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By Robert Rapier on Mar 4, 2015 with 29 responses

Washington Post: President Obama is Lying About the Keystone Pipeline

I will preface this article with my standard disclaimer on the Keystone XL Pipeline project: I have no vested interest in the pipeline either way. My interest is in fostering honest debate and discussion on energy policy, and because there has been so much distortion and outright lies related to the pipeline project, I have addressed the topic from time to time.

To reiterate, I don’t think it ultimately makes much difference one way or the other whether the pipeline is built. Not to the environment and not to energy security. I think the likelihood that this oil will simply be transported to market via other means (rail, other pipelines, and/or tanker) is vastly underestimated by Keystone XL opponents. I think the U.S. and the world will use about the same amount of oil with or without it. Refineries on the Gulf Coast will continue to run heavy Venezuelan crude if it isn’t built, which is what would be backed out in favor of heavy Canadian crude if it is built. That Venezuelan crude will continue to be transported via ship, and those have been known to spill oil. I think the risks of the pipeline have been vastly overstated by people who are generally unaware of the extent of the North American oil and gas pipeline system — and consequently how low the incident frequency actually is.

That summarizes what I believe are some of the misconceptions and misleading arguments from those who are arguing against the pipeline. But don’t mistake that as me lobbying for the pipeline. I don’t think I have ever said “We need this pipeline.” I will never be at a pro-pipeline rally. For most people who care one way or another, Keystone XL is just symbolic. The impact of building it — or not — is overstated by both sides. For those who are more interested in substance and who are concerned about the growing carbon dioxide inventory in the atmosphere — it’s going to come down to whether actions around Keystone XL can be leveraged into something much, much greater.

I do understand the core of the opponents’ arguments. Behind all of the misleading and false claims, it really boils down to one thing. They believe that the pipeline will ultimately exacerbate climate change. But we can do the math that shows that the possible climate change impact as a result of the pipeline would be so small that it wouldn’t be measurable. If we make the very aggressive assumption that the pipeline enabled burning the entire Canadian oil sands reserves (unrealistically aggressive given all the other potential routes to market for that oil) it would take at least 75 years and (according to the climate models) raise the global temperature by about 1/20th of a degree.

The math is pretty straightforward, and there are typically 2 responses to it. One is that every little bit helps. True, but these things don’t happen in isolation. Resources devoted to one problem might be more effective if directed at another. I have likened it to a triage situation. If you have a patient with a hangnail and a serious head wound, “every little bit” might result in the patient dying unless you focus your resources on the most critical problem. You throw everything you can at the head wound, and then you can worry about the hangnail.

The second response is that the pipeline is symbolic of a battle against climate change, and it is getting activists fired up for the cause — which will be beneficial in the long run. That’s a very fuzzy argument, and there isn’t an effective way I can think of to evaluate whether that’s true. If you could somehow connect the dots and show that stopping Keystone XL will lead to reduced coal consumption in Asia Pacific, then the argument probably is true. And for many people who have done the math and ignored the hyperbole, that’s ultimately the factor that swings someone one way or another. Ultimately this is one of those arguments that just boils down to “I feel like my efforts will make a difference.” And because this argument is fuzzy, it is also where it often gets emotional. Those fighting against it don’t want to believe that they are wasting their time, so they sometimes lash out at those who would try to distill this issue down to facts. It has happened to me plenty of times. An opponent makes an argument, I show the facts disproving that argument, and the response is anger, insults, and sometimes lies (like the guy who falsely asserted in response that I own stock in TransCanada, the backer of the pipeline).

Of course the issue has also helped with fundraising at environmental organizations, so they do have a vested interest in exaggerating the arguments against the pipeline. They can’t exactly claim objectivity on the matter. There are lots of people making six figure salaries on both sides of this debate, eager to keep those paychecks coming in. That’s why I always find it ironic when they cast aspersions at those arguing for the pipeline, and who might benefit. If you are arguing against the pipeline, but might benefit from that opposition, apparently that still gives you the right to cast aspersions.

