The State Department Friday released its long-awaited environmental impact analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline. The analysis is key because President Obama announced last summer he would not approve the pipeline unless it was found to have no significant impact on climate change. And that’s what the analysis finds. It argues, as many other analysts have concluded, that if we block the pipeline, Canada will just ship the oil out by rail.
So, what public policy reason is there to block the pipeline? There really isn’t one. Indeed, the environmentalists’ obsession with Keystone began as a gigantic mistake. Two and a half years ago, the environmentalist James Hansen wrote a blog post alerting his readers to the pipeline, which he concluded would amount to “game over” for the climate, as it would lead to the burning of enough new oil to moot any effort to limit runaway greenhouse gases. His analysis was based on a simple back-of-the-envelope calculation that turned out to be wrong in several respects, the most important being the assumption that blocking the pipeline would keep the oil in the Canadian oil sands in the ground.
Put another way: The Canadians intend to sell their oil, whether to Americans or someone else. Pipelines have a better safety record than tankers or the railroad carrying oil. But apparently environmentalists are just fine with forcing Americans to use immensely more expensive forms of energy than oil, coal and natural gas.
On the other hand, it is amusing to watch the envirowackos spin themselves into the ground trying to justify such forms of “green” energy as wind turbines that kill birds, and now solar panels that fry birds dumb enough to fly by.