s environmental impact statement: If the pipeline is rejected Canada would “seek alternative transportation systems to move oil to markets.” Thus, Canada has shown no inclination to slow down the oil sands development, and will actively seek all options for building this “fuse.”

Second, “game over” for the climate is unlikely to be decided by the U.S. or Canada. The biggest carbon bomb on the planet — as evidenced by the graphic below (created for my upcoming book) — is in the Asia Pacific region:

My view is that regardless of what actions we take — short of going to war with China and India to stop their economic development — carbon emissions will continue to climb. My hope is that the impacts of climate change will be less severe than the worst predictions, because I see no pathway to stopping them (even if carbon emissions in the West went to zero). Some will respond “But we must” or “So you are saying we should do nothing?” and to that I say “Show me how to stop emissions in regions that have a fraction of the West’s per capita emissions.” Just because we “must” do something doesn’t mean we can actually do it. We “must” cure cancer and heart disease, but they still kill many people each year.

I see mostly pie-in-the-sky from people who think we will rein in carbon emissions in China and India (or who believe that the West is mostly responsible for the world’s carbon emissions). Polls have shown that the vast majority of the Chinese are not concerned about climate change, and the vast majority of Indians never heard of it. So when people argue that we must lead by example, 1). Our per capita consumption is already an order of magnitude higher than theirs, thus we aren’t in much of a position to lead; and 2). Even if we were, they don’t want to be led on this issue.

Relative to Asia Pacific’s coal consumption, the increases in emissions from oil sands are going to be mere noise on the graph. If climate change is going to doom us, then I am afraid to say we are already doomed — whether or not the oil sands are developed.

The “Accident Waiting to Happen”

Next let’s consider some of the arguments that I consider to be either disingenuous or horribly misinformed. One issue that pipeline opponents latched onto and pushed hard was that the pipeline would have crossed the Ogallala Aquifer, and because pipelines sometimes leak the risk of contaminating a major water supply was simply too great. A video op-ed by Robert Redford for the New York Times has Redford saying “Let’s be honest. The Keystone XL pipeline is an accident waiting to happen.”

Many opponents of the pipeline acted as if a pipeline crossing the aquifer would be unprecedented. As pointed out in a recent column, we already have pipelines crisscrossing the Ogallala. To show how naive this view is, below is a map of the U.S. pipeline system with the Ogallala drawn in (hat tip to R-Squared reader Steve Funk for this one).

U.S. Oil and Gas Pipelines with the Ogallala Aquifer Drawn In

So, there are numerous pipelines already crossing the Ogallala. Further, cities have been built on top of the aquifer. Industrial activity takes place above the aquifer. An enormous amount of farming is conducted above the aquifer. If it was that easy to contaminate the Ogallala, then it would be contaminated all the time because farmers put tons of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers on the ground above the Ogallala every year.

Yes, pipelines do sometimes leak. In most cases the locations of the leaks are predictable — at valves, sampling points, and various connections — and precautions like secondary containment are in place. That’s why despite pipeline leaks, only a tiny fraction of them even have a chance of ending up in a waterway. We still end up with oil getting into waterways with a small fraction of these leaks, to be sure. But the idea that the Ogallala could be contaminated that easily was never grounded in reality.

In any case, I knew that opposition to the pipeline was never really about the Ogallala. As if to emphasize that point, TransCanada Corp. agreed to reroute the pipeline as soon as the delayed decision was announced, and I immediately received an e-mailed press release from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC (an organization that I am often in agreement with) has been pushing the aquifer issue hard, and once the reroute was announced they shifted gears to:

Now we need TransCanada to listen to the American people tell them “no” to the pipeline as a whole. What Nebraska will see is that there is not [sic] safe route for a leaky tar sands pipeline through any of their farms and communities. And what the nation knows is that we can’t fight climate change and build yet another tar sands oil pipeline.

The Jobs Argument

Both sides are guilty here of exaggeration. Some proponents have inflated the jobs claims to as high as a million jobs and some opponents claim that the net impact may actually be to destroy jobs. Bill McKibben wrote “Despite endless lazy reporting on the theme of jobs versus the environment,there were actually no net jobs to be had from the pipeline. It was always a weak argument, since the whole point of a pipeline is that, once it’s built, no one needs to work there.” As support, he linked to a Washington Post article that reviews the various estimates. The Post article figures that the number of construction jobs was “closer to the State Department’s [estimate]; State says the project would create 5,000 to 6,000 construction jobs, a figure that was calculated by its contractor Cardno Entrix.” They also cite an e-mail from TransCanada that says that “65 percent of the steel pipe for the project would come from the United States.”

McKibben is wrong here on multiple counts. Someone has to build that pipeline. TransCanada is getting ready to sink billions of dollars into that project in the U.S., creating private sector, shovel-ready jobs that opponents are trying hard to minimize. For instance, critics seem to totally discount a one or two year construction job as not being a real job. That could be a lifeline for someone who is unemployed in a very difficult economy. The irony is that critics use the “buying time” argument to suggest that the delay is good for the climate, but they dismiss it when someone buys time toward finding a permanent job.

McKibben is also wrong about nobody needing to work there once it is finished. These pipelines must be inspected and maintained on a regular basis. There will be a number of pump stations and sampling points that will need to be inspected and maintained. Then the crude oil must be processed. One of the arguments against the pipeline is that some of the refined product may be exported. So what? If we import crude oil and export finished products, we create jobs in the process. You know who else does that? China.

Finally, it is another bit of irony that some opponents would argue that potentially higher gasoline costs in the Midwest — as a result of the pipeline — might cost jobs. Probably 90% of the opponents would be in favor of higher gas prices any other time because of the dampening impact that has on oil demand.

How I Make Decisions

People who know me will tell you that I am a very direct person. If I want to see “X”, I will argue for “X.” I won’t argue for “Y” in the hope that we can eventually get to “X.” I also loathe misleading arguments that attempt to achieve a particular goal — even if the goal is something I want. Some people like that approach, and some have criticized it as ignoring political realities. In fact, an Executive Vice President at a former company once told me that I would never rise to upper management unless I mastered the art of politics and stopped being so direct.

But pro or con, my desire for direct arguments is a big reason I criticize the opposition’s (and frequently politician’s) arguments. They are beating around the bush with arguments about jobs and leaking pipelines instead of more directly confronting the real reason for their opposition to the pipeline. So much time was wasted on the Ogallala issue only to have TransCanada immediately call their bluff. Now opponents are more focused on the real reason for their opposition, but they burned a lot of political capital on side issues.

When faced with a difficult decision, I try to calculate the outcome of what happens under various scenarios. In this case, I ask myself what will happen if the pipeline is approved versus if it is rejected. Those protesting the pipeline believe that by taking a stand they are going to slow or even stop the development of the tar sands, thus striking a blow against climate change. I don’t think that view is remotely credible, and thus I weigh the risk of them being wrong and the potential downsides of the actions they propose to take.

My view is that failure to approve the project will result in one of several possible outcomes — none of which meet the goals of those opposing the pipeline. One is that the project will just wait another year to see if approval comes. As they wait, the oil sands will just get to the market the way they currently do, which are more carbon intensive routes. Another option is that the Enbridge Pipeline project — which already crosses the U.S.-Canadian border and thus does not require U.S. government approval — gains the advantage and ends up carrying the same oil sands crude to the Texas Gulf Coast.

This brings me to a slight digression, which is “Why did the pipeline require U.S. approval to begin with?” In fact, most pipelines do not require federal approval. This one did because it crossed the U.S.-Canadian border. But we already have lots of pipelines that cross the U.S.-Canadian border, and some of the competing proposals are to build systems on either side of the border that route the oil through an already existing trans-border pipeline. That would not require the approval of the Obama Administration.

But what do the pipeline opponents think? They believe that blocking the pipeline will force the U.S. in a more sustainable direction. In fact, I don’t think the U.S. will consume one barrel less oil as a result of this decision, nor will it stall development of tar sands. One thing I have frequently encountered among those who argue for a quick transition to green transportation is a failure to comprehend the scale of our oil consumption. Consider the option of replacing gasoline-burning cars with electric vehicles. Fellow blogger Geoffrey Styles recently compared this impact relative to the Keystone XL pipeline:

Start with electric vehicles, which are essentially the only pathway by which renewable electricity sources like wind, solar and geothermal power would have any impact on our oil consumption, because less than 1% of US electricity is now generated from oil. Even if EVs turn out to be the long-term solution to our transportation needs, as I suspect, it will be many years before they can displace enough fuel demand to make a dent in our oil addiction. The current goal is to have a million EVs on the road by 2015. As ambitious as that target seems compared to current sales of less expensive hybrid cars, that would constitute just 0.4% of the 238 million cars and light trucks in the US as of 2008. Moreover, even if EVs replaced cars of only average efficiency, one million of them would displace just 31,000 barrels per day of gasoline. In other words, it would take more than 20 million EVs to save the volume of oil that the Keystone Pipeline could have delivered annually.

Unsaid here, but implied, is that a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015 is a pipe dream — but even the pipe dream doesn’t make a dent in our oil consumption. And that, in a nutshell, is why I think blocking new oil supplies is a bad idea. My fear is that it risks economic catastrophe due to the inability of renewables to fill in for the lost oil supplies. It is much less risky, in my view, to keep as many options open as we possibly can.

Conclusions

The worst possible outcome for the U.S. — but now a more realistic possibility — is that Canada builds a pipeline to the coast and ships that crude to China. This is the worst possible outcome because the U.S. will have to source crude from more remote destinations and in many cases from countries whose interests are opposed to U.S. interests. It would be ironic if as a result of this decision we end up importing more from Venezuela’s oil sands while Canada’s oil sands end up in China. Opponents have not seriously considered this very real possibility, and if this is what happens then their actions will have actually increased global carbon emissions.

The Canadian Finance Minister visited China in the wake of the announced delay, stating that the decision may “accelerate Canada’s efforts to ship crude to Asia.” In fact, Canada’s Prime Minister communicated this directly to Chinese President Hu Jintao. China is already snatching up oil sands firms as quickly as they can — the surest sign that oil sands development is not going to slow down. And if this happens — U.S. demand remains high, crude from the oil sands is shipped to China, and the U.S. imports crude from countries with perhaps a dirtier environmental and/or social footprint — the outcome will be much worse than if the pipeline was delivering Canadian oil to U.S. refineries.

While we play political games, China is licking their chops in the view that this will enable them to gain more of the oil sands for themselves. In the next few years, the U.S. is likely to face even higher oil prices and will be scrambling to meet demand. The idea that China will lock up supply from America’s close ally while we continue to import oil from unstable regions seems like a bad joke.

The U.S. loses out on billions of dollars in private investment that would create jobs for building the pipeline, and jobs for maintaining the pipeline and processing the crude oil. Incidentally, one of the reasons some Canadians were against the pipeline is they didn’t like the idea of exporting jobs to the U.S. And personally, I don’t understand why Canada doesn’t just build a refinery themselves, keep those jobs at home, and export finished products. That is the path being taken by many oil exporters.

I believe that the U.S. will face an oil supply crunch in the next few years that has great potential to put us into a much deeper economic hole. I believe that the more desperate we — and the rest of the world — become, the more we will turn to ever dirtier sources of carbon. We have seen unintended consequences arise again and again from those who had good intentions, and the threat of those unintended consequences is why I can’t stand with the protesters on this issue. I respect their dedication, but I don’t believe the outcome will be desirable for anyone.

To close, let me make some comments on the protesters themselves. I have a high degree of respect for sincere people who are trying to make the world a better place, and I believe most of the protestors fall into this category. In most cases, these are people who believe that climate change 1). Is a grave threat to civilization; 2). Can be stopped by taking stands like the one they took against Keystone. I believe that these are sincere people who believe they can make a difference; why else would they risk arrest to protest the pipeline? And in fact, they have made a difference. It is unlikely that the decision would have been delayed without the massive protests. But at the end of the day, I disagree with them on some important points. I don’t believe shutting down the project will do anything to slow the development of tar sands, and thus it will do nothing to impact global carbon emissions. If I believed that protesting would actually have the desired impact of weaning the U.S. off of fossil fuels, I would be out there protesting with them.

Perhaps Bill McKibben and his fellow protestors are aware of the things I have written about here, but they said “Well, we have to do something.” I respect their right to try to stop the pipeline, but I hope they also respect my right to disagree.

Quick Summary

I don’t want this summary to serve as an alternative to the essay itself, because my reasoning behind the points is key to the points themselves. But being that this is a long document, the following summary will serve as a quick refresher of the key points made above.

I’m in agreement with the protesters that:

  • Our addiction to oil is a big problem;
  • Tar sands development has a negative effect on the environment.

I believe the goal of reducing carbon emissions by stopping the pipeline will not be achieved because:

  • The tar sands will be developed no matter what;
  • “Game Over” for the climate will not be decided by the U.S. and Canada;
  • Carbon emissions will continue to climb because of China and India, even if the tar sands weren’t developed.

In fact the outcome of denying the pipeline will hurt us because:

  • Tar sands oil will go to China/Asia instead;
  • China — not the U.S. — will have the jobs that come along with refining the oil;
  • The U.S. may end up importing more oil from Venezuela’s oil sands and relying on supply from unstable regions.

By Robert Rapier

Link to Original Article: How I Would Decide the Keystone XL Pipeline Issue

  1. By Gordon Comfort on November 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

    You are quite right, Robert. Unfortunately the problem is much more serious. The McKibbens and Hansens of the world seem to display the triumph of inductive reasoning over deductive reasoning. These patterns were well described by Revel in “Last Exit to Utopia” and might be characterized as “the results (consequences) don’t matter; it’s the idea that counts.” The logical thinkers tend not to have many tub thumpers among them and when it comes to proselytising the Redfords et al have the upper hand. Good luck with your quest but an evangelist is needed.

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  2. By Marc Ferguson on November 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Hi Robert-

    You’re on my short list of must read blogs, and I always look forward to, and respect, your position on energy topics. As usual, your argument is well thought out and logical. And there is nothing in the post that I personally disagree with . . . except (grin) . . . we need the oil, climate change is going to happen anyway . . .

