August 31, 2016

Conservation is Conservative

Keystone XL Pipeline

The title of ConservAmerica’s energy policy gives a strong hint as to its content: CLEANER, HERE, NOW.

There are very few people in our nation who would not wave a magic wand to convert our energy production immediately to 100% clean and renewable, and create as many, if not more, good jobs as we currently have in the fossil fuel industry. Alas, magic wands only exist in Harry Potter’s world.

Experts and organizations from around the country have offered their preferred road maps to our energy future. Ideology and emotion cloud the conversation at both ends of the political spectrum. ConservAmerica’s audience is Republicans. Therefore, our road map is drawn to appeal to serious-minded Republican lawmakers.

This week, the United States Department of State released its analysis on the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project. The left-of-center environmental community was not pleased. ConservAmerica has not issued a policy statement on the XL Pipeline matter. On one hand, we support a shift away from fossil fuels (with full recognition that it isn’t going to happen overnight). On the other, we consider the “all in” external costs of energy. We see no reason to believe that Canada will not ship tar sand oil to Asia if the U.S. does not build the pipeline. The carbon emissions caused by shipping the oil to the far side of the planet, the risks of tanker spills on the Pacific, and the fact that no country develops, processes, and uses fossil fuels as cleanly as the U.S. all factor in.

Extracting oil from the Alberta tar sands is an expensive proposition. Rather than working to stop something that appears inevitable, we are working to promote alternative and cleaner fuels that may render tar sands economically infeasible.

New York Times columnist Joe Nocera wrote about this topic this week. Click here to read.

The Washington Post editorial board dedicated an opinion piece on the pipeline, too. Click here to read.

Please share your thoughts on the Keystone XL Pipeline!

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  1. Noted climate scientists Dr. James Hansen has argued that if Keystone XL goes ahead it is ‘game over’ on the climate. Bill McKibben’s ‘Do the Math’ tour pointed out that to keep the global temperature under a 2 degree centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit increase) above historic patterns, we can allow only 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere. Unfortunately, there 275 gigatons in known fossil fuel reserves. The message is clear, we must leave 4/5th of what we now know exists in the ground if we care about conserving a livable planet for future generations. Tar sand and oil shale oil is the dirtiest oil available in terms of carbon dioxide production, and is the most expensive in terms of Energy Returned on Energy Invested. This means it is the first source of oil we should allocate to the ‘leave in the ground’ category. Furthermore, all the currently commercially available renewable energy sources are much more energetically efficient than tar sand and oil shale oil – and, interestingly, oil other fossil fuels. Not only should we NOT encourage tar sand extraction anywhere, we should be taxing all fossil fuel extraction in order to make the clean energy sources more competitive.
    This is a planetary ‘no-brainer.’

  2. Rod Tayler says:

    Cleaner, Here, Now? As a lifelong Republican, I have been increasingly dismayed at the path of ignorance our party has taken over the last two decades. There was a time when we valued education and respected leaders in academic fields. The experts in climate have made it clear that, if we extract and burn the oil that is in Alberta’s tar sands, climate change will exceed a critical tipping point and the negative effects will be of “biblical” proportions. But we Republicans, including the person who wrote the above piece on the pipeline, prefer to be “educated” by Fox News rather than by scientists and the results of their research. Whatever else we think about those who are “left-of-center,” we should work with them to shift our economy away from fossil fuels whenever and wherever we can. We must transform our economy to one based on clean energy over the next 20 years, in part by blocking means of expanding fossil fuel use (like the Keystone XL Pipeline), and not wait 60+ years for those damaging fuels to run out. By then it will be too late.

    • Rod, I don’t think you’ll find any disagreement here with your statement. The question is, is the XL pipeline the right fight to pick right now? Unlike climate science (where there is near complete consensus that a) it is real and b)man is accelerating it, there is legitimate dissent in environmental and economic circles about the pipeline. First, if President Obama turns it down, what happens? Canada claims it will build a line to the Pacific and ship the oil to Asia.

