Posts Tagged ‘ANWAR’

KEYSTONE PIPELINE UPDATE: PROS & CONS

When President Obama initially vetoed the TransCanada Corporation’s proposed $7 billion Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline (also known as the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Project),  it meant that 830,000 barrels of oil a day would not travel from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf’s oil refineries via a pipeline.  Though a politically popular decision with environmentalists,  it was very unpopular with construction unions, as well as most Americans.

To counter criticism, some from leaders in his own political party, President Obama made an appearance in Cushing Oklahoma on March 22, 2013  saying that he would fast-track any required permitting of the 485 miles of pipeline traveling from Cushing down to the Gulf.  That part of the proposed pipeline is on privately-owned land in the U.S. so President Obama couldn’t do much to stop its construction even if he wanted to.  Without the northern leg of the pipeline, however, the 830,000 barrels of much-needed oil/day wouldn’t be coming from Canada and this leg of the pipeline the President could and did stop because the pipeline would have to cross the Canadian-American border (and therefore required Federal approval).

TransCanada subsequently modified its proposed route through the environmentally-sensitive areas of Nebraska and resubmitted its application.  There was not much remaining that was controversial and the U.S. State Department  found it to have “no significant impacts on the quality of the human environment,” which is the wording and standard contained in the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA).

The Keystone pipeline is not simply about oil, but also about  thousands of jobs (estimated to be 20-40,000  construction and 100,000 indirect jobs) and significant positive effects on the economy.  It’s therefore important to analyze President Obama’s decision to determine if it’s mostly political or based on genuine detriments to the environment.

It’s no secret that the far left is anti-fossil fuel because of what it perceives as unacceptable pollution.  To this end, the Obama Administration came out with 5 sets of anti-coal regulations which were estimated to cost the United States  the loss of over one million jobs.  In addition, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is zeroing in on anti-fracking regulations to control the utilization of the huge natural gas reserves (over a 100-years worth) in the U.S.; however,  the far-left contends that its opposition to the Keystone Pipeline  is mainly because of possible leaks from the line.  In addition, formerEnergy Secretary Chu had stated that it would be desirable to have U.S. gas prices at European levels ($8-10/gallon), so that alternative fuels would be more price-competitive.

Carbon emissions in the United States have been drastically reduced over the past 50 years.  Autos emit only a tiny fraction of what they used to.  Coal-fired power plants have been cleaned up.  In contrast, China brings on-line  two new coal-fired power plants a week and these plants, unlike U.S. plants, emit lots of pollution.  Air pollution knows no boundaries, so it’s a lot less polluting to the earth for the U.S. to burn its coal rather than for China.

Solar and wind sources of energy only supply about 5% of the nation’s energy needs.  Hydroelectric supplies less than 10%, nuclear about 19% (France gets 80% of  its energy from nuclear).  So for the foreseeable future the U.S. still needs fossil fuels.  Therefore this dilemma is not really a dilemma at all.  If the U.S. cannot get the oil it needs from domestic sources and help improve the economy and create thousands of jobs at the same time, it will get it from foreign sources and give up to $500 billion a year of its wealth to countries that don’t like us and in some instances mean us harm, and to the detriment of the economy as well.

The United States is constantly improving  extraction and utilization methods for fossil fuels, while continuing to develop alternative sources of energy, including nuclear energy.  The potential for Keystone Pipeline leakage can be mitigated through built-in protective redundancies.  Even the original Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), prepared pursuant to NEPA, published in late August 2011 after three years of preparation, found “no significant impacts” from the pipeline.  If a pipeline oil leak did occur, it’s far easier to stop it and then clean it up, than if a leak occurred from an offshore pipeline.

There’s simply not enough alternative energy, including nuclear energy, currently available and it will be decades before there is, so for now we need fossil fuels and the United States has more natural gas, coal, and oil than any other country in the world, but it also has an array of laws and regulations preventing its access and use.  The pipeline could be raised off the ground, as was the Alaska pipeline, or it could detour around the major 200,000-square-mile Ogallala or High Plains Aquifer in Nebraska and other surrounding States.