One thing that I find unacceptable on either side is lies that are told in support or in opposition of the pipeline. If President Obama opposes the pipeline — which he clearly does — he should stop simply kicking the can down the road and take a stand. That may be what a politician does, but it isn’t what a leader should do. A leader should take a stand.

Instead, when President Obama vetoed a bill last week that would have sped up the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline, he repeated several false claims which were in direct contradiction to the U.S. State Department assessment of the project. The Washington Post — not exactly a bastion of Republicans out to discredit the President — recently took him to task on these claims in Obama’s claim that Keystone XL oil ‘bypasses the U.S.’ earns Four Pinocchios. The dreaded “Four Pinocchios” is defined as “Whoppers.” A gentler way of saying lies. Worse than their “Three Pinocchios” rating which means “Significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.” And when the Washington Post is calling out a Democratic President like this, he (and his allies) should recognize that this isn’t just political enemies out to get him.

So what was the big lie that President Obama told? He claimed that the pipeline is for Canadian oil that will bypass the U.S., providing no benefit to the U.S. He further suggested that we should focus on “American infrastructure for American jobs and American producers”, ignoring the fact that Keystone XL hits on all three while being paid for by a private company and not U.S. taxpayers.

He also once more downplayed the number of jobs that would be created, as if temporary construction jobs aren’t worth counting in the grand scheme. Per the U.S. State Department Assessment, the construction phase of the pipeline would support an estimated 42,100 jobs (direct, indirect, and induced). The nature of construction jobs is that they are temporary. After that job there is usually another job. To hand-wave away these jobs as “temporary” is a disservice to 1.3 million workers in the construction business in the U.S. Remember that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps created temporary jobs (and at government expense) for millions of people doing public works. Didn’t those jobs matter, even though they were temporary?

As the Washington Post points out, not only would U.S. producers utilize the expanded pipeline (and there are signed contracts in hand from U.S. producers in the Bakken to utilize the pipeline), but the oil transported to the Gulf Coast would mostly be refined on the Gulf Coast. This supports U.S. refining jobs. We would likely grow finished product exports under this scenario, but under the alternative scenario countries that import diesel and gasoline will instead buy them from Indian or Saudi Arabian refiners — in many cases countries with lower environmental standards.

The Post further noted that the President has obviously still not read the assessment from the State Department (“Clearly, the report remains unread”), and chastises him for making claims that have no factual basis:

“If he disagrees with the State Department’s findings, he should begin to make the case why it is wrong, rather than assert the opposite, without any factual basis. Moreover, by telling North Dakota listeners that the pipeline has no benefit for Americans, he is again being misleading, given that producers in the region have signed contracts to transport some of their production through the pipeline.”

I don’t understand why it is so difficult for the President to simply state the reasons for his opposition to the pipeline, instead of regurgitating false and easily refuted claims. As I have said in the past, he could make a statement that would represent actual courageous leadership, even if I think it’s misguided. That statement would be something along the lines of “I am making a stand with my environmentalist supporters who voted me into office and who reject a continued expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. I believe this pipeline expansion will exacerbate climate change, and that the U.S. needs to lead the world by example. I am therefore rejecting the application to expand the pipeline.”

Was that so hard? I like straight talk. All this beating around the bush drives me crazy. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. You may be wrong, but at least nobody can accuse you of failing to lead on this issue — which is the case at present. If the President wants to block the pipeline, he should come out and say so instead of trying to run out the clock on the project. There are a lot of people spending time, money, and energy on both sides of this project — all because the President has failed to lead on this issue.

Link to Original Article: Washington Post: President Obama is Lying About the Keystone Pipeline

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  1. By laru on March 4, 2015 at 2:21 pm

    Well said.