      Economically, tar sands oil is extremely expensive to produce, relative to other energy resources including wind, solar, and domestic natural gas. Even if the pipeline gets built, some economic models show that the companies mining the oil would lose money on every barrel pumped through it. The case is made that the tar sands may be abandoned until such time as oil prices rise high enough again to cover costs and profit. With more clean energy coming on line every month, and the cost dropping dramatically, we may never get to a time when tar sands are economically attractive.

      The left-of-center environmental movement is investing an enormous amount of time, money, and energy on an issue that, on the surface, it appears poised to lose. Would it have been better to marshal that effort to support the growing conversation about a carbon tax or somewhere else? We (ConservAmerica) wish we received a fraction of the funding that the left of center groups receive. With a huge grassroots base of Republicans dedicated to restoring the GOP’s great conservation legacy, we would have the critical mass to backstop Republican members of Congress who speak out in support of these issues. Right now, Republican elected officials are between a rock and hard place. Stand up for conservation and the Club for Growth will dedicate millions to ending your career. Preserve your nomination, and you’re sure to draw a strong Democrat opponent with nearly unanimous support from the environmental community.

      We truly believe our motto: Conservation is Conservative. We have to make it safe for Republicans and conservative officials to live up to it.

  3. Arguing that there is a genuine disagreement about the Keystone XL pipeline is not far removed from claiming there is disagreement among climate scientists about climate change and its causes. Independent studies by individuals actually supporting Keystone conclude that the number of construction jobs likely to be generated is a paltry 500 to 1400, while the number of permanent jobs is between 20 and 50. No-one should buy the exaggerated claims about employment touted by those who will reap huge economic rewards from the projects.

    The greenhouse gas consequences of promoting the extraction and processing of tar sand oil would be disastrous from a planetary point of view. And that means disastrous for future generation – our grand-children and beyond. At some point it is important to stand on principle. If the informed members of the Republican Party will not lead the way, who will? Is the possibility of not getting re-elected really more important than future generations? Republicans will never become the conservative party of conservation if bailing out at the first tough call is the approach.

    If a bank guard allowed robbers into the bank and used the defense: “If I hadn’t let them in, someone else would have done so” he/she would be in jail before you could count to three. The same argument applies to Keystone. Ducking the issue in the hope that economic factors will save the day is to abandon one’s moral compass and flirt with disaster.

    • Alan, again, you’ll find no disagreement from ConservAmerica regarding the environmental consequences of deforestation and other problems associated with Canadian tar sands development, or of burning tar sand oil. The question is, if the U.S. turns down the Keystone XL pipeline, will the tar sands still be developed? If the answer is yes, then the question is, is there a higher and best use of the effort and investment being made to stop the construction of the pipeline.

      • But isn’t that rather like arguing: “I might as well rob this bank or steal this old lady’s purse, because if I don’t’ someone else will?” Shouldn’t we march under a slightly higher moral banner than that?

  4. Given the U.S. economy’s trillion dollar annual deficit, the only solution to avoiding an economic collapse from debt overload is for our economy to start growing faster. Climate change is also a threat to the economy. The most feasible compromise between the two is a focus on saving energy. We should take steps to reduce CO2 emissions, while also increasing the percentage of U.S. energy needs that comes from North American sources.

    Admittedly, the above suggestion is unsatisfying to extremists both sides of the debate But: increasing North American production of fossil fuels while also taking steps to reducing consumption promotes energy security and economic growth, while providing some global warming mitigation, To much focus on policies that reduce production of fossil fuels in North America will strangle the economy and lead to even more youth unemployment. Thus, while it is terrible that this project will lead to more pumping of emissions from the “dirty oil” tar sands into the environment, the Keystone XL pipeline should still be approved

    • Identifying the scientific consensus as an extremist position is not helpful and does not suggest an informed analysis of the issue.

      The problem we face is that fossil fuel corporations have successfully promoted a campaign of lies and deceptions about climate change generally and Keystone particularly. An informed judgment cannot be reached while we still promote the lies and deceptions. It is necessary to cut to the real information.