    That is exactly how we got from Hansens’ orginal warning in the 70′s to here. Everytime the spectre of climate change has been raised, there is a logical list of reasons to ‘kick the can down the road’. There has yet to the THAT MOMENT that someone (nation) with a moral standing, a platform, or influence provides the symbolic statement of change. Here’s and idea. Line the route of the pipeline with solar cells (the same maintenance infrastructure is required), create jobs that are probably the equivalent for the construction and more for the maintenance. Send the electricity to farms along the route on short transmission lines, and MAKE A STATEMENT that there is an alternative.

    Marc Ferguson

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  3. By Colm McGinn on November 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

    Robert Rapier; not at all like his name. This man is a zero on wit & intelligence, earnestly arguing ‘his views on energy’.

    Such as: “My view is that regardless of what actions we take — short of going to war with China and India to stop their economic development — carbon emissions will continue to climb. My hope is that the impacts of climate change will be less severe than the worst predictions,”

    Where have you stashed Planet 2, Robert? Hope! Nice one. Real clear understanding of ‘Risk’ here.

    If Robert is right on his pessimistic view (poor us, we cannot stop this), “I believe the goal of reducing carbon emissions by stopping the pipeline will not be achieved because:
    The tar sands will be developed no matter what;” Then, all things considered, and for the greater good (i.e., the survival of some part of humanity), then let us hope that his suggestion of war with China comes about. A nuclear devastated USA would be a ‘win’ for the rest of humanity. Pity about the children.

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  4. By JavelinaTex on November 21, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Great article Robert.

    I disagree with one thing. “Addiction to oil” as a metaphor. What we are addicted to is Prosperity and Freedom. These two items create a demand for personal and community transportation (of goods from other areas). Oil is the lowest cost way to accomplish this; alternatives would cost at least several times this if they are even feasible.

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  5. By Matt on November 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

    It’s unfortunate that you’re opinion is based on falsehoods and misinformation.

    first, you say “Thus, the oil sands will continue to be developed regardless of whether the U.S. tries to block additional supplies from entering into the U.S” – this simply isn’t true. the oilsands are landlocked and will reach export capacity in a few years if they don’t get a pipeline. the argument that canada will now look to asian markets simply won’t materialize anytime soon. the pipeline to the west coast must go through multiple first nation territories, all of whom oppose the project. it will be a decade before any approvals will be reached for that project. If we can stop both pipelines until better technologies can be deployed to develop the oilsands with near zero emissions (environmental solvents that achieve this are currently being tested in the lab), then that’s a big win.

    more importantly, your argument about the climate emissions simple misdirection. we can’t really afford to develop the keystone, and here are the numbers why – http://www.realclimate.org/ind…..game-over/

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  6. By Colm McGinn on November 21, 2011 at 11:02 am

    You certainly are addicted to oil, JavelinaTex, and pretend to yourself that it’s ‘prosperity & freedom’

    If there is a strategic response to an identified problem (excessive production of CO2), then you don’t push forward the strategy (of weaning off fossil fuel) by simply accepting that ‘it’s going to be done anyway, so we might as well do it’. The tar sands are an environmental disaster to an important Earth resource (Canadian Arboreal forests). Anything that makes that exploitation more easily achieved, is a bad thing. The identification of the wider problem, human energy needs, (not liquid fossil fuel, not any version of environmental destruction for the short term economic gain of any given set of investors), would lead us to solutions. The solution has to be from recognition of where there is a functional abundance of energy, and what needs to be done to harvest that abundance. The short term focus is also shown in our continued love affair with the IC engine (VERY wasteful), and the consequent belief that ‘we need this oil/ shale gas/ coal’. We need energy, we don’t need oil, if we choose to come off this, our drug of choice.

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  7. By Benny BND Cole on November 21, 2011 at 11:10 am

    Good commentary.

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  8. By TheTrue2 on November 21, 2011 at 11:40 am

    The world needs the Canadian tar sands. China has already purchased a tar sand mining company in Canada and other countries are rushing in to get these deposits on line in a big way. The only good thing about Obama’s decision to delay the permit approval is that a less riskier route can be found. TransCanada chosen route was based on cost benefit analysis that have a history of placing profits over life. Even though there are 2500 pipelines in our country, it is not too late to change the route selection process in a way that would place life over profits from this point in time on instead of our way for the last 50 years of placing profits over life. The State Department permit process to approve the pipeline requires public comments and Mr. Mckibben and protesters express their opinion loud and clear.

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  9. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Marc Ferguson said:

    Hi Robert-

    You’re on my short list of must read blogs, and I always look forward to, and respect, your position on energy topics. As usual, your argument is well thought out and logical. And there is nothing in the post that I personally disagree with . . . except (grin) . . . we need the oil, climate change is going to happen anyway . . .


     

    Well, “need” is relative. Consider what would happen if all of the oil stopped flowing today. Would you agree that many people would start to die in the near future? OK, so let’s say that as society is currently structured, we need oil to keep the system from collapsing. The goal is that we won’t always need oil, and so we would like to scale down what we use in a managed fashion. In my opinion, this has less risk of causing chaos than trying to artificially reduce the supply of oil.

    As far as climate change, you have two countries in India and China where people either don’t know about global warming or don’t care, and are undergoing rapid development. So there isn’t a really clear pathway that I can see for how we address that. I have calculated that even if emissions in the U.S. and EU went to zero, it would only take us back to 1994 levels and they would be rising rapidly.

    RR

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  10. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    Colm McGinn said:

    Robert Rapier; not at all like his name. This man is a zero on wit & intelligence, earnestly arguing ‘his views on energy’.


     

    I long ago stopped hoping that people can be civil in this debate. I understand that people think their cause is so just that it warrants the insults and such. I disagree.

    Where have you stashed Planet 2, Robert? Hope! Nice one. Real clear understanding of ‘Risk’ here.

    Well, there is risk, and then there is an assessment of whether that risk can actually be managed. As you can see from my carbon emissions graph, most people don’t know where the real risk actually lies.

    Then, all things considered, and for the greater good (i.e., the survival of some part of humanity), then let us hope that his suggestion of war with China comes about. A nuclear devastated USA would be a ‘win’ for the rest of humanity. Pity about the children.

    The scary thing is that you aren’t the first or even the second person I have heard say that. What scares me about people who argue for such measures is the failure to understand that 1). There are many different possible outcomes; 2). Their outcome is a projection just like other possibilities; and 3). It isn’t necessarily the worst possible outcome. They always operate under the assumption of dead certainty about the outcome; i.e. the climate can reach a tipping point that threatens human civilization.

    RR

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  11. By OD on November 21, 2011 at 12:06 pm

    If Robert is right on his pessimistic view (poor us, we cannot stop this), “I believe the goal of reducing carbon emissions by stopping the pipeline will not be achieved because:
    The tar sands will be developed no matter what;”

    Robert is 100% correct. Canada has said they WILL develop their tar sands, no matter what. They will sell to China and elsewhere if the US decides it does not want the oil. They have said this on several occasions.

    It’s also quite humorous that you would claim Robert has no wit and intelligence, after making such an idiotic post yourself! You are completely out-of-touch with the reality going on around you. The developing world will use any fossil fuel that the US or OECD doesn’t. Just look China’s exponential growth of coal consumption in the past decade. They use more coal than the US, Europe, and Japan combined, with no signs of slowing down, until peak coal. So wanting to get rid of the US to solve carbon emissions is extremely flawed, to say the least.

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  12. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    Matt said:

    It’s unfortunate that you’re opinion is based on falsehoods and misinformation.

    first, you say “Thus, the oil sands will continue to be developed regardless of whether the U.S. tries to block additional supplies from entering into the U.S” – this simply isn’t true.


     

    You don’t know whether it is or isn’t; you are stating an opinion. To this point, the oil sands development has steadily grown. I am a data guy; I look to the numbers. What happens with the oil sands is going to be a function of the price of oil.

    If we can stop both pipelines until better technologies can be deployed to develop the oilsands with near zero emissions (environmental solvents that achieve this are currently being tested in the lab), then that’s a big win. more importantly, your argument about the climate emissions simple misdirection.

    So you misdirect, and then complain about misdirection? The solvent argument is disingenuous for two reasons. The first is that the solvents themselves will have embedded oil in their production. But more importantly, it isn’t just the footprint of the extraction that protestors are against (although that is some part of it). Even if the oil sands were extracted with zero emissions, they are still going to be burned and end up in the atmosphere. That is what the protestors are really protesting.

    we can’t really afford to develop the keystone, and here are the numbers why – http://www.realclimate.org/ind…..game-over/

    Yet their are many different routes for the oil to get to market, and most of them are more carbon intensive than the pipeline. This is something protestors don’t consider at all; that their actions actually worsen the problem they are attempting to solve.

    RR

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  13. By OD on November 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I have calculated that even if emissions in the U.S. and EU went to zero, it would only take us back to 1994 levels and they would be rising rapidly.

    That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it. The west is, for all intents and purposes, irrelevant in climate change. 

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  14. By jerry-unruh on November 21, 2011 at 12:22 pm

    Robert:

     

    In the main I agree with your analysis with the exception that it strikes me as a “business as usual” argument (or so I infer).  I don’t see that you consider the consequences of continuing on our present path.  The difficulty of quantifying the future can be shown by the very different results obtained by Nordhaus and Stern whose analyses differed mainly by their choice of discount rate.  Nevertheless we must try.  Your statement that you “hope” that the problems of climate change will be at the low end of the spectrum is quite uncharacteristic of you.  All the indications are that quite the opposite is the case.  The CO2 emissions are higher than the worst case in the IPCC and all the scientific literature I have read points to more severe effects.  So the concerns range from Lovelock’s “we are toast” to McKibben’s and Hansen’s (and my) view that there still may be time. In fact, I tend to think (without complete quantitative evidence) that we are on the edge of an extreme disruption in both our economic and ecological lives, the severity of which will be obvious within a decade or so.  While I “hope” I am wrong, present indications suggest I am not. Perhaps in this sense, it doesn’t really matter if the Keystone pipeline is built since events may well make it superfulous.  However, the money could be better spent elsewhere.  

     

     

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  15. By sameer-kulkarni on November 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Sorry for the misinterpretation

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  16. By sameer-kulkarni on November 21, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Conclusions

    The worst possible outcome for the U.S. — but now a more realistic possibility — is that Canada builds a pipeline to the coast and ships that crude to China.

     

    In fact the outcome of denying the pipeline will hurt us because:

    • Tar sands oil will go to China/Asia instead;
    • China — not the U.S. — will have the jobs that come along with refining the oil;
    • The U.S. may end up importing more oil from Venezuela’s oil sands and relying on supply from unstable regions.

     


     

    I do not understand what a big deal about this pipeline is? Coz if Canada can build a pipeline & ship that crude to China then why can’t that similar infrastructure be deployed to ship the crude to US refineries? That way the in transit path of crude shall also be lesser leading to fewer carbon emissions as compared to those when that crude is shipped to China.

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  17. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 1:11 pm

    SAM said:

     

    I do not understand what a big deal about this pipeline is? Coz if Canada can build a pipeline & ship that crude to China then why can’t that similar infrastructure be deployed to ship the crude to US refineries? That way the in transit path of crude shall also be lesser leading to fewer carbon emissions as compared to those when that crude is shipped to China.


     

    Because the protestors believe that if they stop the pipeline it will slow the development of the tar sands, forcing a faster transition from fossil fuels. What they have failed to do — and what this essay is about — is seriously consider other possible outcomes.

    RR

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  18. By Wendell Mercantile on November 21, 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Our addiction to oil is a big problem

    RR~

    We aren’t really addicted to oil. We are instead addicted to burning huge amounts of energy to support an extravagant and high quality of life.

    It’s just so far, oil is the most reliable and economical way of supplying that energy fix. We are still consuming millions of years of cheaply produced (free) by Mother Nature, available, and easily (fairly) extractable stored sunshine.

    About the pipeline: As Stalin famously said, “You have to break some eggs to make an omelet.”

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  19. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 1:00 pm

    Jerry Unruh said:

    Robert:

    In the main I agree with your analysis with the exception that it strikes me as a “business as usual” argument (or so I infer).  I don’t see that you consider the consequences of continuing on our present path. 


     

    Hello Jerry,

    Good to see you here. I thought about you on my way to work this morning. We have snow on Mauna Kea and I wondered how much you have on Pike’s Peak.

    We have no choice of continuing on the present path at the moment, because there is no exit that isn’t catastrophic. What we have to do is power down, but it would be good to have insurance policies as we do. I am really concerned about what happens when supply falls faster than expected; what that does to the system. Desperate people do desperate things, and evidenced by some of the deforestation around the world.

    Your statement that you “hope” that the problems of climate change will
    be at the low end of the spectrum is quite uncharacteristic of you.

     

    The reason that I “hope” is that I don’t believe there is a realistic path for slowing emissions because it is largely taking place in countries that have shown no inclination to stop it. If I can’t come up with a reasonable pathway for stopping it, then I hope it doesn’t turn out as bad as some expect. If I really thought I could directly impact it, I wouldn’t have to hope.

    Perhaps in this sense, it doesn’t really matter if the Keystone pipeline
    is built since events may well make it superfulous.  However, the money
    could be better spent elsewhere. 

    I think the win-win is to build the pipeline but still aggressively pursue measures that reduce our oil consumption. Remember, this is money being spent by a private company. Their alternative is not going to be to put solar panels on houses. So I would say “Spend your money” while doing everything we can to take care of the demand side.

    Robert

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  20. By Freude Bud on November 21, 2011 at 3:02 pm

    One of the main objections to the pipeline appears to be the potential of a spill.  But that concern seems misplaced to me because, IIUC, piping the oil is the safest possible option insofar as spills are concerned.  (That is, there is some likelihood of spills, but the likelihood of a big spill is smaller for pipelines than it is for shipping.)  No one seems to be addressing the relative safety of the pipeline in a straightforward way.

