Keystone Pipeline: What Took You So Long?

In a best-case scenario, the new Congress will consider and pass legislation to finally clear the way for the Keystone pipeline.

Of course, this assumes two things. One, that the unyielding and uncompromising President gives an inch (he has never yet done so); and that the wobbly Republican leadership abandon their compulsion to please, plead, kneel, beg, compromise, and — if only for a moment — act like grown adults who won an election rather than hopeless losers who don’t even deserve an equal vote in national issues.

Those are mighty big ifs, to be sure.

What exactly is the basis for opposition to the Keystone pipeline in the first place? It’s allegedly “the environment.” Basically, advocates of climate change theory (which they treat as indisputable fact), assert that producing more oil will accelerate global warming over the coming decades and centuries.

Their premise is that global warming theory is a proven fact; yet it’s only a theory. On the other hand, the high cost of gas — double what it used to be not that long ago — is a very real problem. It’s called supply and demand. The less you have of a product relative to the demand, the more that product will cost. If you want lower gas prices — and many of us need lower fuel and gas prices, not only want them — then you ought to be the strongest proponent of the Keystone pipeline or anything that will rationally deliver us more energy supply, as quickly as possible.

Another premise of the anti-Keystone environmentalists is: Oil companies only care about money; it takes people concerned about the environment to keep us safe. If you favor a new pipeline or additional drilling for oil, you’re called an advocate of “big oil” companies who are automatically and always considered evil. But can’t you favor a greater supply of fuel for other reasons? Most of us don’t own oil companies, and most of us don’t own stock in them. Isn’t there an advantage to consumers — to the vaunted “little guy” we’re always hearing about — in paying less at the gas pump each week?

I once heard contemporary environmentalism defined as an “urban religion.” The people who advocate it — usually unthinkingly, viewing the environmentalist agenda as the innocent equivalent of being kind to animals and refusing to throw trash on the highway — are generally people who can afford the high prices of gas. Sure, they’d prefer to pay less, but they blame that on the wealthy, as if others’ wealth somehow drove the costs up rather than the economic law of supply and demand.

Psychologically, environmentalism — which results in things like the Keystone pipeline not getting approved — does strike me as a religion. It relies on uncritical faith and defies reason. It fosters a sense of neurotic anxiety, projecting a theoretical or perhaps even nonexistent future — embodied in the floating abstraction of “the climate” — and in the process overlooks and evades the very real consequences of reducing oil production in the present. It also promotes unearned guilt. “You have all this wealth, comfort and warmth … that’s selfish and materialistic. No good will come from it!” If you think about it, environmentalism isn’t all that different from old-fashioned puritanism. However different in style, each goes after a common enemy: pleasure and enjoyment while living on earth.

I know that people who support environmentalism like to think of themselves as enlightened, progressive, forward-looking souls. I see their viewpoint as precisely the opposite: conservative, fearful, guilt-ridden and repressive.

Let’s get real about oil companies for a moment. Oil companies compete for a profit. Like any private entity — and unlike the government — they face liability. If they make a mistake, they pay for it in reduced profits and (worst case) insolvency and bankruptcy. If they harm private property or public utilities such as drinking water (one reason given against the Keystone pipeline), they will face legal liability. Private companies, even big ones, are not invulnerable. They face risks and they must act accordingly.

None of this is true of the government. Environmentalists have put all their trust and faith into the government to save us. But government can’t do anything to save us other than protect private property, and hold private entities accountable if they damage the property of others — or if they defraud their customers. These are very important roles, and without government to uphold the role of policeman, private property would not be of much value. At the same time, if we use government to thwart the development of science and technology, then nothing will ever get better. Anarchy is not the solution. But neither is using the force of government to reduce economic vitality and energy production. These are the very things upon which our survival depends. Without them, our government is of no more use to us than the government of a banana republic — which we will eventually become, if we don’t reverse course on environmentalism.

We’re told that environmentalists are the “liberals” and the “progressives.” But that’s not the case. All environmentalism has to offer us is a return to the past. Environmentalism is conservative in the truest, most literal sense of the word. In a best-case scenario — from the most committed environmentalist point-of-view — we would not only prevent the Keystone pipeline from operating; we’d reduce or even eliminate oil production altogether.

Sure, if you take the climate change model treated as fact by government-funded research as the absolute truth, that would be good for the environment. But what would it mean for human life on earth? The more we reduce energy consumption, the more we reduce the ability of companies, individuals — and even government itself — to transport goods, to keep the lights on, to keep the engine of life on earth as we know it running. Without oil and energy, there is no life on earth as we know it. Most of us would perish. That’s a much greater threat than the projected and vastly oversimplified, religious-like and largely unscientific panic over global warming.

If you don’t want to live in the wilderness, and if you enjoy all the electricity, heat, air conditioning, Internet connectivity and life-saving/life-enhancing supplies that would all disappear tomorrow without a thriving, robust and for-profit energy (including oil) industry, then what exactly is your problem with the Keystone pipeline?

It never should have been controversial in the first place.


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