      Some of these are:

      1) Keystone XL will NOT generate hundreds of thousands of jobs. This is one of the proponent oil company’s basic lies. Independent analyses by groups actually supporting Keystone reveal the actual number of temporary construction jobs generated would be between 500 and 1400 – a drop in the bucket. Meanwhile the number of permanent jobs would be between 20 and 50. Keystone does not offer an economic boon to anyone but – maybe – the oil company executives pushing it.

      2) Keystone will contribute nothing to continental or national energy independence. It’s all about transporting oil to the Gulf for refining and selling to the highest bidder. The likelihood is that the oil will end up overseas somewhere.

      3) The problems created by extracting and processing the tar sands are many. The most critical is that this is by far the most carbon dioxide emitting method of extracting oil. The process also lays waste (through open-pit mining such as the open pit coal ‘mines’ in the Appalachians) to huge areas of boreal forest – itself an important carbon sequestering ecosystem.

      4) In order to keep the global temperature down to an increase of 2⁰C (3.6⁰F) – a goal itself which is biologically threatening to our life support system. Because of the temperature consequences of what we have already released we are already 3/4 of the way to this upper limit. To keep below that, we can only afford to release another 565 gigatons of Carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, known reserves amount to 2,795 gigatons of Carbon dioxide. The message is clear; we have to leave 4/5th of the fossil fuels known to exist IN THE GROUND. The most berserk fossil fuel to extract is that which is the most Carbon intensive.

      5) In terms of Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI), the measure we must apply, tar sands oil is the worst – barely better than breaking even. Like other fossil fuels its EROEI is getting worse. Renewable sources, meanwhile, are all better than all fossil fuels and have a rising EROEI. We absolutely cannot afford an ‘all of the above’ policy.

      6) The worst of climate change – if we follow a ‘business as usual’ model, will befall our children and grandchildren – who will be asking us in our old age (or in absentia) what we did to address and solve the problem. However, as we know, climate change effects are here and now. Ask the Midwest and Southwest farmers and ranchers, or the South and East coast residents suffering increasing storm severity the critical question: “who is paying the price of continued fossil fuel reliance and who should be paying?” Consequences of climate change will only get worse – not just for future generations but for us as well.

      7) If we open tar sands and other insane fossil fuel sources up for extraction, we are consigning future generation to an unlivable planet. Is there anyone, Republican or Democrat (or anything else for that matter) who is prepared to argue that we should sacrifice the livability of our planet for short term profits and illusory economic benefit?

      The unmistakable conclusion is that Keystone must be stopped.

      • There are 1,199 coal fired power plants on the drawing board according to a World Resources Institute report. Vehicle emissions in India and China are growing rapidly due to greater car ownership. The Japanese are exploring extracting methane hydrate “fire ice” from the ocean floor. Given these facts, not quite sure how blocking the Keystone XL pipeline will save the planet. As indicated in my original comment, emissions mitigation is a better path than blocking North American production. And increasing employment at gulf coast refineries and reducing the U.S balance of payments deficits is not a bad thing

        • If we wish other nations to take reasonable steps, we cannot be the tailgaters; we have to be the leaders. The moral high ground is not won by those who argue: “I might as well rob banks; look at all the other people who do – and my robbery will hardly make a dent.” This is a defeatist position.

  5. I agree with Rob (“staff”). Keystone XL is not the fight conservative conservationists should be picking; let the radical lefties have at it while we have a larger target.

    I encourage all of you to visit the web site of the Rocky Mountain Institute ( ). Read about Re-Inventing Fire. RMI is the premier alternative energy think-tank in the country. They work with US corporations, the Pentagon, and have an international following. I recall REP/CA’s former policy director, Jim DiPeso, talking about building efficiency, as just one example that our organization has worked.

    I agree with Alan about one thing; and that is the overblown prediction of job creation. I actually read Trans Canada’s filings a couple years ago. The energy industry flacks & shills talked about 20,000 new job for building the pipeline. What Trans Canada said was 20,000 employment years and taking 4 years to build it. That’s 5,000 jobs, not 20,000.

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