     

    There do seem to be serious political obstacles in Canada to building a pipeline west to ports.  But if such a pipeline were built, it seems likely that a considerable portion of the oil would simply be shipped to the US West Coast, meaning that we would end up consuming (probably most of) the oil anyway.  The question of the relative environmental safety (and carbon footprint) of that alternative hasn’t seemed to come up in the discussion.  The question of other alternatives, such as rail, also hasn’t been addressed.

     

    (Another alternative, that Canadian companies end up building refineries to process the crude, would obviate the problem of a crude pipeline, but leave the problem of a products pipeline versus rail or truck and their relative environmental costs and safety issues.  Most producers these days seem to want to be out of the products business, it seems because the margins on products are so iffy.)

     

    Beyond that, the possibility of a pipeline spill, from the perspective of relative damage to the environment, seems rather small bore compared to other oil management issues, such as the proper disposal of motor oil–reportedly 180 million gallons are improperly disposed into rivers etc. every year, more than 400 million gallons of petroleum products leak from cars and trucks every year.  It’s always fun to demonize the oil companies, but ignore small solutions which may well do more to protect the environment than big political cause celebres.

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  21. By Colm McGinn on November 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Firstly, if the insult stung, that has its virtues, which might overcome my lack of manners in writing it in the first place. For the manners, I apologise.

    ON “Where have you stashed Planet 2, Robert? Hope! Nice one. Real clear understanding of ‘Risk’ here” (CMcG)

    (RR) “Well, there is risk, and then there is an assessment of whether that risk can actually be managed. As you can see from my carbon emissions graph, most people don’t know where the real risk actually lies”

    On your CO2 graph, I found the flatness over the past 10 years for Europe & for USA very surprising. We have been burning more carbon, where has it gone to? The figures reported in news as I recall, have consistently shown a lack of control, post 1992.

    On risk, what is the cost benefit analysis of, oh 1,000 miles of seafront property, as against what is described (by expert voices) as a high likelihood scenario of life threatening climate change, especially our lives, though including many other lifeforms. We depend on those other lifeforms; if we manage to actually destroy life in the oceans, rather than simply the enormous damage we have done (*to it) in the past 100 years, then our own extinction will not be long afterwards.

    If someone wants to play with a loaded revolver in a macabre game of chance, 1 chance of death, 5 of life, well it doesn’t really matter, because it’s only that person at risk.

    We are now playing with a planet, and its the only space we have. All of humanity is at risk.

    Those calculations (of CBA) on climate change have been done (e.g. Stern Report), and it is staggering that there is not general acceptance. It is strongly in the positive, for energetic climate mitigation measures. The problem is primarily with the rich nations; who controls the money? Why do they prefer a marginal profit on new fossil fuels, as against the rearrangement of our industrial society? The answer is obvious, but shows an extraordinary hubris & greed. How should they be persuaded to change?

    As regards your comments on Chinese & Indian populations and their attitude to climate change, I think you are quite wrong. Those societies are very diferently run, and in the case of the Chinese people have a discipline and caution unknown to Americans. A recent trip through a small part of China showed every second house with newly installed solar vacuum technology, not because they were all for saving their ecology, but because it was common sense, financially.

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  22. By Optimist on November 21, 2011 at 5:39 pm

    Good job, RR! That is quite a commentary. Spot on, I’d say, with the following minor exceptions:

    But I think it is an extremely risky strategy to try to hasten the move to alternatives by restricting oil supplies. In fact, there are numerous risks inherent in such a strategy, the biggest of which is that supplies fall short before alternatives can fill the gap. In this case, economies are wrecked and people suffer.

    As always, I’d argue that a (relatively) free market would take care of that issue: Demand (and to a lesser extent supply when it comes to oil) is a function of price. If supplies fall short, prices go up and demand dries up. Will there be economic consequences? Sure. But “wrecked” economies and suffering is a bit pessimistic. In reality, the good jobs will move to Canada, and to other oil suppliers.

    So when people argue that we must lead by example, 1). Our per capita consumption is already an order of magnitude higher than theirs, thus we aren’t in much of a position to lead; and 2). Even if we were, they don’t want to be led on this issue.

    Factor 1) suggests that there is (still) a lot of low-hanging fruit that can be dealt with to reduce our per-capita coonsumption. Factor 2) is categorically true, but again, at high prices they won’t be asking if they are leading or following, they will be cutting their consumption, regardless.

    BTW, I would also argue that it is in our interest to lead by example, and that doing so would have considerable long term advantages. This is the argument I would use in response to “Well, we have to do something.”

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  23. By Marc on November 21, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Marc Ferguson said:

    Hi Robert-
    You’re on my short list of must read blogs, and I always look forward to, and respect, your position on energy topics. As usual, your argument is well thought out and logical. And there is nothing in the post that I personally disagree with . . . except (grin) . . . we need the oil, climate change is going to happen anyway . . .

     
    Well, “need” is relative. Consider what would happen if all of the oil stopped flowing today. Would you agree that many people would start to die in the near future? OK, so let’s say that as society is currently structured, we need oil to keep the system from collapsing. The goal is that we won’t always need oil, and so we would like to scale down what we use in a managed fashion. In my opinion, this has less risk of causing chaos than trying to artificially reduce the supply of oil.
    As far as climate change, you have two countries in India and China where people either don’t know about global warming or don’t care, and are undergoing rapid development. So there isn’t a really clear pathway that I can see for how we address that. I have calculated that even if emissions in the U.S. and EU went to zero, it would only take us back to 1994 levels and they would be rising rapidly.
    RR

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  24. By Optimist on November 21, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    A nuclear devastated USA would be a ‘win’ for the rest of humanity. Pity about the children.

    Colm, if you actually believe that, you are one sick puppy, and in serious need of help.

    On top of that, if you believe destroying the US will be a good thing, you don’t know much about anything. Name one country that would benefit from having the US destroyed. In the global village the US has fingers in just about every location, and for the most of it, it is contributing in a positive way. No country is perfect, but I would challenge you to name one country that has a more beneficial influence world-wide.

    I agree the US is not moving in the right direction, and that the news out of Washington DC tends to make one depressed. Who knows? Maybe $150/bbl will lead to turn-around. Or $200/bbl. Or $500/bbl.

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  25. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Colm McGinn said:

    Firstly, if the insult stung, that has its virtues, which might overcome my lack of manners in writing it in the first place. For the manners, I apologise.


     

    I just don’t buy that. If I called you a racist, and you challenged me on it, does that then prove my claim had merit?

    On your CO2 graph, I found the flatness over the past 10 years for
    Europe & for USA very surprising. We have been burning more carbon,
    where has it gone to?

    Developed countries haven’t been burning more. That’s the point. In just the past 5 years oil consumption in the U.S. fell by 1.5 million bpd, but rose by 2.2 million bpd in India and China.

    We are now playing with a planet, and its the only space we have. All of humanity is at risk.

    I know full well the argument, and in fact have made it myself. I have said before that it isn’t a good idea to experiment with the atmosphere when the outcome is unknown. What my post here does is incorporate the practical realities into the situation. An analogy I have used is to liken climate change to a hurricane. We can debate and discuss how bad the hurricane might be, but there isn’t a practical way to deflect it. It doesn’t matter how bad we think it is going to be when there isn’t a pathway for deflecting it.

    The problem is primarily with the rich nations; who
    controls the money?

    That’s not where most of the carbon emissions are coming from. Emissions growth is coming from developing countries. Developed countries have much higher per capita consumption, but a minority of the people.

    As regards your comments on Chinese & Indian populations and
    their attitude to climate change, I think you are quite wrong.

    That wasn’t my opinion, that is from a Gallup Poll. Around 60% of the Chinese knew about climate change, only 20% considered a problem. In India, only 35% even knew about it. And then there is the data. Fossil fuel consumption is rapidly growing in both countries, and in 2010 China emitted more carbon dioxide that at any time in their history. Of course they are doing a lot with renewables as well, but that’s because they need as many sources as they can possibly come up with. They are doing renewables, coal, oil, and are starting to do natural gas fracking.

    RR

     

     

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  26. By madtsan on November 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    “So much time was wasted on the Ogallala issue only to have TransCanada immediately call their bluff.”

    Not true. Also, the dubious article by Yedlin you reference in your “blog” was also wrong. TransCanada did not immediately call their bluff, unless you consider several days immediate. The State Dept annouced the decision to delay the pipeline on 11/10/2011. TransCanada annouced the decision on 11/14/2011.

     

    “In any case, I knew that opposition to the pipeline was never really about the Ogallala.”

    Tell that to the farmers in Nebraska. I can guarantee the farmers aren’t screaming greenies when it comes to the environment, but mess with their water, and you have a problem. Besides, the opposition to pipeline is a direct result of oil companies incompetence related to the Gulf BP debacle.

     


    “I don’t understand why Canada doesn’t just build a refinery themselves, keep those jobs at home, and export finished products.”

    Time for a geography lesson. It’s called the Gulf of Mexico. Do the math. The capacity of Keystone XL is beyond what we will consume.

    Also, it would not make any sense for the Canadians to build a refinery without a pipeline. It’s like owning a Porsche without the tires. No matter if they built the refinery, they still need the pipeline.

    Finally, most of the jobs and materials are Canadian.

     

     

     

     

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  27. By russ-finley on November 21, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    Another great article, RR. Don’t know what the answer is but stopping the pipeline isn’t it.

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  28. By walter-sobchak on November 21, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    My only question about keystone is how much of the funding of the opponents is being provided by countries surrounding the Persian Gulf?

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  29. By Wendell Mercantile on November 21, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    Around 60% of the Chinese knew about climate change, only 20% considered a problem. In India, only 35% even knew about it.

    When most of your country is still climbing to achieve the Western lifestyle they see everyday in the movies, the Internet, and the media, why should they consider it a problem?

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  30. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 11:38 pm

    madtsan said:

    “So much time was wasted on the Ogallala issue only to have TransCanada immediately call their bluff.”

    Not true. Also, the dubious article by Yedlin you reference in your “blog” was also wrong. TransCanada did not immediately call their bluff, unless you consider several days immediate. The State Dept annouced the decision to delay the pipeline on 11/10/2011. TransCanada annouced the decision on 11/14/2011.


     

    I think we all understand that it didn’t take place within minutes of the decision. But for a process that has gone on this long, four days is pretty immediate.

    “In any case, I knew that opposition to the pipeline was never really about the Ogallala.”

    Tell that to the farmers in Nebraska. I can guarantee the farmers aren’t screaming greenies when it comes to the environment, but mess with their water, and you have a problem. Besides, the opposition to pipeline is a direct result of oil companies incompetence related to the Gulf BP debacle.

    The same farmers that dump herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers on top of the aquifer? That’s the whole point. I guarantee you they will put more hydrocarbons on top of the aquifer than a pipeline ever would. The farmers may have been against it emotionally, but rationally if they are so worried about the aquifer they should think about what they are putting on the ground above it.  

     



    “I don’t understand why Canada doesn’t just build a refinery themselves, keep those jobs at home, and export finished products.”

    Time for a geography lesson. It’s called the Gulf of Mexico.

    Time for an economics lesson. Many oil exporters are building their own refineries. Why? Because it creates high-paying jobs in their country, and captures added value. Thus, what you are moving out via pipeline (or truck, tanker, whatever) has greater value.

    Do the math. The capacity of Keystone XL is beyond what we will consume.

    That’s an odd comment, given that the sentence you quoted actually says “export finished products.” The reason you would generally do that is that you have more than you will consume.

    Also, it would not make any sense for the Canadians to build a refinery without a pipeline. It’s like owning a Porsche without the tires. No matter if they built the refinery, they still need the pipeline.

    Not necessarily. It depends on many factors, but a lot of product is moved around by truck and rail. Pipeline is the most cost effective and safest way to move it, but the higher the value of the product the more economical it will be to move it via different methods.

    RR

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  31. By rrapier on November 21, 2011 at 11:41 pm

    Walter Sobchak said:

    My only question about keystone is how much of the funding of the opponents is being provided by countries surrounding the Persian Gulf?


     

    I can only imagine how amused Hugo Chavez must be, knowing that he is shipping us the same oil that we could get from Canada.

    RR

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  32. By savro on November 22, 2011 at 12:32 am

    madtsan said:

    Also, it would not make any sense for the Canadians to build a refinery without a pipeline. It’s like owning a Porsche without the tires. No matter if they built the refinery, they still need the pipeline.


     

    Getting a pipeline built isn’t the problem. The problem is with the getting it built in the United States part. But if the Canadians decided to refine the oil themselves and export it to the world, all they’d need is a pipeline to their own coast. They already have a pretty extensive network, but if they needed more capacity they’d be able to get it done (even if they faced internal resistance it would be easier to get done — and with more potential gain — than going through the U.S.).

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  33. By Ann on November 22, 2011 at 12:44 am

    How much of the oil shipped from Canada to Texas would actually remain in the USA? I’ve heard that the destination refinery in Texas is Saudi-owned (so much for the “ethical” oil argument) and that much of the oil would be exported from the US once it has been refined.

    RE the safety of the pipeline, the company that would build the Keystone pipeline already has other pipelines in operation – and they have allegedly had 12 oil spills in the past 14 months, so no one should run away with the notion that these pipelines are safe. The spills have been hushed up. There should be some thorough arms-length investigative reporting on this, but the press is being kept out. Muzzled. The native people living around the locations of the spills have some horrific accounts of what is happening to the soil, water, wildlife and their health..

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  34. By armchair261 on November 22, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Ann,

    Several points to address your oft repeated suspicion. First, regarding exports of crude oil. You don’t claim this directly, but many others do, so I’m going to pretend as if you did (you may suspect this).

