How the Environmentalists Won and the Environment LostAlan Carlin | November 12, 2015
Last week President Obama turned down the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline from Western Canada into the US. He was required to determine whether it was in the national interest; he claimed that it was not on the basis that it would have undermined US “global leadership” to “fight” climate change. He had taken about seven years to make this decision.
It has long been clear to any neutral observer that construction of the Pipeline would have been in the national interest as a whole and in the interest of the environment as well. It would have cost the US nothing since it would have been paid for by a Canadian company, but would have provided jobs for American workers. Environmentally, it would have reduced the risk of rail oil spills with all their human and environmental costs and reduced CO2 emissions because of the reduced use of fossil fuels to transport oil by pipeline compared to rail transport. It would have increased US national security by reducing the risk from a sudden cut off of world supplies of oil from unstable countries in the Middle East. And it would have satisfied the desires of Canada, perhaps our most trusted ally. Obama’s decision will result in increased US investment in new rail oil loading capacity which otherwise would not have been necessary. So everyone would have gained from approving the pipeline except green ideologues and railroads.
Obama’s Decision Reflects His Greater Concern for Environmental Special Interests Rather than the National Interest
Obama’s decision has not had any effect on his alleged US climate “leadership” (a role which has actually been filled mainly by the European Union) and is highly unlikely to change anything other than Obama’s standing with US environmental groups. Rather, what it shows is Obama’s devotion to the views of environmental special interest groups rather than the US national interest.
Except in unusual special cases where a decision significantly adversely impacts other parties (such as causing serious conventional pollution), the world is better off economically to allow the private markets to make economic decisions; such is the case here. Clearly the markets favored construction of the Pipeline and was prevented from doing so only by government.
The market also favors increasing use of fossil fuels to meet human needs for energy. The environmental movement claims that the world can and should decrease such use and the CO2 emissions they result in. But this is just another green fantasy. With or without the UN and its protocols, the less developed world is actually going to increase CO2 emissions because their people want and need access to low cost energy to achieve their development objectives.
The thin veneer of “science” offered by the UN to justify attempts to reduce fossil fuel use is based on a series of assumptions that have no basis in science. Like Obama’s Pipeline decision, increasing the use of non-hydro “renewable” sources of energy is economically damaging and hurts everyone except environmental ideologues and wind and solar promoters. Both the XL decision and government-imposed requirements for “renewable” energy, such as the EPA “Clean Power Plan,” are examples of Environmentalism Gone Mad.