In what amounts to good news for social-justice advocates and for all those concerned about protecting the environment and the health and safety of many people, the Obama Administration has announced that it will reject the Keystone XL pipeline proposal that would extend an oil pipeline from Canada through the continental United States to refineries in Texas. Although his justification is allegedly the “rushed and arbitrary deadline” of the proposed project, President Obama’s actions are to be lauded by Christians, especially the many who have worked very hard to protest and prevent this dangerous project, including several of my brother Franciscan friars and students at Franciscan Catholic colleges and universities. The Washington Post reports:

President Obama, denouncing a “rushed and arbitrary deadline” set by congressional Republicans, announced Wednesday that he was rejecting a Canadian firm’s application for a permit to build and operate the Keystone XL pipeline, a massive project that would have stretched from Canada’s oil sands to refineries in Texas.

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  1. Please allow me to be exempted from the Christians who putatively laud President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline. It is fatuous to suggest that fossilphobia is mandated by Christian social justice.

    A better argument would be that social justice is served by making well-paying jobs available in construction , refinery and associated industries. One might also make a plausible argument that the cause of peace is advanced by decreasing our dependence on the supply of oil from the unstable Middle East.

    But the Left is so dedicated to an environmental monasticism that sees evil in all things fossil, that it can’t see energy as anything but an oil spill. Opposition to the pipeline has no reasonable basis. Canada will produce the oil with or without the pipeline, and it will be combusted somewhere.

    Congress knew the president would not comply with the short leash requirement; it was a tactic to expose his politically motivated dawdling. There would be no problem with a delay to solve some safety issues like the Sand Hill aquifer, if there was an obvious commitment to the project. But the president is caught in a political dilemma because of the opposing viewpoints of labor and the environmental lobby, so he has not signaled any fundamental approval.

    The Canadian firm has announced its intention to reapply for a permit. We should hope that its patience is greater than the president’s intransigence. Delay is the deadliest form of denial.

  2. From “The Great Pipeline Scam” by MICHAEL LEONARDI in today’s “In another ridiculous moment of political trickery, Obama managed to dupe a major chunk of the American environmental movement yesterday by refusing to authorize the construction of the Keystone Pipeline now. The keyword in that sentence which seems like it is being largely ignored by the enviros is now, because what Obama did do is leave open the possibility of authorizing the construction of a pipeline any time in the future, say just after the election? And not that it matters much, as pipeline or not Tar Sands are already being refined all across the United States in increasing amounts. This great victory being celebrated by, Bill Mckibben and the no carbon crusaders out there is a complete farce to manipulate voters as we head into the latest corporate sponsored election.

    “Why is it so hard for seemingly good and well intentioned people to see the reality in front of them? Climate change will not be reversed by temporarily stopping this pipeline and Tar Sands are still moving forward full steam ahead. The Petrolarchs will get their Tar Sands Oil to market anyway they can pipeline or not. As was widely reported in the mainstream media, the state department made sure to leave the door open for Trans Canada to go ahead with another proposal for the construction of the pipeline. Trans Canada says they are preparing to start construction on schedule, knowing full well that this is already a done deal. Is it Obama’s nurturing language that fools them? “The rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment,” Obama said. How many times will these well intentioned people allow themselves to be fooled? It seems that many of these good folks often get swept away by the feel good headlines and rarely read beyond the first two paragraphs of an article. Obama should be thanking the idiot republicans for this one, as it was a good way to rally a part of his most gullible base.”
    Jim Hartz
    P.S. See “The Wild Places” in THOMAS MERTON: Preview of the Asian Journey and/or “Four Changes” by Gary Snyder in his Pultizer Prize winning book TURTLE ISLAND from 50 years ago about the unnecessary idiocy of burning fossil fuels.

    1. Talk’s cheap, and sometimes unnecessarily disrespectful. Jim Hartz thinks burning fossil fuels is “unnecessary idiocy,” encouraged by “idiot Republicans.”

      The problem with this harshly simplistic view is that currently, there is no other way to meet the world’s energy needs. The jeremiad of the environmental Left suggests that the failure to replace fossil fuel energy production with “renewable energy” sources is just a failure to commit to the project, perhaps because of the influence of the oil barons. But the reality is that all of the energy alternatives have serious downsides. Wind is unreliable, ethanol from corn raises food prices, geothermal is available in limited areas, cellulosic has fizzled, there are no more significant hydroelectric sites, solar requires large land areas and persistent sunshine, and many of these options are very expensive. They can supplant but not replace fossil-based energy production.

      The most promising alternative energy source is nuclear, but the environmental zealots regard it with the same scorn as fossil fuels. Interestingly, nuclear is renewable. A May 21, 2011 WSJ editorial points out:
      “Uranium is not renewable, but plutonium is, in the sense that you can “breed” it in the right kind of reactor. Given how much we dislike plutonium and breeder reactors, it seems that the more renewable nuclear fuel is, the less we like it.”

      The global warming aspect of this matter is not as simple as it is often represented. A December, 2011 Reason Foundation study by Indur Goklany and Julian Morris does not attempt to predict future global temperatures. Instead, it models global well-being in four scenarios with different combinations of energy use, global warming and economic development.

      The study focuses on hunger, malaria and extreme events as the main threats to countries with large populations living in poverty. It argues that “emission reductions would at most reduce mortality from hunger, malaria and extreme events by only 13%, whereas focused adaptation could essentially eliminate these causes of mortality.” Comparison of the four models leads the authors to write that “human well-being in poorer countries is likely to be advanced most effectively by sustained economic development and least by emission reductions.”

      Of course it is impossible in the predictable future to achieve economic development without increasing emissions. The study’s assumptions accept this and factor in a putative increase in global warming and associated negative impacts proportional to the amount of development-related emissions.

      Economic development still produced the greatest increase in well-being, so Christians who profess concern for the poor should not be so ready to curtail energy development. And until they can put achievable energy alternatives on the table, they should refrain from overt disrespect toward the people who are trying to meet our energy needs within the limits of currently available technology.

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