    1) You’re aware, I assume, that the US imports a large percentage of its oil (currently around 60%). Given that oil is priced about the same everywhere after adjusting for quality and transportation, what, in your view, would be the economic justification for shipping barrels from the US to a foreign buyer, and then importing an equal amount from another foreign seller? Why would, Malaysia, for example, pay a transportation premium to ship oil all the way from Texas to Kuala Lumpur, when it can get the same molecules from the Middle East for a lot less in transportation costs? And why would a US producer want to sell oil to China, and then buy the same number of barrels from Saudi Arabia? Remember that the US is a net importer of oil.

    2) Check the Energy Information Administration’s data. You’ll see that the US now produces about 5,700,000 barrels of oil per day, and exports…. 35,000. Why do you think this would change drastically after the pipeline is built? See # 1 above.

    3) Even if domestic oil companies DID ship the oil abroad, what difference would it make? It would simply place more barrels for sale in foreign markets. The barrels those foreign buyers would have taken are now released into the market; they’ve decided to buy tar sand oil now instead. US demand wouldn’t change, and neither would anyone else’s: the US would just have to import the same number of barrels we decided to export. It would have practically no price impact, because oil is a global market.

    Addressing your suspicion of exported refined products, as RR says, so what? Refined products are also a global market. Shipping product abroad won’t reduce US consumption, which has at any rate been falling. The US refining industry has excess capacity even as it continues to import refined products from abroad. The supply and demand balance of all of these products across the global market is very complex and volatile.

    So what do you suggest? That refiners operate at a loss, churning out more fuel than the market needs and dumping it in the US so that Americans can drive cheaply? This doesn’t seem to be consistent with your views on the environment. It would certainly lead to increased emissions in he short term, and reduce incentives for more fuel efficient cars in the intermediate to longer term.

    And anyway, as long as Americans are getting refined products at the globally set market price (again, why does it matter where the gallons come from?) I would think that exports would be a good thing. It creates jobs and keeps cash in the US, reducing the trade deficit. I don’t think you’ll find many people that think exports are a bad thing, full stop. Would it be better if Boeing confined all its aircraft to the US market to make travel cheaper? If a US manufacturer exports specialty steel to China, is he doing a bad thing? One could say it would be better of all such specialty steel remained in the US, so that it would be cheaper for US buyers. How long would the domestic suppliers stay in business? In contrast to popular notion, refining is not a particularly profitable industry to be in. This helps to explain why many refineries are for sale, and why the largest pure refiners (like Valero and Tesoro) have turned out low single digit profit margins for several years now. And now someone comes along and says, “dump even more product on your customers.”

    By the way,

    but the press is being kept out. Muzzled.

    Sigh. Must we have conspiracy theories? Being kept out by whom? The oil industry so beloved by the Obama administration and Democratic congressmen, the same folks that are delaying the pipeline? I’d like to see some evidence for this concerted muzzling plan. Maybe I’m wrong.

    I’ve heard that the destination refinery in Texas is Saudi-owned (so much for the “ethical” oil argument)

    Not that I am a big fan of Saudi Arabia’s government, but when you say they’re unethical, and therefore extend the stain to US operators, do you wash your hands of any guilt? After all, you buy Saudi oil every day, in the form of both direct fuel purchases, and also indirect patronage of businesses that use trucks, airplanes, or ships, to deliver goods you buy. Where else do you suggest we replace that Saudi oil from? Not Canada.

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  35. By armchair261 on November 22, 2011 at 4:17 am

    A very well written essay. I especially liked the discussion on the implications of a successful campaign by those fighting Keystone. It seems ideologues often can’t see more than one or two chess moves ahead, they are so eager for that checkmate.

     

    The only point I’d like to expand on is the general misperception of the movement of fluids in porous media such as sediments and lithified rock. Journalists and many in opposition to the project seem to believe that a pipeline spill at surface would have an effect on aquifers analogous to pouring buckets of soluble toxins into a lake. The idea being that the pollutants would spread practically instantaneously across the entire body of water. 

     

    But this is not how pollutants (or any fluids) move in the subsurface in a medium like sandstone. Pollutant transport would be quite slow, and depending on local permeability quite limited in extent. Additionally there are likely to be numerous locally developed shale or diagenetic vertical barriers to flow. The viscosity of the oil (anybody know what it would be?) in the pipeline would play a major role in the potential for contamination. A heavier oil would probably sit at the surface and have a negligible impact. A much lighter oil would be more mobile in the subsurface.

     

    I believe there is an EPA sponsored report that addresses these points which has been largely ignored. I imagine it doesn’t make for good reading.

     

    Is there evidence that all the spills people like Ann say have been muzzled up are causing extensive pollution of aquifers? It would be easy enough to find out. There are well established methods for sampling, tracking, and modeling subsurface contaminant plumes. But I suppose such researchers are muzzled, eh? :-)

     

    Some of these folks who (rightly in my view) decry climate change denial as junk science will turn around and embrace junk science when it suits them.

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  36. By carbonbridge on November 22, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Robert Rapier said:

    The following is a lengthy essay explaining why I would approve the Keystone pipeline despite finding myself on the side of those concerned over the negative environmental impact of tar sands development.


     

    Kudos RR for a very well written and most timely (editorial opinion) discussion essay.

    I can’t remember when so many newbies decided to begin publicly posting their comments here instead of simply lurking in the shadows.  Perhaps there will be even more concerned citizens to surface and share their valuable opinions?

    In summary:  Despite the hard choices, I agree with you that this pipeline should go southward instead of hooking a right turn and heading for Canada’s western coastline.  I have spoken to some of the Indigenous Chiefs controlling so much land area above Alberta and realize that while land and resource rich, their membership remains very poor.  Let’s not forget that these same MacKenzie-region Tribal Chiefs blocked passage of a huge NatGas pipeline project to originate from Alaska’s Prudoe Bay to the Chicago area about 4 years ago.  Oops, sorry, this news was not publicly shared at all with the lower 48 states.  If I had not been reading Anchorage newspapers, I would have totally missed it.  [ANCHORAGE - Proposed natural gas pipelines from Alaska's North Slope and Canada's MacKenzie Valley have been stymied by chronic setbacks and both projects risk missing a crucial window of time to materialize…]

    What I’d like to see would be some brand NEW oil refineries constructed along this Keystone Pipeline’s path beginning first in Canada and continuing southward through the U.S.A.  Moving this quantity of heavy bitumen tar sand oil the entire vertical distance of our country to the Texas Gulf Coast doesn’t add up.  The proposed Keystone Pipeline should arrive to this southern-most U.S. region choked-down to a smaller output capacity.  My 2¢ worth…

    -Mark

    [link]      
  37. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    How I decide to not read an article:

    The article’s title begins with, “How I Would . . . ”

    And yet, I still skimmed . . .

    “The worst possible outcome for the U.S. — but now a more realistic possibility — is that Canada builds a pipeline to the coast and ships that crude to China.”

    The worst possible outcome for all of us is for the U.S. to continue its untempered consumption of resources.

     

    Ecological Footprint

    [link]      
  38. By perry1961 on November 22, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    “Even if EVs turn out to be the long-term solution to our transportation needs, as I suspect, it will be many years before they can displace enough fuel demand to make a dent in our oil addiction.”

    While that’s true, we do have some positive trends going for us. Eco-cars are much in demand. Top sellers include the Fiesta, Cruze, and Prius. Fleet averages should continue to improve, even if EV’s take a while to gain traction. Also, US oil production is climbing again, thanks to deep water drilling and new shale oil production. If we could get the Keystone pipeline operational, I could see North America being energy independent in the next ten years.

    [link]      
  39. By rrapier on November 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    How I decide to not read an article:

    The article’s title begins with, “How I Would . . . ”

    And yet, I still skimmed . . .

    “The worst possible outcome for the U.S. — but now a more realistic possibility — is that Canada builds a pipeline to the coast and ships that crude to China.”

    The worst possible outcome for all of us is for the U.S. to continue its untempered consumption of resources.


     

    The article that you didn’t read discusses that at some length.

    RR

    [link]      
  40. By Ben Discoe on November 22, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    Robert, thank for another excellent, clear and level-headed article. As usual, i find myself in agreement on nearly everything, in particular the naivete of the environmentalists and the exaggeration on both sides. However, i still cannot support your conclusion, which ultimately rests on a matter of subjective opinion about human behavior:

    “I think it is an extremely risky strategy to try to hasten the move to alternatives by restricting oil supplies. In fact, there are numerous risks inherent in such a strategy, the biggest of which is that supplies fall short before alternatives can fill the gap. In this case, economies are wrecked and people suffer.”

    You are implying that there are ways to hasten the move to alternatives *without* restricting oil supplies. That’s a very optimistic view of human nature. One could easily look at human history and conclude that restricting fossil fuels is in fact the *only* thing that would hasten transition.

    You are right there are risks (in fact, i would call them certainties) of problems for the existing economy and livelihoods. However, in place of “economies are wrecked and people suffer”, I would state that economies are *transformed* and people *who refuse to adapt* suffer. This transformation and adaptation is absolutely necessary, and human nature strongly indicates that nearly all people won’t do it until other options are less attractive.

    [link]      
  41. By addoeh on November 22, 2011 at 5:22 pm

    Marc Ferguson said:

    Here’s and idea. Line the route of the pipeline with solar cells (the same maintenance infrastructure is required), create jobs that are probably the equivalent for the construction and more for the maintenance. Send the electricity to farms along the route on short transmission lines, and MAKE A STATEMENT that there is an alternative.

     


    I’m not quite sure what this proposal would do.  Are you suggesting installing the solar panels in place of the pipeline or in addition to the pipeline?

    Regardless, I’m not sure what good it would do.  While it would replace a little bit power that comes from coal or nuclear power plants, it wouldn’t replace the oil that would be shipped through the pipeline.  Plus there are questions of whether or not these farmers would want to give up their farmland for these solar panels.

    But, let’s not get too far away from the issue here.  We are still dependant on oil, for lots of things including fuel for cars, fuel for homes, various products we use everyday (plastics, tar, etc), and the list goes on.  These solar panels wouldn’t replace any of that.  In fact, there isn’t anything available that could immediately and completely replace oil for all those things out there right now.  There is hope for quite a few options, but most of these are several years, perhaps even decades, away from that happening.  Some, like natural gas, are also non-renewable sources of energy.  Others are renewable.

    We can still pursue all those options even if the pipeline goes ahead.  It’s TransCanada that is investing in this project.  Hopefully by the time the pipeline comes on-line, we’ll find out we don’t need it, that we have a better option to oil to do all the stuff oil does without the harmful affects of it.  I don’t have a lot confidence that will happen.

    [link]      
  42. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 5:48 pm

    The irony is that critics use the“buying time” argument to suggest that the delay is good for the climate, but they dismiss it when someone buys time toward finding a permanent job.

    There is no irony.  Are you arguing that delaying the pipeline would NOT be good for the climate?  Will 12-24 months of road building, trenching, laying foundations, and welding work on a pipeline prepare anyone for a “permanent job” in a world where having even an advanced technical degree provides no guarantee of employment?  If your argument is essentially, ‘in any event, someone will cause harm, so it might as well be us’, then what ethic does that position reflect?

    [link]      
  43. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    We are still dependant [sic] on oil, for lots of things including fuel for cars, fuel for homes, various products we use everyday (plastics, tar, etc), and the “list goes on.” – Addoeh

     With thinking like this, our desperate descendants will STILL be dependent in 2100 on even more expensive oil.

     

    [link]      
  44. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    “That’s why despite pipeline leaks, only a tiny fraction of them even have a chance of ending up in a waterway.” – Robert Rapier

    What is that “tiny fraction”?  What number is acceptable?  What amount of spill is acceptable?  What tiny fraction of “leaks” do you think were acceptable to the people of these places:

    Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Into Yellowstone River  July 2, 2011

    North Slope pipeline breaks, spills during pressure testing  July 18th, 2011

    ‘Something’ hit Bison pipeline in Wyoming  July 28, 2011

    Companies fined over $500,000 for role in massive Burnaby oil spill  October 3, 2011

    Ruptured pipeline spews oil in Edmond  October 7, 2011

    Cleanup of Kalamazoo River oil spill to extend through 2012  October 21, 2011

    PG&E knew of many leaks in San Bruno pipeline October 23, 2011

     

    List of pipeline accidents

    [link]      
  45. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    “to that I say ‘Show me how to stop emissions in regions that have a fraction of the West’s per capita emissions.’” – Robert Rapier

    Is it not remiss to omit the West’s historical emissions?

    [link]      
  46. By rrapier on November 22, 2011 at 6:31 pm

    Ben Discoe said:

    You are implying that there are ways to hasten the move to alternatives *without* restricting oil supplies. That’s a very optimistic view of human nature. One could easily look at human history and conclude that restricting fossil fuels is in fact the *only* thing that would hasten transition.


     

    Hello Ben,

    How have you been? How is the biochar stuff coming along?

    It is true that if we could truly restrict supplies, then we would be forced to do something different. It’s sort of like a parent throwing their child into the water to sink or swim. That can be a drastic way to teach a kid to swim, but there are obviously risks.

    One question though is whether this will actually restrict supplies. I suspect that it will not, and we will ultimately just buy the same stuff from Venezuela that we could get from Canada.

    Cheers, Robert

    [link]      
  47. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    “It would be ironic if as a result of this decision we end up importing more from Venezuela’s oil sands while Canada’s oil sands end up in China. Opponents have not seriously considered this very real possibility, and if this is what happens then their actions will have actually increased global carbon emissions.” – Robert Rapier

    While “their actions” (i.e. those of the pipeline opponents) may have an indirect influence, it will be the consumptive actions of others that will increase global carbon emissions.  Please assign blame appropriately.

    The pipeline is a conspicuous symbol.

     

    [link]      
  48. By rrapier on November 22, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    The irony is that critics use the“buying time” argument to suggest that the delay is good for the climate, but they dismiss it when someone buys time toward finding a permanent job.

    There is no irony.  Are you arguing that delaying the pipeline would NOT be good for the climate? 


     

    It likely will make no difference at all. Or, if the oil still finds its way to the U.S., but comes from farther away, it will in fact be worse for the climate if the tar sands oil finds its way to Canada’s coasts. What do YOU think will happen as a result of the delay. Can you spell out exactly how it will be good for the climate? Make some predictions and let’s track them.

