By USA Today Editorial Board
After years of dithering, President Obama finally acted quickly and decisively Tuesday on the Keystone XL pipeline: Within hours of receiving a bill approving construction of the $8 billion project, he vetoed it.
In a terse veto message, the president said the Keystone legislation would “circumvent longstanding and proven processes” for evaluating a project like this one. Oh, please. The administration has been evaluating Keystone for more than six years. There’s just no plausible excuse for the epic delay that has turned what should be a relatively minor policy dispute into one of Washington’s hyperventilated shouting matches.
The pipeline is neither as magnificent as its promoters claim nor as apocalyptic as detractors say. It’s just a pipeline, like thousands of miles of other pipelines that crisscross the USA. If built, it would provide a reliable source of oil from Canada, and a way to transport other crude from shale formations in North Dakota, at a time when there are still 250 million vehicles on U.S. roads and alternative energy shows little sign of supplanting oil.
If the Keystone pipeline saga were a play, the audience would long ago have gotten up and left out of sheer boredom. The company that wants to build the pipeline first asked for approval from the State Department nearly seven years ago. Since then, every conceivable issue has been exhaustively investigated, and virtually every fact has gotten mangled.
Most of the 42,000 jobs Republicans say Keystone will create will last only as long as it takes to lay the pipe. Once construction is finished, it will support 50 jobs, according to a State Department analysis.
As for critics’ claims that the pipeline would be “game over” for the climate, the argument would be more compelling if it weren’t abundantly apparent that the oil will be produced one way or another, pipeline or no.
The difference is that without Keystone, much of the oil will travel by train, which can be exceptionally dangerous and destructive. The latest example came just last week, when a train carrying oil from North Dakota derailed in West Virginia. At least no one died this time, though a house was destroyed, a river was fouled and drinking water was shut off temporarily. The residents of Lac-Megantic, Quebec, weren’t so lucky in July 2013, when an oil train got loose, derailed and exploded inside the small town, killing 47 people.