  2. By Optimist on March 4, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Yeah, not pretty is it? KXL is exposing Obama for the indecisive follower-in-chief he appears to have become…

    • By Buzzy123 on March 6, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Ok now I understand what you are saying…your other post came out of the blue so to speak

  3. By Forrest on March 5, 2015 at 8:02 am

    Your post makes a factual case. Problem is politics are emotional and The CIC is not a free world leader. He is not captain to pull the country together and focus public on import matters. This guy has an agenda not aligned always with best interests of country. So, political power is empowered and employed. It’s a strategy to manipulate public’s opinion to gain enough credibility to accomplish his will. So, his rhetoric needs not to be fact checked or based. He sets up on mission to achieve wanted results, but apparently can not disclose the mission to public. So, the speech is couched in reasonable parlays to sound like he is magnanimous sensible caretaker of public concerns. He is the sheep herder taking care of us and protecting us from the ever present media depictions of opposition being “controversial” or “extreme”. He protects us from the dastardly forces of open market mistakes and business practices. The guy can steer us away from harmful profit taking decision makers and give us all the bigger picture of cleaner environment, social justice, and uncloak all the ravages of racism. I have just enough marketing training to detect his administration is in full blown manipulation of the ill educated and ill informed public. He is not interested in facts, reality, science, only those aspects that align with his understanding and motivation to save us from ourselves. I think psychologist have a label for such self confidence and high moral self indulgence.

    • By Optimist on March 5, 2015 at 3:50 pm

      Gotta love the Republicans: RR gives them a great template about how to expose the man’s lack of leadership with cold, hard facts that few could deny. The sort of argument that would stick in a swing voter’s mind next time an occupant for the White House needs to be chosen.

      Instead, Republicans chose to go with emotional, nonsensical lines of attack (Socialist! Black Panther! Born in Kenya! Secret Muslim! Hates America!) that imply they can read the president’s mind. I guess it’s great fun to those still in the small, and shrinking, tent. Outside swing voters are shaking their heads and making a mental note not to vote for these clowns…

      But do go ahead and entertain us with more tinfoil-hat conspiracy theories from Right Wing Central.

      • By Forrest on March 5, 2015 at 5:12 pm

        Polling data has always indicated majority of citizens aligned with conservative values as opposed to liberal. Also, the last election cycle not an indication of the “Mans” popularity. I don’t know what to make of U.S. politics as of lately. It gets stranger every year. Also, the country appears to attract and foment the extreme left whom see the country as easy pickens per our sensitivity to race relations, liberty, and poor. Just today was listening to NPR report that had a lauded prof claiming Ferguson is just indicative of the nations race problem. He sees racism as primary toxin within country and it’s just starting to be uncovered. Shame on our horrible country and old guard that created the mess. Extreme environmentalist just as powerful within the left ranks. Bringing the country down just the cure for Mother Earth revenge. Why should we demand Iran give up Nuclear bomb? It’s not fair that U.S. to possess oil wealth. We often shake our head when attempting to meet the needs and sensitivities of the Left as we think rationally, progressive, and constructive, but we find out facts don’t matter as they apparently have an end objective or final solution they can’t communicate. They silently put forth phony hurdles to disrupt and handicap. Hurdles to destruct and damage the countries success. Why?

      • By Buzzy123 on March 6, 2015 at 10:29 am

        Your post was nonsense. The article had nothing to do with Kenya or socialism… But simply and accurately stating that in this case the President has consistently lied and also failed to make an honest case for his position. I get that you are a De i rat and thus viscerally hate someone criticizing Obama but at least stay on topic rather than raising wholly silly rhetoric