    Will 12-24 months of road building, trenching, laying foundations, and
    welding work on a pipeline prepare anyone for a “permanent job” in
    a world where having even an advanced technical degree provides
    no guarantee of employment? 

    That is exactly the inconsistency. A 24 month delay is good for the environment, but a 24 month job isn’t really a job. If a 24 month delay is good because it buys time for the climate, a 24 month job is good because it buys time for something seeking more permanent employment.

    If your argument is essentially, ‘in any
    event, someone will cause harm, so it might as well be us’, then what
    ethic does that position reflect?

    That isn’t my argument. If you want to discuss, maybe you should go ahead and read the essay.

    What is that “tiny fraction”?  What number is acceptable? 

    How many deaths from car crashes is acceptable? We can say zero, but obviously we accept some or we would have outlawed driving. We live with these sorts of risks in our society. Again, my position is explained quite clearly in the article of why those arguing about pollution of the aquifer are misguided or disengenuous. It isn’t that easy to contaminate an aquifer. As far as other spills, those are unfortunate, but it is a long stretch from a spill to a contaminated water supply. Which of those spills actually ended up in anyone’s drinking water?

    Is it not remiss to omit the West’s historical emissions?

    How exactly does that help us stop growing emissions?

    RR

     

    [link]      
  49. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    This essay is more a misdirected screed on pipeline opponents than it is an effective argument for the pipeline.

    [link]      
  50. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 6:59 pm

    “What do YOU think will happen as a result of the delay. Can you spell out exactly how it will be good for the climate? Make some predictions and let’s track them.” – Robert Rapier

    Your request is an echo of our common friend, Kit P.  I feel no need to make such predictions or statements; if for no other reason than that I am not writing essays.

    However, I have used a bike for tens of thousands of miles over the past decade, lived well without an automobile for much of that time, have driven a Hybrid since 2000 when I have needed a car, avoid air travel, instead use rail transportation for long journeys, grow a good portion of my own food, capture water, and follow a number of other such practices.  I’m doing my part to delay new pipelines, even if it is not enough.  On that last measure, we certainly agree.

    [link]      
  51. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    “Which of those spills actually ended up in anyone’s drinking water?” – Rober Rapier

    Is that now the measure?

    [link]      
  52. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Is it not remiss to omit the West’s historical emissions?

    “How exactly does that help us stop growing emissions?” – Robert Rapier

    When developing nations argue these points, they account for history to bolster their arguments.  Understanding their perspectives better prepares us for meeting the challenges.

    We can only decrease the emissions for which we are responsible.  As you point out, we cannot directly stop the growth of global emissions.

    [link]      
  53. By savro on November 22, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Dear Mr. Rate Crimes:

    Please try to minimize the amount of separate posts by putting a few of your criticisms together instead of using a separate post for each and every one. This isn’t the first time you’ve done it, and I’ve gotten complaints from readers that it’s annoying to have scroll through so many separate posts. I know it may be difficult for you to do, but please give it a try.

    Thank you.

    Sam Avro, on behalf of the CER/R-Squared readers.

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  54. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    “How many deaths from car crashes is acceptable? We can say zero, but obviously we accept some or we would have outlawed driving. We live with these sorts of risks in our society.” – Robert Rapier

    Pipelines and automobiles are different “sorts of risks”:  Pipeline risks are an issue of the commons; automobile risks are an issue of volition.

    [link]      
  55. By rrapier on November 22, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    This essay is more a misdirected screed on pipeline opponents than it is an effective argument for the pipeline.


     

    I know a lot of people who disagree, but your response isn’t exactly an effective rebuttal.

    Your request is an echo of our common friend, Kit P.  I feel no need to
    make such predictions or statements; if for no other reason than that I
    am not writing essays.

    You asked me a question; I figured it isn’t too much to ask you to answer a similar question.

    Is that now the measure?

    That was the issue. Contamination getting into the acquifer. But yeah, the measure should always been the impact on the environment. A spill that gets cleaned up is unfortunate, but not in the same category as one that contaminates the drinking water of millions of people. The latter emotional argument was being used here.

    When developing nations argue these points, they account for history to
    bolster their arguments.  Understanding their perspective better
    prepares us for meeting the challenges.

    How so? How will understanding our past carbon emissions help them to avoid theirs, when our per capita emissions are an order of magnitude higher? We don’t have a blueprint for showing them how to develop without fossil fuels. Nobody does. Further, I showed the polls that showed that the Chinese don’t care in any case.

    RR

    [link]      
  56. By rate-crimes on November 22, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    “How so? How will understanding our past carbon emissions help them to avoid theirs, when our per capita emissions are an order of magnitude higher?” – Robert Rapier

    The point is, it is a matter of understanding their perspectives, not anyone understanding our past carbon emissions.  That dirty history is rather obvious, but you omitted mention of that history when pointing to current per capita consumption.  When pressed, the developing countries point both to our current consumption and our long history of unrestrained consumption.

    “it will in fact be worse for the climate if the tar sands oil finds its way to Canada’s coasts.” – Robert Rapier

    I’m always suspicious of facts. However, I predict that no number of pipelines, refineries, or oil, will ever satisfy some. Is it either/or? Heck, why stop at two? :)

    “I know a lot of people who disagree, but your response isn’t exactly an effective rebuttal.” – Robert Rapier

    Please pesent a valid argument, and then we’ll see if a rebuttal is necessary.  As I suggested, the fundamental tenet of your argument in favor of the pipeline has a fatal ethical flaw.

    [link]      
  57. By rrapier on November 22, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “How so? How will understanding our past carbon emissions help them to avoid theirs, when our per capita emissions are an order of magnitude higher?” – Robert Rapier

    The point is, it is a matter of understanding their perspectives, not anyone understanding our past carbon emissions.  That dirty history is rather obvious, but you omitted mention of that history when pointing to current per capita consumption. 


     

    Because it has no bearing on my point. I omitted a lot things that have no bearing on the point. I know that they point to our past consumption; I have a sectoin in the book discussing this. But that doesn’t help figure out how they are going to develop differently. Again, we have no blueprint to share with them. We can say “Don’t do what we did” and they ignore us.

    Please pesent a valid argument, and then we’ll see if a rebuttal is
    necessary.  As I suggested, the fundamental tenet of your argument in
    favor of the pipeline has a fatal ethical flaw.

    I have presented valid arguments, but they are reality-based. Like many opponents of the pipeline, yours are based on idealism. What I want to determine is what is likely to happen in either case. You are saying “We must do X” without really determining whether the actions are really going to result in the consequences you want. I make the case here that in the world we live in, that is unlikely.

    RR

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  58. By madtsan on November 22, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    RR replied, “I think we all understand that it didn’t take place within minutes of the decision. But for a process that has gone on this long, four days is pretty immediate.”

     

    RR, You must not play poker. One is suppose to bluff before the hand is over, not after. TransCanada annouced the new route after the State Dept. delayed consideration. In regards to the term “immediate”. It took TC four days to annouce they are considering a new route. This tells me they had no plan “B”. Not smart.

     

    RR replied, “The same farmers that dump herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers on top of the aquifer? That’s the whole point. I guarantee you they will put more hydrocarbons on top of the aquifer than a pipeline ever would. The farmers may have been against it emotionally, but rationally if they are so worried about the aquifer they should think about what they are putting on the ground above it.

     

    I’m not arguing who are better stewards for the land, but if I were, my money is on the farmers. Instead , my argument is the citizens of Nebraska and the right to decide whether a pipeline serves their best interest, right or wrong. Your argument assumes they are screaming liberals with concerns about global warming. That is false and arrogant.

    Your Dr. Phil response about the emotional judgment of the farmers is quite humorous. I think what you meant is you are unable to empathize with the farmers decision therefore you assume their decision is emotional and irrational. Whereas you are always rational. See, two can play pop psychologists.

     

    RR replied, “Time for an economics lesson. Many oil exporters are building their own refineries. Why? Because it creates high-paying jobs in their country, and captures added value. Thus, what you are moving out via pipeline (or truck, tanker, whatever) has greater value.”

    I’m not sure where you learned economics, but nobody builds a refinery just because it create high paying jobs, nor for the added value. If that were true, there would thousand upon thousands of refineries with excess capacity, and value would diminish. If the Canadians built a refinery it would be the Cushing of the Great White North; a lot of oil with no place to go.

     

    RR replied, Not necessarily. It depends on many factors, but a lot of product is moved around by truck and rail. Pipeline is the most cost effective and safest way to move it, but the higher the value of the product the more economical it will be to move it via different methods.

    Yeah, right.

    [link]      
  59. By rrapier on November 22, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    madtsan said:

    Robert Rapier said:

    RR replied, “I think we all understand that it didn’t take place within minutes of the decision. But for a process that has gone on this long, four days is pretty immediate.”

     

    RR, You must not play poker. One is suppose to bluff before the hand is over, not after. TransCanada annouced the new route after the State Dept. delayed consideration. In regards to the term “immediate”. It took TC four days to annouce they are considering a new route. This tells me they had no plan “B”. Not smart.


     

    To come out with that in 4 days tells me that this was their Plan B. They don’t announce something that quickly unless they have already looked at it, and given that the other deal wasn’t a sure thing of course they had looked at alternatives.

    Your argument assumes they are screaming liberals with concerns about global warming. That is false and arrogant.

    No. My argument assumes they have visions of oil spilling all over their land and getting into the water supply, when the truth is that they put oil all over their land all the time. So they are arguing from emotion. I don’t say that I blame them, either. Nobody wants a pipeline running through their land. But the reasons they cited would disqualify them from putting Roundup on their crops.

    I think what you meant is you are unable to empathize with the farmers decision therefore you assume their decision is emotional and irrational.

    See above. I empathize with their decision; but that doesn’t make it rational considering that they are already doing something quite similar to the land without it ending up in the water supply. People are crying about pipelines without realizing that aquifer is criss-crossed by pipelines already.

    RR replied, “Time for an economics lesson. Many oil exporters are building their own refineries. Why? Because it creates high-paying jobs in their country, and captures added value. Thus, what you are moving out via pipeline (or truck, tanker, whatever) has greater value.”

    I’m not sure where you learned economics, but nobody builds a refinery just because it create high paying jobs, nor for the added value. If that were true, there would thousand upon thousands of refineries with excess capacity, and value would diminish. If the Canadians built a refinery it would be the Cushing of the Great White North; a lot of oil with no place to go.

    There is no refinery at Cushing. Do you understand what a refinery does? That’s where the oil would go. Out would come finished products. The reason people build refineries is because the finished products are worth quite a bit more than the oil — hence they do it for that added value. Why do you think people build refineries?

    If you have a steady supply of cheap oil, you consider building a refinery. I am a bit puzzled by your answer, as it seems you don’t understand what a refinery does. This is why so much refining capacity has been lost in the U.S. over the years; the oil exporters are building their own refineries.

    RR replied, Not necessarily. It depends on many factors, but a lot of product is moved around by truck and rail. Pipeline is the most cost effective and safest way to move it, but the higher the value of the product the more economical it will be to move it via different methods.

    Yeah, right.

    Yeah, right? That’s a fact today. In real life, that’s what happens. Finished product is trucked around or railed at times, whereas oil — not so much.

    RR

    [link]      
  60. By Wendell Mercantile on November 22, 2011 at 11:49 pm

    Those raising the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sand Hills as a reason to stop Keystone XL are using that issues as a red herring. What people such as Bill McKibbin want is to immediately cut the U.S. off oil to stop climate change(1).

    The XL would be a 30″ (76 cm) diameter pipe that would do little damage were it to leak. It would be nothing on the magnitude of last year’s Maconda blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, although that’s what people have misrepresented.

    The fact is as RR has said, the U.S. is already crossed with thousands of miles of pipelines. Some times they leak, but that is the price of progress and sustaining our profligate lifestyle. (Which I suspect is McKibben’s real goal — our profligate lifestyle. And I don’t necessarily disagree that we’d be better off we were to slow the pace of our profligate lifestyle.)

    As I’ve said before, the farmers, ranchers, and industries of the eight states overlaying the Ogallala are already destroying that resource. While not widely recognized as such, farming and ranching are among the biggest “extractive industries” in the U.S.

    Extractive industries are vital to our quality of American way of life (even if profligate), and I don’t single out any as being necessarily bad. I just ask that people recognize them for what they are, and not raise any such as Nebraska ranching and farmer on a pedestal above the others — or turn them into distracting political issues as Obama has.

    __________
    (1) An impossibilities since the climate has been changing since the day of the earth’s creation, and will continue to change until the day the Sun expands into a red giant beyond the orbit of Jupiter. (Too bad Al Gore won’t be around to see that, right?)

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  61. By tennie davis on November 23, 2011 at 4:22 am

    Well, at least the humanity haters like Colm McGinn are astonishingly frank about their hatred for mankind (and america).
    It makes it easy for almost any coherent person to identify the evil among us.
    It amazes me that watermelons think that, when their doomer fantasies come true, when civilization collapses, they apparently think that they will be the chosen few left behind to establish their leftist utopia….
    Chosen by mother gaia because of their fanatical devotion to the CAGW religion.
    Sick puppies indeed.

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  62. By freedom on November 23, 2011 at 4:24 am

    there is another option

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  63. By tennie davis on November 23, 2011 at 4:51 am

    Yes, freedom, there is another option.
    They could be true to their convictions and off themselves so as to reduce their carbon footprint and save the planet.
    But we all know they think that real sacrifice is for the “other people”.

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  64. By Reena Meijer Drees on November 23, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Speaking as a Canadian, both the provincial government of Alberta and national government of Canada are committed to increasing tar sands production. Canada will miss its Kyoto targets and has declared that it will not sign any future Kyoto extension. Climate change and GHG emissions are not concerns of these two administrations. If the southern pipeline is off the table, there is a western route, through the Rockies to the BC coast at Kitimat. However, this is very controversial and is strongly opposed by upwards of 40 native groups whose territories the pipeline would have to pass through, which makes establishing a practical route very difficult; read: expect lots of court battles. Further, there is currently no tanker traffic on the Northwest coast of BC and there is almost unanimous local opposition to starting the same. There is currently no talk of building any refining capacity in Alberta, which, while certainly possible, is expensive. The cheapest and easiest way is still Keystone.

