The House voted Friday to approve construction of Keystone XL, an oil pipeline that supporters say will create thousands of jobs in the U.S. According to The Hill, the final vote tally was 266-153, which means that 28 Democrats voted in favor of the pipeline. The bill now goes to the Senate, where it’s fully expected to pass, and be sent to the White House.
The House does not yet have enough of a majority on the legislation to override a veto. If Obama makes good on his threat (which he will), it would derail approval. Congressional Republicans, along with a few Democrats, it seems, would rather continue to grease the palms of the oil industry than stand for what’s right—and refuse Keystone XL’s approval.
The Senate might be able to override a veto, though. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said, according to the Washington Times, that he believes the Senate will have the necessary two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto. Manchin is one of Keystone XL’s more staunch supporters in the Senate.
The U.S. won’t reap any benefits at all from Keystone XL, which is one of the reasons Obama will veto the legislation when it hits his desk. The oil brought from Canada’s tar sands down to the Gulf via the pipeline is not for us, so it won’t increase our supply, and won’t help keep our oil and gas prices down. In fact, the group Consumer Watchdog says that the pipeline actually has the potential to raise our gas prices. Their research shows that the end game is cheap oil for Asia, which can increase their demand, which raises oil prices overall, which raises our gasoline prices. The Midwest would be the hardest hit.
Also, this doesn’t have the potential to create the jobs that supporters say it does. According to Politifact, while construction of Keystone XL could result in thousands of temporary jobs (running a year or less), the actual number of permanent jobs is closer to 50. So much for a much-needed injection into our permanent, well-paying jobs market.
Environmentally, tar sands oil is among the dirtiest, most carbon intensive fossil fuels on the planet. The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been screaming for measures to address climate change now, which means phasing out tar sands extraction, among other things.
Since Canada has said that they’ll look for other ways to transport oil from the tar sands if we don’t build Keystone XL (hence the State Department report saying that blocking the pipeline won’t stop tar sands extraction), then refusing to build it on those grounds alone is kind of silly. However, when it comes to spill risk, one analysis has found that Trans Canada expects nearly 2 spills per year, with a large spill (more than 1,000 barrels) occurring, on average, once every eight years. That’s hardly rare, and it is dangerous.
Over the course of a decade, aggregate spill volume, if there are no horrific accidents, would be about 8,000 barrels of oil. This may not sound like much, but the Heartland has some of our most fertile land. Contaminating it with even small, but repetitive, oil spills from Keystone XL, is one of the worst ideas in the long, sad history of bad ideas.
When we get right down to brass tacks, Keystone XL represents no advantage to the U.S. None. Zero, zip, zilch, nada. The Senate might be able to override a veto, but the House may not, and both chambers need to be able to do that in order to force it through anyway. Good luck with this, GOP (and the select Democrats who also think Keystone is a good idea).