Kristi Noem’s most recent column of the week displays the typical good policy sense and concern for the health of our nation and our planet that South Dakota has come to expect from its lone U.S. Representative:
After almost four and a half years of applications, environmental studies and hearings, the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is still in limbo and waiting for approval. In the face of rising energy costs and continued reliance on foreign oil supplies, it is time for President Obama to finally approve this project.
The American people deserve a reliable energy supply that comes from American sources. That means more than just oil, it also means renewable sources such as hydropower and wind. I have and will continue to support an all-of-the-above American energy policy. In South Dakota, we continue to lead by example by taking advantage of our vast wind energy resources and by developing new ethanol technologies.
The problem is that the dirty tar sands oil (known as diluted bitumen or “Dilbit”) that KXL would pump comes not from the U.S. but from Alberta. Which is in Canada, in case you missed it in your high school geography class. And in all likelihood that oil would be exported to China.
You know what a genuinely American energy supply looks like? Wind energy. South Dakota is the fifth-windiest state in the U.S., and the prime SD real estate for wind development is to be found on our Indian Reservations – places that could use an injection of economic development. And what better way than by leading the way forward to develop energy resources that tread lightly on the earth the Lakota people hold so sacred? These are the kinds of energy sources the government should be incentivizing. An “all-of-the-above energy policy” is a thin disguise for capitulation to America’s crippling oil addiction and the dealers whose profits depend on it.
But wait! There are jobs to be had:
The Keystone XL pipeline will ultimately decrease our dependence on unstable sources of energy from the Middle East and could create up to 20,000 new American jobs.
…actually, divide that by about 1,000 and you’re in the ballpark, at least as far as permanent jobs are concerned. So says the State Department at any rate. Even talking about temporary construction jobs, Cornell Global Labor Institute estimates a job creation total of between 2,500 to 4,650 jobs over a two-year period.
There’s at least one figure that Ms. Noem gets right:
This pipeline, once completed, will carry up to 800,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada to refineries in Texas. The pipeline is shovel ready: easements have been acquired from over 97 percent of landowners in South Dakota and all seven pump station sites have been purchased.
That’s right: KXL will carry the better part of a million gallons of the dirtiest oil on the planet, tar sands Dilbit. Dilbit extraction is fully three times as carbon intensive as traditional oil, not to speak of the climatic impact of burning millions upon millions of barrels of additional carbon-rich fossil fuels.
You want to talk about energy security? Let’s talk about national security. Like, securing our borders from literally being overrun by rising sea levels:
At Monday’s Climate Desk Live briefing in Washington, D.C., [Ohio State glaciologist Jason] Box… explained that we’ve already pushed atmospheric carbon dioxide 40 percent beyond Eemian [a previous warm period in Earth’s history] levels. What’s more, levels of atmospheric methane are a dramatic 240 percent higher—both with no signs of stopping. “There is no analogue for that in the ice record,” said Box.
And that’s not all. The present mass scale human burning of trees and vegetation for clearing land and building fires, plus our pumping of aerosols into the atmosphere from human pollution, weren’t happening during the Eemian. These human activities are darkening Greenland’s icy surface, and weakening its ability to bounce incoming sunlight back away from the planet. Instead, more light is absorbed, leading to more melting, in a classic feedback process that is hard to slow down…
Box also provided a large-scale perspective on how much sea level rise humanity has already probably set in motion from the burning of fossil fuels. The answer is staggering: 69 feet, including water from both Greenland and Antarctica, as well as other glaciers based on land from around the world.
In too many ways, it may already be too late to turn back the climate clock. But if our goal is to avoid straight-up environmental catastrophe, then approving KXL is NOT going to get us there. A couple dozen permanent jobs – hell, even a couple thousand temporary jobs – just ain’t worth it. And it certainly won’t make us any more “secure,” energy-wise or otherwise.