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  65. By carbonbridge on November 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    Reena Meijer Drees said:

    Speaking as a Canadian…..  –The cheapest and easiest way is still Keystone.


     

    Thank you Reena for taking the time to speak to the perspectives which you’ve outlined.
    Your statements are clear and concise…

    -Mark

    [link]      
  66. By rate-crimes on November 23, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    “Like many opponents of the pipeline, yours are based on idealism.” – Robert Rapier

    The simplest counter-argument is to convict the opposition of an ‘ism’.  I oppose the pipeline on the pragmatic argument that it would damage us in several ways, not the least by eliminating a constraint on consumption, but more importantly because it continues our practice of poor ethics. 

    You present no valid argument in support of the pipeline other than your nationalistic, ’it might as well be us doing the damage’.  Yet, when citizens of this nation exercise their right to protest the inherent risks, you give a ‘tip of the hat’ with one hand, while with the other hand you practice precisely the argumentative style that you accuse your opponents of employing.

    “Because it has no bearing on my point. I omitted a lot things that have no bearing on the point. I know that they point to our past consumption; I have a sectoin in the book discussing this. But that doesn’t help figure out how they are going to develop differently. Again, we have no blueprint to share with them. We can say “Don’t do what we did” and they ignore us.” – Robert Rapier

    Our history of consumption and emissions has no bearing on …

    “to that I say ‘Show me how to stop emissions in regions that have a fraction of the West’s per capita emissions.’” – Robert Rapier

    Who is being naive?  If anyone is hoping to have even a conversation about emissions reduction, then one must include in that discussion both current and historical contributions.

    Still, in the end, even honesty matters little:  our technology has slipped our control and our avarice has outstripped our ethics.

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  67. By rrapier on November 23, 2011 at 2:59 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “Like many opponents of the pipeline, yours are based on idealism.” – Robert Rapier

    The simplest counter-argument is to convict the opposition of an ‘ism’. 


     

    You can convict me of realism, but I wouldn’t consider that a counter-argument.

    I oppose the pipeline on the pragmatic argument that it would damage

    us in several ways, not the least by eliminating a constraint on

    consumption, but more importantly because it continues our practice of

    poor ethics.

    This is where realism and idealism clash. Will it actually eliminate a constraint on our consumption? Or will we simply continue to source the same kind of oil from Venezuela?  As far as ethics, what do you consider unethical? The consumption of any oil? Just the consumption of tar sands oil? The consumption of fossil fuels in general? The fact is, stopping the pipeline doesn’t address our consumptive ways in any fashion whatsoever. The fact that some pipeline protestors believe that it will is a sign of being totally out of touch with reality.

     

    You present no valid argument in support of the pipeline other than

    your nationalistic, ’it might as well be us doing the damage’.

    That isn’t my argument at all. Not even close. Maybe at some point you should get around to reading it. As I said, ultimately it won’t matter. For many pipeline opponents, it simply comes down to the bottom line: If you aren’t against the pipeline, then your reasoning must be wrong.

    “to that I say ‘Show me how to stop emissions in regions that have a fraction of the West’s per capita emissions.’” – Robert Rapier

    Who is being naive?  If anyone is hoping to have even a conversation

    about emissions reduction, then one must include in that discussion both

    current and historical contributions.

    You have yet to connect the dots. Let’s take the Chinese, most of whom are aware of climate change, and most of whom do not consider it a problem. Their carbon emissions are higher than those in the U.S., and growing rapidly. How exactly does a discussion of our past emissions help them to reduce theirs? It doesn’t, hence it isn’t relevant to my point that future growth in carbon emissions is going to be determined by the development of these countries. Explain exactly how our historical emissions help them to reduce their current and future emissions and then we might have something to discuss. To this point, you have been merely vague that it’s important to the conversation. I want to know details.

    RR

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  68. By moiety on November 23, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Was not having an argument about the pipeline irrelevant in any case? The main thrust as I see RR making is that regardless of whether the pipeline is there or not, the resources that are being generated would be produced in any case. The difference is that they may be transported by less efficient means or longer transport routes would be required (whether to China or from Venezuela). Surely the “true” idealistic environmentalist should have been asking Mr Obama

    “Make Canada stop drilling this ‘dirty’ resource”?

    Treat the disease.

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  69. By rate-crimes on November 24, 2011 at 10:43 am

    “You can convict me of realism, but I wouldn’t consider that a counter-argument.” – Robert Rapier

    I did not do so, nor could I. 

    “This is where realism and idealism clash.” – Robert Rapier

    You seem wedded to ‘isms’.  Or, are you simply and mistakenly grasping a moral high ground by declaring yourself a ‘realist’?  Your concept of ‘realism’ has very limited horizons.

    Promoting consumption based upon,

    “The fact is, stopping the pipeline doesn’t address our consumptive ways in any fashion whatsoever.” – Robert Rapier

    is a fractured ethic.  Building yet another pipeline does nothing to address consumption.  Opposing a new pipeline does something, even if only indirectly and ultimately ineffectually.  Perhaps, protests here will inspire parallel protests elsewhere.  Building yet another pipeline will only inspire more pipelines.

    “The fact that some pipeline protestors believe that it will is a sign of being totally out of touch with reality.” – Robert Rapier

    Reality is not necessarily ethical, and is often unethical.

    “That isn’t my argument at all. Not even close. Maybe at some point you should get around to reading it. As I said, ultimately it won’t matter. For many pipeline opponents, it simply comes down to the bottom line: If you aren’t against the pipeline, then your reasoning must be wrong.” – Robert Rapier

    Then, perhaps you should develop an argument that doesn’t use opponents as a linchpin.  I’ve read your mess several times, and there just isn’t much to consider in it, and certainly very little reason.

    “my point that future growth in carbon emissions is going to be determined by the development of these countries.” – Robert Rapier

    Stating the obvious is not a “point”.

    “Explain exactly how our historical emissions help them to reduce their current and future emissions and then we might have something to discuss.” – Robert Rapier

    It appears that you missed my point, which is about any possible conversation about emission reductions, and the need to account for our past behavior in any possible conversations about going forward.  Surely, as an engineer, you can admit the imperative of including initial conditions in the calculus.

    “Explain exactly how our historical emissions help them to reduce their current and future emissions and then we might have something to discuss.” – Robert Rapier

    So, does your argument boil down to a simple game of ‘keep away’?  If we then burn the oil, then how does this differ intrinsically from, ‘it might as well be us’?  You need to reconsider your argument.

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  70. By rrapier on November 24, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    You seem wedded to ‘isms’.  Or, are you simply and mistakenly grasping a moral high ground by declaring yourself a ‘realist’?  Your concept of ‘realism’ has very limited horizons.


     

    Being realistic about how things are likely to actually play out isn’t a question of morals. It is simply about connecting dots to see how things are likely to play out. I take two situations: Pipeline is approved versus pipeline is rejected and then estimate how each will play out. Whether the outcome is desirable is a different question.

    I think my view is totally based in reality, and yours is based on the same kind of idealism that some climate change advocates have engaged in for years — only to see global carbon emissions continue to rise unabated. Of course an idealist doesn’t necessarily think they are idealistic, but when reality plays out very differently than the image they had in their mind, that is a good indication that they were in fact engaged in idealism. It is fine to be idealistic, but it is also important to anticipate actual developments.

    Promoting consumption based upon,

    “The fact is, stopping the pipeline doesn’t address our consumptive ways in any fashion whatsoever.” – Robert Rapier

    is a fractured ethic.  Building yet another pipeline does nothing to address consumption. 

    In fact, building the pipeline — in my opinion — has no impact either way on our consumption. That’s the disconnect with many protestors; they mistakenly believe that it does. In fact, I believe we are a few short years away from potentially disastrous supply disruptions, and this pipeline could provide some insurance against those.

    Reality is not necessarily ethical, and is often unethical.

    That’s true, as I noted above. But I asked — and you did not answer — which part you consider unethical. Once that is established, perhaps we can make some progress.

    Then, perhaps you should develop an argument that doesn’t use opponents as a linchpin.  I’ve read your mess several times, and there just isn’t much to consider in it, and certainly very little reason.

    And yet you have felt the need to respond numerous times. I can tell you that most people disagree with you; even those who disagree with me. So perhaps it’s just you. Consider how you made your initial reply relative to others who disagree with me. “I decided not to read this, but….” It wasn’t a response that was conducive to a productive conversation. It was “Kit-like” in attempting to provoke (and two people have e-mailed me to point out that you seem to be auditioning to replace him).

    In fact, my argument isn’t based on the pipeline opponents. I can see that you are highly sensitive to this issue, but perhaps if you can get past that you can see that I have spelled out my reasons quite clearly. They have nothing to do with the opponents themselves.

    It appears that you missed my point, which is about any possible conversation about emission reductions, and the need to account for our past behavior in any possible conversations about going forward.  Surely, as an engineer, you can admit the imperative of including initial conditions in the calculus.

    Yet you still haven’t stated how this helps. You are being vague. My point was very clear. Go back and revisit it. I pointed out the reasons that emissions in China and India will continue to grow. Your response — “well we need to talk about our past emissions” — is utterly irrelevant to the point I am making. China and India don’t care; that is the reality. We can talk about our past emissions all day and it isn’t going to impact theirs at all. So perhaps you just need to revisit the point you are disputing. I have yet to see anyone sketch out a pathway that reins in carbon emissions in Asia Pacific. It is always “We need to show leadership on this issue” or “We need to provide the template” — while ignoring the practical reality that they don’t care to be led.

    But let’s move the conversation along. The atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration is where it is because developed countries developed with fossil fuels. OK, your turn. Take that admission and run with it, showing how you will use it to help Asia Pacific rein in emissions. I don’t really think you have thought out the next step.

    So, does your argument boil down to a simple game of ‘keep away’?  If we then burn the oil, then how does this differ intrinsically from, ‘it might as well be us’?  You need to reconsider your argument.

    That isn’t my argument, so perhaps it is you who needs to reconsider it. Let’s face it, you rejected my argument before you even read it, so it isn’t surprising that you would continue to reject it.

    Incidentally, I didn’t mention it in a previous post, but of all the things I have been called, you are the first to call me nationalistic. Far more often people have come to opposite conclusions about me. That tells me that your perceptions on this whole issue are really distorted, and that makes it difficult to have a productive discussion. Frankly, you started off on the wrong foot in this thread by being antagonistic (others managed to disagree without going that route), so perhaps you can dial that back if you wish to continue. 

    RR

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  71. By Walt on November 24, 2011 at 9:01 pm

     

    Recently I was studying the natural gas and wet header system here in Michigan and really found it to be amazing how truly effective pipelines are to transport both gas and liquids.  If one really looked at the extensive pipelines from gathering systems connecting producing wells, to the various state and interstate transmission lines, it is amazing how effective these systems have been developed, operated and maintained.

     

    To consider the value that pipelines bring to consumers, especailly here in Michigan for heating purposes in the winter, and to the commercial sector to provide low cost forms of energy, it is amazing environmentalists also want to stop the construction of pipelines.  The benefits so far out weigh the potential negative impact they might cause seems transparent and obvious when one carefully looks at the current system we have in place.

     

    Recently I was approached by a gas producer in Siberia who has developed a number of gas wells that are stranded due to the political (read Moscow, not Washington, DC) establishment to get it connected to the Transgas pipeline system.  Fortunately, in America we have no company as sole monopoly controlling our pipeline system, but if the DC establishment can now stop the installation of interstate pipelines due to pure politics rather than economic feasibility and environmental benefits (pipeline vs. shipping oil into our ports), we have to wonder what will be next.  If industry does not need financial grants or government loan guarantees to make this project economically viable, and it will reduce the gasoline price shock looming in the future, why not reconsider approving it for the benefit of the American people as a whole?

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  72. By Wendell Mercantile on November 25, 2011 at 2:14 am

    …then one must include in that discussion both current and historical contributions. Still, in the end, even honesty matters little: our technology has slipped our control and our avarice has outstripped our ethics.

    Rate Crimes,

    Using that argument, we would never have allowed the Union Pacific to start building the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1863; let the Pioneers leave Independence, Missouri for California in the 1840′s; or even let Columbus leave Lisbon in 1492.

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  73. By rate-crimes on November 25, 2011 at 11:51 am

    “Using that argument, we would never have allowed the Union Pacific to start building the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1863; let the Pioneers leave Independence, Missouri for California in the 1840′s; or even let Columbus leave Lisbon in 1492.” – Wendell

    Who was “we”?  Why, “allow”?  Was someone policing these events?  Was even a delay possible?  Just like continued consumption, were not these or similar events likely, if not inevitable?

    Please do not equate consumption with progress.

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  74. By rate-crimes on November 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

    “Consider how you made your initial reply relative to others who disagree with me. “I decided not to read this, but….” It wasn’t a response that was conducive to a productive conversation. It was “Kit-like” in attempting to provoke (and two people have e-mailed me to point out that you seem to be auditioning to replace him).” – Robert Rapier

    It is interesting to see your reaction to criticism.  Drawing parallels between my criticisms and Kit P’s consistently offensive behavior serves only to make suspect your and some of your readers’ critical abilities; and to emphasize your inability to grasp irony, and your paper-thin skin.

    You are also employing here Kit P’s oft-practiced misquotation technique:  It was not that ‘I decided not to read this, but…”: I was criticising your title.  Your choice of phrasing is pharaonic.

    “I can see that you are highly sensitive to this issue,” – Robert Rapier

    No, I don’t think you see.  It seems to me, rather, that you are “highly sensitive” to this issue and any criticism of your position.  I am only critical of poor arguments and the ethics of building ANY more pipelines to serve 14mpg SUVs, or even 50mpg hybrids used to carry dogs to the park at $3.50/gal.