  4. By Forrest on March 6, 2015 at 7:21 am

    The pipeline would make business winners and losers. If your railroad company is making a fortune transporting crude oil, well, donating money to the environmental cause would be money well spent. Standard Oil did likewise in support of prohibition at a time when Henry Ford was building the first ethanol processing plant. It’s amazing how social responsible these companies can become. The delay or excuse of delayed decision making a typical ploy of corny politicians that hold hand out a little longer, before attempting a decision. Another example, the ethanol RFS vs oil delayed decision making a direct result of politicians attempting to glean wealth of oil companies for longer period of time. As RR posted a leader would quickly quell any hope of change and state the direction he desires the country to take, unless he is practicing the skillful art of posing as reasonable disciplined decision maker to avoid criticism of being a radical. Also, very helpful to political party politics to work within these wealthy business sectors to offer hope of donation influence. This the typical path when left sensitive folks vote in powerful central control. They claim open market competition and skillful business that meet desires and needs of consumers are dangerous. That corrupt politicians who work with other peoples money just the juice to achieve easy life style as they alone can take away wealth from the productive class. It was suppose to work better by now. Problem was the cheap fed money stimulus just stimulated stock market for the investor crowd and the poor left even further behind. Well, that didn’t work good, but the international community now has great respect for us. Iran has dropped plans for nuclear bomb and has stopped the terrorist support. Iraq and Pakistan wars solved as winning the hearts of terrorist as we now pivoted to to their sensitivities. Race relations solved as well as the need of all the proactive supports, hunger solved, obesity solved, simple inexpensive health care solved, housing solved, global warming solved, etc.

  5. By Ed_Reid on March 6, 2015 at 9:35 am

    The oil has been discovered and is being produced. It will be burned somewhere, producing the same quantity of CO2, a globally well-mixed trace gas, regardless of where it is burned. The question is the extent to which the US and Canada would benefit from the process. Under the Administration approach, the US benefits are minimized and the Canadian benefits are reduced.

    Environmental advocates can argue until they are blue in the face that the oil should remain in the ground, but that will not happen.

    • By M. Simon on May 28, 2015 at 4:38 pm

      “Well mixed trace gas”? I prefer “Plant Food”.

  6. By rlhailssrpe on March 6, 2015 at 10:30 am

    I add, to a very excellent summary of the facts about the XL pipe spool, two huge policy shifts.

    First, it is now abundantly clear to all, Repubs and Dems, libs and conservative, that science is bought and paid for. It is the means whereby you can kick the can down the calendar for eternity. In the real world of compound interest, you can kill any deal by delay, no income, but undefinable, certain costs. The second stems from this. If you do not have the facts, you can simply be a dictator. After XL, what investor will pour money into whatever the guy is against? Our legal system will not protect you, even if you have the facts.

    What Americans lost in the XL fiasco was reliance on honest dealings among each other.

  7. By dude1394 on March 6, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    You really do not understand why obama is lying? He has made a dang fine career of lying.

  8. By bobangelo on March 6, 2015 at 5:43 pm

    42,000 jobs (mostly going to americans and not illegals) is nothing to dismiss. But O liar in chief has no desire to put americans to work. Only illegals.

  9. By Forrest on March 7, 2015 at 5:28 am

    I did hear the Canadians evaluating piping their oil to Lake Superior for super tanker transport. Would guess the Balkin oil producers would be interested in joining that solution a well. They wouldn’t be held hostage by U.S. activist that may in future disrupt rail traffic or claim distillation within large metro zone to dangerous. It does seem par for the course within our Environmentalist mind set to damage the country in the quest of sainthood. It results in off shoring the problem and decreasing our ability to minimize damage. Example, we sell our coal to off shore dirty coal plants that generate 100x more polluting. Would it be better to burn our coal domestically where in we control and minimize the emissions? And in doing so, encourage solutions to invent processes and equipment to make the fuel source green for off shore use. Our distillation equipment probably rated tops in safety and environmental emissions, yet this crude oil could go off shore to lower quality distilleries that harm life and environment and be transported by means that increase environmental harm? Are their any other countries that sit by and let foolish environmentalist control the economy per their poor science and biases? I’m gaining suspicion that those whom who like to hurt or control economy of U.S. are attracted to the antics of the Green Movement. They can jack up the power, control, and influence of this group and accomplish much desired results. I often shake my head when attempting to meet the desires of the group. They do not like alternative thinking or solutions. They apparently have it all figured out and only need to bring the country to its knees to gain the necessary power and solution.

