Now that Obama has won his second term and is officially America’s President for the next four years, Americans are awaiting his every next move. It is also clear that what the public is awaiting with the most anticipation are decisions about the economy, jobs, education, international affairs, and taxes. The widespread absence of concern for environment in the forefront of our country’s concerns and priorities was reflected in its limited presence in the debates and advertisements of the candidates during election season. And as a result, the direction in which Obama intends to lead the country in terms of environmental initiative has been rather ambiguous. However the current issue of Keystone XL pipeline project seems as though it is going to be his first opportunity of his new term to take some initiative, make some decisions, and finally indicate to the public what he will more or less prioritize in making decisions that could potentially dictate the fate of our nation; the economy or the environment.
The Keystone XL, an extension proposed by TransCanada Corporation in September 2008 of the original Keystone pipeline, which was authorized to be built in March, 2008 would extend it from Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline would carry crude oil about 1700 miles from western Canada to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, thus crossing international boundaries and requiring State Department approval
Advocates for the pipeline argue that it would create at least a thousand much-needed jobs, promote economic growth, and reduce America’s dependence on foreign crude oil.
Those against the pipeline argue that these benefits would be at significant environmental expenses. Environmentalists cite a new study by Cornell University that found that Keystone XL would be as well an economic liability that could produce to up 91 spills over a 50-year period. Especially at a time when we are, or at least should be trying to decrease our emissions, opening up this new source of carbon-emitting energy would be working against environmental progress that we’ve made, and re-steering our country’s environmental policy in the wrong direction.
Obama rejected the overall pipeline application proposal once in January 2012, then in June gave approval to start the construction of a smaller 500-mile proportion, perhaps in an effort to diffuse criticism coming at him from both sides. But now he is facing renewed pressure again from both parties for and against the extension; from Republicans and economy-advocates to give Presidential Permission to begin construction of the whole extension and from many Democrats, environmental-advocates, and Texans to completely shut down the project.
Improvements in the economy and the environment do not go hand in hand, and when they come head to head, which they often do as in this Key Stone Xl situation, one must be sacrificed. The importance of this debate and that it must be addressed was depicted eerily perfectly by the fact that the election revolved almost completely around discussions about the economy, and then was immediately followed by the devastating and destructive Hurricane Sandy. Healthy environment and economy are clearly essential to the health of our society, and strong advocates with worthy and substantial arguments reside on both sides of the debate. One can only hope that in the future our leaders, lawmakers, politicians and business execs can find ways to better negotiate, bargain, and come to more mutually beneficial agreements.