    “and that makes it difficult to have a productive discussion.” – Robert Rapier

    Perhaps you should review your essay and revise it.  It is terribly wordy and required a second attempt at clarification: sure signs that it is muddled. 

     ”you are the first to call me nationalistic” – Robert Rapier

    Your argument is nationalistic.  How would you suggest your readers interpret a flurry of phrases like, “For the U.S. in particular, there are issues of national security, [...]“, if not as nationalistic?

    “China and India don’t care; that is the reality.” – Robert Rapier

    I agree that the Asian juggernaut is unrestrained, and probably unstoppable (short of catastrophe).  Yet, they do care about their history with us.  They remember what the West consumed.  They recall this history in their conversations with us.  It is relevant.

    “I believe the ideal situation is to make sure we have stable supplies of oil while working hard to make sure we don’t need them.” – Robert Rapier

    Desipite the idealism of your statement, it seems to me that building yet another pipeline is the inverse of “working hard to make sure we don’t need [oil].”

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  75. By Wendell Mercantile on November 25, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    I am only critical of poor arguments and the ethics of building ANY more pipelines to serve 14mpg SUVs, or even 50mpg hybrids used to carry dogs to the park at $3.50/gal.

    What was different about the ethics of building the Transcontinental Railroad across Nebraska and Wyoming than now wanting to build a pipeline across Nebraska from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico?

    That 19th Centerline railroad had a far more adverse effects upon the environment and indigenous peoples than will a 30″ pipe.

    Here is something you should study and try to understand: S = k ln W

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  76. By rate-crimes on November 25, 2011 at 12:41 pm

    “What was different about the ethics of building the Transcontinental Railroad across Nebraska and Wyoming than now wanting to build a pipeline across Nebraska from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico?” – Wendell Mercantile

    A railroad is a tool that can have many purposes; even some good ones.  A pipeline has but one.  The other essential difference is that this is “now” and the Transcontinental Railroad was built in an earlier century, in a very different world.

    Wendell, it appears that your mind is very intimate with entropy.

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  77. By rrapier on November 25, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “Consider how you made your initial reply relative to others who disagree with me. “I decided not to read this, but….” It wasn’t a response that was conducive to a productive conversation. It was “Kit-like” in attempting to provoke (and two people have e-mailed me to point out that you seem to be auditioning to replace him).” – Robert Rapier

    It is interesting to see your reaction to criticism.  Drawing parallels between my criticisms and Kit P’s consistently offensive behavior serves only to make suspect your and some of your readers’ critical abilities; and to emphasize your inability to grasp irony, and your paper-thin skin.


     

    Yet, as I pointed out, it was others who brought that up. And in fact, it was you who first compared me to Kit. What are we to make of that? The offensive behavior started with you. Others have criticized my conclusions in this very thread, and yet did so without trying to antagonize. You could really use some introspection, as it is very common for you to disagree with arguments in a very disagreeable manner. That is not the case with others who disagreed; they state their points without attempting to get personal. You do not.

    When Kit was posting here, I knew I was going to wake up and have to write a post first thing to correct a number of mistaken notions from a poster whose tone is very aggressive. Now I have done that with you for three or four days in a row.

    You are also employing here Kit P’s oft-practiced misquotation

    technique:  It was not that ‘I decided not to read this, but…”: I was

    criticising your title.  Your choice of phrasing is pharaonic.

    It’s paraphrasing. You know what you did and what you implied. Based on the title, you decided it wasn’t worth your time to read, and yet you still decided you were going to be critical.

    “I can see that you are highly sensitive to this issue,” – Robert Rapier

    No, I don’t think you see.  It seems to me, rather, that you are

    “highly sensitive” to this issue and any criticism of your position. 

    Not sure how many times I have to repeat this, but you can see others in this thread who criticized my position, and my response to them certainly wasn’t sensitive. We had some dialogue back and forth. I have yet to see you sustain interaction with anyone here on an issue in which you disagree in which you don’t start to personalize it very quickly. That is your problem, not mine — and many people have written to me to complain about it. If you want some confirmation of that, I can provide it.

     

    I am only critical of poor arguments and the ethics of building ANY more

    pipelines to serve 14mpg SUVs, or even 50mpg hybrids used to carry dogs

    to the park at $3.50/gal.

    Once more, I ask you what is the ethical issue that you have? It is true that we have excess usage of oil on frivolous things; and in fact we always will. Rich people will still do these things in any case. But oil is also presently used for goods and services that are critical to our lives, yet usage in the U.S. and EU is declining. The disconnect is that I realize that we will still need oil in five years, and many of the protestors don’t understand what will happen if oil supplies disappear quickly.

     

    Perhaps you should review your essay and revise it.  It is terribly

    wordy and required a second attempt at clarification: sure signs that it

    is muddled. 

    For you. If I got multiple comments like that, I would believe it was me. When I get one comment like that, I am more prone to believe it is the reader.

     ”you are the first to call me nationalistic” – Robert Rapier

    Your argument is nationalistic.  How would you suggest your

    readers interpret a flurry of phrases like, “For the U.S. in particular,

    there are issues of national security, [...]“, if not as nationalistic?

    Most readers here are based in the U.S. This is a piece of U.S. policy we are discussing. The nationalistic interpretation, once again, is yours alone.

    “China and India don’t care; that is the reality.” – Robert Rapier

    I agree that the Asian juggernaut is unrestrained, and probably

    unstoppable (short of catastrophe).  Yet, they do care about their

    history with us.  They remember what the West consumed.  They recall

    this history in their conversations with us.  It is relevant.

    I give up then asking you to explain exactly how it will help or why — specifically — it was relevant to have that discussion in this particular essay. When someone can’t explain how they will use that piece of information to address the issue, I can only conclude that you don’t really have a good idea of whether it is in fact relevant. Thus, I simply reject that criticism since you haven’t supported it.

    Desipite the idealism of your statement, it seems to me that building

    yet another pipeline is the inverse of “working hard to make sure we

    don’t need [oil].”

    No, the pipeline would be insurance as we power down. That is explained quite clearly in the essay. We will still need oil in five years. Will we get it from Canada or Venezuela is the only question. Reliability of the supply that we will still need is the issue here.

    RR

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  78. By rrapier on November 25, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “What was different about the ethics of building the Transcontinental Railroad across Nebraska and Wyoming than now wanting to build a pipeline across Nebraska from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico?” – Wendell Mercantile

    A railroad is a tool that can have many purposes; even some good ones.  A pipeline has but one. 


     

    If you are saying that oil serves no good purposes, then we have the most fundamental of disagreements. It isn’t a surprise then if this is what you believe is unethical — any usage of oil — that we are going to disagree on this issue. Perhaps you can clarify.

    Consider what would happen if we stopped producing oil tomorrow. People would start to starve to death relatively quickly. Is that ethical? Is that preferable? I think perhaps this is why we see this issue very differently.

    RR

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  79. By rate-crimes on November 25, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    “Yet, as I pointed out, it was others who brought that up.” – Robert Rapier

    Yes, you pointed that out: even though it was unnecessary.  Coming from the host of this forum, such words could be interpreted as a threat.  Instead, I see it as confirmation of the paucity of your argument.

    “If you are saying that oil serves no good purposes” – Robert Rapier

    Your interpretations are befuddling.  My comment very precisely addressed pipelines having a single purpose, whereas railroads have multiple.  Only a fool would say that oil serves no good purposes; even though it is now, and has been historically misused.

    You have fallen to the level of personal threats and insults in a public forum; for shame.

    This is what I find both illogical and unethical…

    “I believe the ideal situation is to make sure we have stable supplies of oil while working hard to make sure we don’t need them.” – Robert Rapier

    Desipite the idealism of your statement, it seems to me that building yet another pipeline is the inverse of “working hard to make sure we don’t need [oil].”

    Without harsh price pressures, in five years, you’ll be making the same poor argument for yet another pipeline.

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  80. By rrapier on November 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “Yet, as I pointed out, it was others who brought that up.” – Robert Rapier

    Yes, you pointed that out: even though it was unnecessary.  Coming from the host of this forum, such words could be interpreted as a threat.  Instead, I see it as confirmation of the paucity of your argument.


     

    Given that you brought up Kit first, I will then interpret that as confirmation of my own.

    “If you are saying that oil serves no good purposes” – Robert Rapier

    Your interpretations are befuddling.  My comment very precisely

    addressed pipelines having a single purpose, whereas railroads have

    multiple. 

    That’s because you aren’t clear — which is why I asked you to clarify. I have asked you multiple time to specify exactly the ethical dilemma in your mind. Since you will not do so, I can only guess.

    What is the single purpose of the pipeline versus the multiple purposes of the railroad? I think if you compare apples to apples, you will find that it isn’t one versus several.

    You have fallen to the level of personal threats and insults in a public forum; for shame.

    Nobody has threatened you, and nobody is insulting you. I would say that you have extraordinarily thin skin, and that affects your judgment. FYI, I have been asked to ban you almost as many times as I was asked to ban Kit (Sam Avro can confirm that), and yet you are still here. But ask yourself why people request this. Hint: It isn’t because of your opinions, it is because of how you present them. Others can disagree without being disagreeable. You can’t seem to do that.

    Without harsh price pressures, in five years, you’ll be making the same poor argument for yet another pipeline.

    We are getting pretty harsh price pressures now, and while it is causing us to consume less oil, it is also causing a lot of pain for a lot of people. Imagine that the projects that have come online in the past 3-5 years had been halted by protesters and oil was $200 instead of $100. That’s the sort of shock I am trying to avoid.

    Here’s a piece of advice if you want to continue here. Whenever I am discussing an issue with someone, I try hard to understand their point of view. Then I try to find common ground and talk to them about the differences in our views without coming across as someone who has been handed the truth from the mountain. I try to do so in a way that doesn’t attempt to belittle the other person. In your interactions with many people here, you have belittled those with whom you disagree. If you try a bit harder to have a conversation instead of deliver a condescending lecture, I think we can make a bit more progress here.

    RR

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  81. By rate-crimes on November 25, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    “In your interactions with many people here, you have belittled those with whom you disagree.” – Robert Rapier

    That’s quite a broad accusation.  How so?  Do you mean in response to stupidly contemptuous remarks such as:

    “Here is something you should study and try to understand: S = k ln W” – Wendell Mercantile

    I would suggest that my response to such juvenile remarks is quite even tempered; even playful.  Certainly, in response to the jibes and ad hominem attacks of Kit P, Wendell, and others, I have criticized their thinking and argumentative style.  Criticizing someone’s ad hominem attacks may be belittling, but in that case, so be it.

    In the case of my criticisms of your argument, you have responded without thought or consideration.  I don’t know how much more clear it could be made:

    This is what I find both illogical and unethical…

    “I believe the ideal situation is to make sure we have stable supplies of oil while working hard to make sure we don’t need them.” – Robert Rapier

    Desipite the idealism of your statement, it seems to me that building yet another pipeline is the inverse of “working hard to make sure we don’t need [oil].”

    Without harsh price pressures, in five years, you’ll be making the same poor argument for yet another pipeline.

    But in your very next comment you say,

    “That’s because you aren’t clear — which is why I asked you to clarify. I have asked you multiple time to specify exactly the ethical dilemma in your mind. Since you will not do so, I can only guess.” – Robert Rapier

    Your disrespect is apparent.  I leave you to your confederacy of sycophants.

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  82. By rrapier on November 25, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “That’s because you aren’t clear — which is why I asked you to clarify. I have asked you multiple time to specify exactly the ethical dilemma in your mind. Since you will not do so, I can only guess.” – Robert Rapier

    Your disrespect is apparent. 


     

    Wow. I don’t even know what to say. You say that is is illogical and unethical in response to my comment that we need stable supplies even as we are working on using less oil. I am not sure what is illogical or unethical about that, and I press you several times for clarification — which you characterize as disrespectful. Unreal.

     

    I leave you to your confederacy of sycophants.

    That really says it all, doesn’t it? Thank you for gracing us with your presence. Once you come to the realization that is isn’t your opinions that are the problem, you will have more productive interactions in the future.

    RR

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  83. By rate-crimes on November 25, 2011 at 5:59 pm

    “You say that is is illogical and unethical in response to my comment that we need stable supplies even as we are working on using less oil.” – Robert Rapier

    No, I said,

    “it seems to me that building yet another pipeline is the inverse of [quoting you] ‘working hard to make sure we don’t need [oil].’”

    If the oil supplies that you imagine will disappear so rapidly, do so, then urgently building a pipeline at that time would be nearly impossible to halt, and may well be necessary.  Building a pipeline today is unnecessary, lazy, narrowly opportunistic, has a high opportunity cost, is illogical, and is unethical.  Your argument is merely alarmist, at best.  With our waste, we do not need “stable supplies”.  We need only to avoid sudden, dramatic changes in supply.  The XL pipeline today does not serve that purpose.  In fact, the benefits of NOT building the XL pipeline far outweigh the benefits of building it now.

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  84. By Wendell Mercantile on November 25, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    I would suggest that my response to such juvenile remarks is quite even tempered; even playful.

    Tell that to Herr Doktor Ludwig Boltzmann, but of course he lies in a Vienna grave and that would be somewhat difficult — even in a playful manner.

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  85. By Ralph Hayes on November 25, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    Robert Rapier said:

    Wow. I don’t even know what to say.


     I do.  Please censor this disruption to your public and civil dialoge herein.  Any beneficial discussion of this Keystone Pipeline topic has been sidelined since Rate Crimes joined this discussion.  I publicly vote ‘send him away’ – he’s repeatedly had his say and his opinions are not worth dissecting any further.  Thank you.

    Ralph Hayes

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  86. By rate-crimes on November 26, 2011 at 9:28 am

    “Please censor this disruption to your public and civil dialoge [sic] herein.” – Ralph Hayes

    Ah, the censorship of dissenting opinion.