  10. By JCSR on March 7, 2015 at 1:38 pm

    The Keystone pipeline runs just too darn close to the Ogalala aquifier and for that matter too close to the greatest agricultural area in the world. Go around.

    • By Robert Rapier on March 7, 2015 at 1:51 pm

      That’s part of the misinformation. There are numerous pipelines already criss-crossing the Ogallala Aquifer. Nothing unique about Keystone there. Further, think about the farming and the cities built on top of the aquifer. The fertilizers and pesticides that are dumped on the ground above it every year. The point is that it is very difficult to contaminate the aquifer. If it were that easy, it would be contaminated all the time because there is a lot of industrial activity going on directly on top of it, and has been for decades.

      • By Michael Cain on March 10, 2015 at 6:07 am

        The problem wasn’t that it crossed the Ogallala Aquifer — as you say,
        the aquifer runs from north-central Nebraska to the south end of the
        Texas panhandle and lots of pipelines cross it. The problem was that it was going to cut across part of the Nebraska Sandhills, a unique ecosystem within the Great Plains, and one of the few areas where a surface spill can get into the aquifer pretty easily.

        TransCanada could have built the pipeline years ago if they had been willing to choose a longer less-direct route that took advantage of existing rights-of-way in uncontroversial areas.

        • By Robert Rapier on March 10, 2015 at 10:33 am

          I will jump on Google Earth later and check, but I am pretty sure there is farming and ranching going on in the Sandhills around where the pipeline would run. I think Forrest’s response below is correct; that studies did show it would be impossible for a spill to contaminate the aquifer. It is easy to have a knee jerk reaction, but our gut feel isn’t always right.

          • By Michael Cain on March 10, 2015 at 1:33 pm

            Open-range ranching, some. Farming, essentially none — grass-stabilized sand dunes are simply not suitable for modern farming practice. I agree that the Ogallala proper is not subject to any meaningful risk. My complaint is that Transcanada didn’t do promptly what they ended up doing — move the route somewhat so that the state isn’t ticked off about the pipeline through a unique ecology.

            When I put my conspiracy hat on and look at the timing and the original route, I have visions of Dick Cheney at those infamously secret meetings telling them, “Look, route around the designated national areas — parks, wilderness areas, etc — and we’ll overrule the states on anything else.”

    • By Forrest on March 10, 2015 at 8:05 am

      James Goeke a professor studying the aquifer for 40 years stated a pipeline spill would unlikely penetrate to aquifer. If the spill were to penetrate, the contamination would be localized (hundreds of feet not miles). Also, those posting of contamination as if a tiny spill would contaminate the entire aquifer are just plain false. U.S. Environmental did an impact study wherein the assessment rated little risk. Depth to water runs 400 feet in north and 100-200 feet in southern regions. A clay layer caliche makes it difficult to recharge with ground water as it impermeable (also to oil). Rate of recharging the ground water the biggest threat. Farmers are adapting with more efficient sprinkler irrigation, utilizing more treated municipal grey water, utilizing more water efficient crop rotations and companion crops. Also, selection of crops that require less water such as sorghum or GMO corn will have a major impact.

  11. By ChrisFahlman on March 7, 2015 at 6:56 pm

    The development of all the worlds unconventional petroleum will make climate targets much more difficult or impossible to achieve. One argument against the tar sands (not keystone per se) is that it is difficult to equitably say that any particular deposit should be exploited now, in the knowledge that later development of many other deposits worldwide cannot happen while maintaining a reasonable risk of limiting climate change.

    Market forces, in pricing carbon emissions, would help alleviate these kinds of conundrums.

    This is where Canada can make an equitable and moral choice: if developing unconventional petroleum, put in a carbon tax.