If the United States does not build the Keystone pipeline, Canada will build an oil pipeline from the Tar Sands to its west coast and the 830,00 barrels of oil a day will be sold to China and an additional 150,000 barrels of oil a day from the Bakken Formation in North Dakota will have to continue to use trucks and rail to haul its oil south to Gulf refineries rather than simply using a safer Keystone Pipeline to transport it.  U.S. gas prices would have consequently been over $5 gallon by now except for the fact that the U.S. economy has been so weak and Saudi Arabia drastically reduced the price of oil by flooding the world market with it.   Contributing to upward price pressure of oil is the “slow-walking” of permitting of wells in the Gulf,  not allowing drilling in ANWAR and on most of the Outer Continental Shelf, and by OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), who sets world oil prices based on world supply and demand.

President Obama delayed his decision  on the pipeline until after the 2014 mid-term elections, basically because a large Democrat donor (Tom Steyer)  pledged to donate over $50,000,000 to the Democrats if he did so (Steyer actually spent close to $80,000,000).  After the 2010 mid-term elections, the new Republican-led House of Representatives voted to build the pipeline but the still-Democratic-led Senate voted against it.  The 2014 Congress began in January 2015, and both the Republican-led House and now Republican-led Senate approved it, but President Obama vetoed it.

President Trump signed an Executive Order on January 24, 2017 ordering the re-opening of the approval process for the pipeline.  On March 23, the State Department granted a permit for the construction of the pipeline to proceed.

 

 

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PAY OFF THE NATIONAL DEBT BY BECOMING ENERGY INDEPENDENT

Few would disagree that it is a worthy goal for the United States to achieve energy independence, and even better, become a major energy exporter and pay off the national debt with the wealth we created from the proceeds?  Most would agree that achieving this goal with little or no air or water pollution would be a good thing for the U.S. and for the planet.  Wouldn’t it also be great if the U.S. had no national debt?

In 2013, the U.S. spent 388 billion dollars to buy oil from foreign countries, some of which are using our money to fund terrorist activities against us…and money that could otherwise be used to help stimulate the American economy and create jobs for Americans.  At the height of the Arab Oil Embargo in 1973, dependence on foreign oil was about 35%.  In 2013, dependence on foreign oil was 32%.  In other words, our dependence on foreign oil has slightly decreased in 40 years.

So what can and should the United States do, if anything?  I see two sides of this issue: 1) does the U.S. have the oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear, wind, solar and hydroelectric power to be self-sufficient and also export oil, gas, and coal; and 2) can we access, use, and sell some these energy sources in an environmentally responsible way?

From my research, it appears that the U.S. has over 100 years worth of natural gas, three times the oil stores of Saudi Arabia,  and 250 years worth of coal which the U.S. is now capable of burning using carbon capturing technology, with significantly reduced carbon-emissions.  Currently the U.S. gets about 18% of its energy from nuclear sources and a small amount from hydroelectric, solar and wind.

While the U.S. is furiously attempting to develop its solar and wind energy capacities, they won’t be significant sources of energy for at least 25 years.  We need to have sufficient energy now to fuel our economy, heat our homes,  as well as make gasoline abundant and affordable to power our cars and trucks (electric-powered cars run on electricity mostly generated by burning coal, the most polluting fossil fuel) .

There is no question that the U.S. is blessed with more energy than any other country.  Given the latest technologies, there’s also no question that we can extract and burn oil, gas and coal in an environmentally-sound manner.  The only hindrance is political.  There are a  number of people who believe that burning any fossil or carbon fuels, even the green fossil fuel…natural gas, is bad for the environment.  They have been effective in preventing oil exploration in ANWAR, in stopping the use of oil shale (although the oil from it can be extracted in-situ), and in preventing the licensing of new nuclear power plants (which are much safer than those old reactors in Japan, or the one in Pennsylvania (Three Mile Island… that had a partial meltdown in 1979). There are even prohibitions against drilling for oil even 1oo miles from our Florida and California coastlines.  Of course, China and Cuba are drilling  for oil 60 miles from our Florida coastline.  And of course the U.S. has loaned Brazil two billion dollars so that it can explore off of its coastline.

Finally, Canada was an economic basket case in 2009 and decided to get serious about drilling for oil because it needed the revenue.   It worked, and Canada is now doing very well.  Perhaps its neighbor to the south (the U.S.) will do the same.  Under Donald Trump’s presidency, America will finally become energy independent and also significantly pay down the National debt.

 

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