    “I publicly vote ‘send him away” – Ralph Hayes

    Even, a plea for a democratic censorship!  I can only hope that others here are more open-minded.

    “he’s repeatedly had his say” - Ralph Hayes 

    I have had to persistently defend my position that the XL pipeline today is unnecessary, lazy, narrowly opportunistic, has a high opportunity cost, is illogical, and is unethical.

    “Any beneficial discussion of this Keystone Pipeline topic has been sidelined since Rate Crimes joined this discussion.” – Ralph Hayes

    How so?  Robert has the only powers of censorship here.  To his credit, he has not exercised them; even though his slurs and accusations have been repressive.  To my knowledge, he has not exercised them on any other contributor.

    Perhaps, Ralph, rather than proposing draconian censorship, you could respond to the arguments made in comment #84, if your goal is truly to have “public and civil dialoge [sic]” herein.

    I am happy to continue to present a dissenting voice to such foolishness as support for the XL pipeline.

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  87. By Wendell Mercantile on November 26, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    A railroad is a tool that can have many purposes; even some good ones. A pipeline has but one.

    RC~

    Your grasping. A railroad has only one purpose: To carry cargo from Point A to Point B. The oil that would flow through a new 76 cm Keystone XL pipe can do literally thousands of things from from providing chemical feedstock, to boosting the economy, to providing transportation fuels until we perfect an economical and benign non-fossil replacement such as controlled fusion.

    There is no way you can successfully argue that the Union Pacific RR across Nebraska in 1869 did not have serious adverse effects on the country, environment, and native people. Far more than the potential adverse effect of a simple 30″ pipe.

    Building the Transcendental Railroads was an operation rank with political corruption, bribes, back-room deals, violence, arm-twisting, and a complete disregard for the land they passed through.

    The only back-room politics of the proposed Keystone XL seem to be coming from the environmentalist threatening the White House for the 2012 electron, the EPA, and the Nebraska politicians, ranchers, and farmers who long ago raped that land.

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  88. By rrapier on November 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Rate Crimes said:

    “Please censor this disruption to your public and civil dialoge [sic] herein.” – Ralph Hayes

    Ah, the censorship of dissenting opinion.


     

    Again, it isn’t the dissent that is the issue. Others dissented. I can tell you that if Jerry Unruh or Ben Discoe had continued the dialogue, people would not be asking for them to be censored. That’s because they are civil in their disagreement. I respect that. We are talking about the future here; we aren’t certain how it will play out. They may be right, and they will have much more likelihood of convincing people they are right with their style of engagement. The Joe Romm style of scorn and condescension only works with those who are already on your side.

    How so?  Robert has the only powers of censorship here.  To his credit, he has not exercised them; even though his slurs and accusations have been repressive. 

    I just don’t see all of this persecution that you have had to endure. Calling someone idealistic isn’t a slur. You have argued from a condescending point of view, and one in which you made little attempt to understand the other point of view. And when you finally did entertain it, you dismiss it with pejoratives. Still, I have tried to understand your position by asking you a series of questions — which you have generally ignored. In that case, sometimes I have to guess at what you are thinking.

    The truth is that you seem to see the future in much more black and white terms than I do. I see a lot of risks that have nothing to do with global warming. You see the pipeline as continuing to enable business as usual; I don’t see business as usual happening in any case. It actually took me a long time to decide which side of this debate I came down on, and one thing that pushed me in the direction I ended up in was some of the misleading arguments about pipeline leaks and such.

    But one comment that you made in this discussion that I would consider a valuable contribution is “If the oil supplies that you imagine will disappear so rapidly, do so, then urgently building a pipeline at that time would be nearly impossible to halt, and may well be necessary.” I think that point is well-taken.

    To my knowledge, he has not exercised them on any other contributor.

    In the six year history of this blog — dating back to Blogger — two posters have been banned. One was mentally unstable and had a very tenuous grasp on reality. He was constantly accusing me of wanting to assassinate Hugo Chavez, and would make derogatory remarks about my family and me. He was banished forever. The 2nd was Kit P., even after tolerating him far beyond almost everyone’s patience. But he was so disruptive to the forum, we (Sam Avro and I) finally had no choice but to remove him permanently.

    RR

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  89. By rrapier on November 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Wendell Mercantile said:

    A railroad is a tool that can have many purposes; even some good ones. A pipeline has but one.

    RC~

    Your grasping. A railroad has only one purpose: To carry cargo from Point A to Point B.


     

    That was what I was getting at, and why I asked him the questions I did. But I never got an answer when I asked him to define what the one purpose of the pipeline was versus the many of the railroad.

    RR

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  90. By rate-crimes on November 26, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    “What is the single purpose of the pipeline versus the multiple purposes of the railroad? I think if you compare apples to apples, you will find that it isn’t one versus several.” – Robert Rapier

    I apologize for not seeing that this was a serious question.  My view is that a pipeline is built for the very specific purpose of moving liquids.  In the case of the XL pipeline, moving petroleum to refineries, and then to consumers.  Railroads are built to move a much wider variety of cargo, and are therefore a flexible tool that can be applied to a variety of transportation problems from food, to coal, to cars, to liquids, to Walmart gadgets, to people, to emergency supplies, etc.

    “Again, it isn’t the dissent that is the issue.” – Robert Rapier

    What, then, is the issue?  Other than my responses to Wendell’s attempted insults and jibes, I have presented criticisms of your choice of title, your arguments, and the arguments of other pipeline proponents.  After my first criticism, I asked a number of questions which remain unanswered.  My offense would appear to be that I began with a critical assessment of your screed.  I call it a screed because it is a “a long discourse or essay, especially a diatribe.”  You being it with, “The following is a lengthy essay…”.  I believe it a diatribe because the article focuses on the opponents to the pipeline more than it attends to your own analysis.

    “The truth is that you seem to see the future in much more black and white terms than I do. I see a lot of risks that have nothing to do with global warming. You see the pipeline as continuing to enable business as usual; I don’t see business as usual happening in any case.” – Robert Rapier

    Beginning a sentence with, “The truth is” usually is a hint that what folllows will be anything BUT the truth.  You begin by accusing me of rigid thinking.  You finish the paragraph by predicting an end to BAU (whatever that is).  Based on this rigidity of thought, you recommend now building yet another pipeline to continue the habit of building pipelines to rush oil to consumers.  It appears that your risk analysis demands urgent action.  Aren’t you engaging in a little disasterbation? And, at the risk of promoting further dangerous consumptive habits.

    “You see the pipeline as continuing to enable business as usual;” – Robert Rapier

    The term ‘BAU’ is too constrained.  My concern is more broadly to diminish ‘consumption as usual’.  ‘Business’ can (and should) be sustained and even grown through better practices.

    To counter your oversimplification of my position I must reiterate that building a pipeline today is unnecessary, lazy, narrowly opportunistic, has a high opportunity cost, is illogical, and is unethical.  The benefits of NOT building the XL pipeline far outweigh the benefits of building it now.

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  91. By Wendell Mercantile on November 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    RC~

    You are the one who raised the issue of ethics. I don’t know what business your family is in, but chances are high, if you’ve been successful, somewhere in you past is unethical behavior or perhaps even a crime. (It was Honoré de Balzac who said, “Behind every great fortune there is a great crime.”)

    You ignore the past while using the so-called ethics of a 30″ diameter steel pipe through Nebraska to raise a splanchnic, misguided objection.

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  92. By rate-crimes on November 26, 2011 at 9:10 pm

    “You ignore the past while using the so-called ethics of a 30″ diameter steel pipe through Nebraska to raise a splanchnic, misguided objection.” – Wendell Mercantile

    Actually, I was the first to raise historical complications in comment #46.

    What is the ethic of referring to more than 1,600 miles of pipeline serving to accelerate extraction and consumption as “a 30″ diameter steel pipe through Nebraska”?  Now, there’s a technique worthy of a colonic.

     

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  93. By OD on November 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Ah, I am remembering why I took a break from the comments section of this blog.  :-).
    You have far more patience than any blogger I know, Robert.

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  94. By Wendell Mercantile on November 27, 2011 at 9:51 pm

    What is the ethic of referring to more than 1,600 miles of pipeline serving to accelerate extraction and consumption as “a 30″ diameter steel pipe through Nebraska”?

    RC~

    A 30″ diameter buried steel pipe is a steel pipe — no more, no less. It is wrong to attach any ethical issues to it. What we must attach to it are high design standards and quality construction.

    We need an America that once more makes and produces things instead of one where special interest groups use misguided ethical and environmental issues* as a political tool. True story: Steve Jobs wanted to build the factorials to make iMacs, iPods, iPhones, and iPads in California. Apple found the regulatory, permitting, and environmental review process so onerous and strung out, Apple built them in China.

    * Should the Keystone XL pipeline be regulated and built to high-quality standards? Of course.

    * Should it have high-design standards and built-in ways to quickly stop the flow of oil and mitigate environmental damage in the event of a leak? Certainly.

    * Should there be routine inspections to make sure the pipeline company is operating in good faith and living up to design standards? Yes.

    * Should we be sensitive to and protect the environment the XL Pipeline will pass through? Again, yes.

    * Should people such as Bill McKippin use the XL Pipeline as a political extortion tool to force the Obama administration to delay a decision until after the 2012 election? No, we have to be a better country than that.

    Where I went to school, one of the mantras was “Duty Before Self.” Far too many people in America have reversed that, and think only “Me before we.”

    ________
    * With today’s EPA and mandated environmental impact reviews, we would not be able to build the Interstate Highway System (IHS) , let alone have built the Intercontinental Railroads (IR). Image where this country would be had regulations and misguided people such as yourself prevented us from building the IHS or IR?

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  95. By rate-crimes on November 28, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    “We need an America that once more makes and produces things” – Wendell Mercantile

    We need an America that more efficiently produces and exports useful things; and fewer ‘Cheesy Poofs’.

    “A 30″ diameter buried steel pipe is a steel pipe — no more, no less. It is wrong to attach any ethical issues to it.” – Wendell Mercantile

    Why would you propose “a 30″ diameter buried steel pipe” that remains empty until it rusts and collapses?  Such waste seems unethical.  Or, are you equating 700,000 barrels of oil a day to “no more, no less”?  That equation reflects a disturbing ethic.

    We need new, high-efficiency engines, smaller fuel tanks, and a redesign of our built environment.  Rushing this oil into the system will feed the old engines of a bloated and aging fleet of monster trucks before it feeds anything else.

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  96. By Wendell Mercantile on November 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    RC~

    DIsturbing ethic? A 30″ diameter steel pipe carrying oil is a civil-engineering project — not an ethics problem. And it is wrong for people like you to make it one for political leverage.

    * We can no longer build cement plants in the U.S. because of environmental and ethical concerns. (I believe we haven’t built a new cement plant in the U.S. in over 30 years, and most now cement and gypsum drywall comes from China.)

    * It is now virtually impossible and unbelievable time-consuming to build a new oil refinery in the U.S.

    * The licensing and review process for a a new nuclear power-plant may drag-on for 10 years or more, adding unbelievably to the cost and uncertainty. (Remember, this is the country that once built the A-bomb from a physicists brainstorm to first ignition in only a bit more than four years.)

    The fact is, we have let regulation, bureaucracy, excessive environmental review, political infighting, and internal squabbling drag our country to a halt. It’s no wonder the brightens people from Harvard, Yale, and Princeton now see the route to success as attaching some artificial value to pieces of paper and trading and leveraging them instead of wanting to build things. (How’d that work out for our economy? Don’t you see any “disturbing ethics” in that?)

    Both the Democrats and Republicans are responsible and should be ashamed — as should you for making a ethical issue out of a solvable civil-engineering problem.

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  97. By rate-crimes on November 28, 2011 at 11:35 pm

    “DIsturbing ethic? A 30″ diameter steel pipe carrying oil is a civil-engineering project” – Wendell Mercantile

    Well, I guessed you missed the point again.  Now you have transformed “no more, no less” into “a civil-engineering project”.  Changing the words is simply repeating the practice of ignoring the consequences.

    “And it is wrong for people like you to [...] [emphasis mine]” – Wendell Mercantile

    Are you capable of making an argument without at least a dash of ad hominem?  Could you not just as easily have said, “And it is wrong to [...]”

    “The fact is, we have let regulation, bureaucracy, excessive environmental review,” – Wendell Mercantile

    And yet, for all that we still have pipelines spilling petroleum on land and water:

    Ruptured Pipeline Spills Oil Into Yellowstone River  July 2, 2011

    North Slope pipeline breaks, spills during pressure testing  July 18th, 2011

    ‘Something’ hit Bison pipeline in Wyoming  July 28, 2011

    Companies fined over $500,000 for role in massive Burnaby oil spill  October 3, 2011

    Ruptured pipeline spews oil in Edmond  October 7, 2011

    Cleanup of Kalamazoo River oil spill to extend through 2012  October 21, 2011

    PG&E knew of many leaks in San Bruno pipeline October 23, 2011

     

    List of pipeline accidents

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  98. By Ralph Hayes on November 29, 2011 at 12:07 am

    Rate Crimes said:

    Are you capable of making an argument without at least a dash of ad hominem?  Could you not just as easily have said, “And it is wrong to [...]”

     


     

    RR:  I publicly vote TWICE to remove this disturbance to your civil blog.  Thank you.

     

    Ralph Hayes

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  99. By Wendell Mercantile on November 29, 2011 at 12:26 am

    Could you not just as easily have said, “And it is wrong to [...]“

    Certainly, just as easily — but I was talking to you.

    If only people were as concerned about the ethics of Wall Street as the ethics of burying a 30″ diameter pipe under Nebraska and pumping oil through it.

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  100. By rate-crimes on November 29, 2011 at 6:53 am

    “If only people were as concerned about the ethics of Wall Street as the ethics of burying a 30″ diameter pipe under Nebraska and pumping oil through it.” – Wendell Mercantile

    … as if the two were unrelated.

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  101. By Wendell Mercantile on December 2, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    What are unlighted are engineering problems and ethical issues. Keystone XL is an engineering problem — a solvable one.

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