  12. By Carl on March 11, 2015 at 2:50 am

    Scientific revelations (or a rehash of current scientific geological studies, really), include numerous studies and articles describing the various shales around the country that are part of the government’s classified uranium deposits and set aside for future mining purposes. The most startling and morbidly anguishing aspects of this knowledge describes how both the gas and oil from these uranium deposits contain 20-80 times more radon gas than current supplies (yes current supplies contain radon), which means that current statistics of 15,000 deaths attributed to radon gas every year (and not from smoking) would be catapulted by these multipliers, so, for the purpose of our country becoming energy independent, we have to cull between 300,000 to 1,200,000 people EVERY SINGLE year, and of course as the lower radon level gas is diminished, the higher radon gas reserves will be used. I encourage any writer of this e-zine present additional insight to their readers concerning this threat.

    Now, if the government would fund the development of gas storage facilities or bury gas within existing drilled wells, allowing the gas to decay naturally with a short half life time, we would indeed have a much safer product, where quite possibly, we may reduce radon deaths that occur from current gas supplies, Please confirm for yourself the threats and opportunities posed. Currently, storage solutions are said to be cost prohibitive. I say the income tax lost due these deaths every year over the expected breakeven period of storage installation would by far be more expensive (that is if you’re only looking at money), but especially from the loss of the skills,and knowledge that will no longer be passed on to our youth and to the working generation, plus should include the cost of training their replacements, etc. etc. etc. This type of slow and fast kill eugenics should remind you of the atrocities ritually performed by the Nazis, Russians and Rwandans to name a few.

    • By Forrest on March 11, 2015 at 4:46 am

      I just checked radon death estimates of 20,000 per year. Seven states the primary zone and Michigan is one of them. It’s easy to check for the gas and retail stores sell the test. Basement intrusions the primary infiltration of the gas. It has higher density and will accumulate in basements. Cracks and sump wells primary candidates for leakage. They have standards modifications utilizing vent pipe that evacuate gases from concrete sub floor. Not very expensive and common around here. I think it is a bit of a sham as much easier to have flue pipe for basement gas hot water heater to naturally do the same. I haven’t heard anyone testing or concerned of natural gas fuel? Usually, ventilation and crack repair does the job. BTW, radon estimates half the lung cancer is attributed to radon and not tobacco. Also, the revelation that pesticides applied to tobacco may play a part in unhealthy smoke, not least the paper product within cigarettes. All of this makes me think are PC culture is off base when assassinating tobacco as demon and attempting to make pot healthy. Smoking rates have only decreased 50% at most. Meanwhile psychotic meds use have skyrocketed. Sometime wrong with this. Maybe the more helpful approach to citizen needs would be to make the tobacco less unhealthy and urge users to cut down use per health effects.

    • By M. Simon on May 28, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Radiation hormesis probably lowers deaths.

  13. By Russ Finley on March 14, 2015 at 12:21 am

    I took the following video while driving my Leaf of a train pulling oil tankers . All you hear is road noise because there is no engine noise in a Leaf:

  14. By M. Simon on May 28, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Carbon Dioxide inventory in the atmosphere? Shouldn’t you refer to it as Plant Food inventory? Because if the inventory gets too low the plants will die.

  15. By Arun Sharma on June 15, 2015 at 7:41 am


    Thank you for sharing this information this the typical path when left sensitive folks vote in powerful central control. They claim open market competition and skillful business that meet desires and needs of consumers are dangerous. That corrupt politicians who work with other peoples money just the juice to achieve easy life style as they alone can take away wealth from the productive class. It was suppose to work better by now. Problem was the cheap fed money stimulus just stimulated stock market for the investor crowd and the poor left even further behind. Well, that didn’t work good, but the international community now has great respect for us. Iran has dropped plans for nuclear bomb and has stopped the terrorist support. Iraq and Pakistan wars solved as winning the hearts of terrorist as we now pivoted to to their sensitivities. Race relations solved as well as the need of all the proactive supports, hunger solved, obesity solved,

    Exel Alternator

    thank you

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