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Pat Piper has made a career learning something new. As a journalist in the news business, “something new” occurs every hour so he’s becoming an expert at understanding stuff he never thought about. Learning became a common word in “Future Talk: Conversations About Tomorrow” (Warner Books), the popular book he ghostwrote with Larry King as […]

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Looking at Keystone

By on January 15, 2015 in See It Here

There was a time, boys and girls, when the word “keystone” meant something having to do with Pennsylvania. Not any more.

For the past 6 years, that word has referred to a 1,000-plus mile pipeline that would carry crude oil mined from the tar sands of Hardisty,  Alberta to oil refineries in and near Port Arthur, Texas. Proponents, and there are many, say it will create jobs to build the 36” diameter pipeline while creating revenue for a majority of the 27 US counties through which the pipeline would pass.  Opponents, and there are many as well, say there’s danger of a pipeline break that could  poison the water supply…i.e.  the proposed route crosses Nebraska’s Ogallala acquifer which supplies fresh water to the area’s farm land–hence the concern. The creating jobs claim is certainly valid but only on a short-term basis: 42,000 jobs will be created to build it but… once it’s up and running, less than 100 will be required to oversee its operation.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says approving the Keystone XL pipeline is the #1 priority. After all, it’s about jobs.

President Obama says if the bill passes both houses of Congress, he’ll veto it. This means both the House and the Senate need 2/3rds of their members on board to override a presidential veto (67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House). Both are short of that right now.

This kind of debate is healthy for all of us and if you find yourself watching a CSI rerun, go to CSPAN and see a better drama (and theater) play out. There’s more one-liners there than on Kimmel. Lately, members of Congress are dragging a staff member along with poster boards to outline their talking points but this isn’t for other members because most aren’t even in the chamber. All of this is for you, watching on TV.

The Keystone XL pipeline debate is one more example of lazy thinking. We go for the quick fix, using the mindset of “we’ve always done it this way” rather than “maybe there’s a new approach to be taken?” We’ve always used oil, we’ve built successful industries based on the use of crude so, golly, why waste time looking at another way to do it?

Consider the time we’ve spent focused on doing the same thing with oil and cut-and-paste it to focus on solar and wind. Of course, the opponents will jump up and down–maybe with a poster board held by a staff member–saying that’s unproven technology for the large scale adding a pinch of “it will cost jobs” for those in industries dependent on oil.

It’s always easy to talk about the way things have always been done, and doing so requires absolutely no attempt–or effort– to look at the horizon. Short-term views require little thought about where we’re headed. The Keystone will pass both houses of Congress but the veto pen remains a possibility–which means more banter about the opposite side not looking out for the American people blah, blah, blah.

Lazy thinking provides a lot of jobs….in Washington D.C.

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