Tag Archives: emissions

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Keystone XL Politics

By Good-b Associate Editor, John Bain

A few months ago, it seemed like President Obama had made himself clear on the question of the Keystone XL pipeline:  No.

His response was precipitated by a wave of protest from environmentalists – for Obama, a key voting bloc. The president’s heart seems to be in it this time – a few days ago he personally lobbied members of Congress to oppose the pipeline.

But we have to keep in mind this is an election year. With a fierce race ahead of him, will he hold to his promise to keep Keystone XL from  being built?

I’m  not so sure. The issue on everyone’s mind right now is the economy, and it’s easy for Big Oil types to hawk Keystone XL as a panacea for our joblessness woes, with some supporters claiming the pipeline could directly create 20,000 jobs.

Never mind that this claim  is probably false – this is politics, where appearances matter above all else. It’s extremely easy to paint the Obama administration’s opposition as a typical anti-business Democratic policy.  In fact, to many voters it might make Obama look weak for supporting the abstract notion of environmentalism  over the very real concerns of hundreds of thousands of jobless Americans.

Even more worrisome is the fact that the political and cultural winds of change seem to be favoring the Pipeline more and more. As a child of the ‘90s, it makes my heart heavy to report that Bill Clinton himself is endorsing Keystone – and that’s a voice I, as a young voter, might consider actually listening to.  GOP nominee-apparent Mitt Romney is a supporter as well, and don’t doubt for a moment that if he gets the nomination he’ll make the pipeline a central issue on which to challenge the president.

A recent Pew poll even showed that 66 percent of Americans support Keystone XL… and also stronger environmental legislation. May I remind you that there have not been two more antithetical concepts since… ever

From a purely philosophical, environmentalist standpoint, the proposed pipeline is incredibly problematic. Tar sands oil production is extremely emissions intensive, and if Keystone XL were to be constructed it would ramp up this destructive industry considerably. To people who are already environmentalists, this is the only argument that matters; they’re already convinced Keystone XL would literally be the most catastrophic thing to ever happen to the planet.

However, I think there’s also a solid economic case to be made against the construction of the pipeline. This is the line of reasoning the president should use in debates to gain crossover appeal.

First of all, you need to consider the issue in context. The pipeline is supposed to transfer almost a million barrels of oil per day from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, Texas. Currently, Canada is our top oil supplier. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently went on a trip to China to discuss importation of Canadian oil to Asia.

Here the argument that Keystone XL will actually raise gas prices gains some cachet. As it stands, Canada has no easy way to get oil to the growing Asian economies. If Keystone XL is constructed, all of a sudden our largest trading partner will be spoiled for choice, with dozens of other nations knocking on its door to get a slice of the oil pie. Once this glut of demand happens, Canadian oil interests will be free to raise prices. Why wouldn’t they?

It’s natural for Canada to want this corridor through the United States so it can participate more fully in a world marketplace that is increasingly non-U.S.-centric.  So it follows that Keystone XL would be a great thing for Canada.  Not so much for the United States, where gas is already fast approaching five dollars a gallon.

Let’s go from  global Realpolitik back to philosophy, though. There’s yet another reason why Keystone XL will be un-American:  the construction of the pipeline would involve the seizure of large tracts of land from private citizens under the doctrine of eminent domain. Where do you think the land for 2,000+ miles of pipeline is going to come from? Activist judges have been speaking out against this sort of abuse for some time, but the fight is ongoing.

What’s more American than a bunch of Texan homesteaders fighting to keep their land? For that matter, what’s more American than that vast, varied stretch of land that’s about to have its ecosystem(s) unjustifiably ruined by a giant lead pipe? Answer: nothing.  Come on, America – I know it sounds tempting, but Keystone XL is the worst idea this continent has seen in a century.

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John Bain is Good-b’s  senior Green Blogger and Associate Editor of Good-b. 

 

 

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Can Environmental Sustainability Save European Economies?

By Shealyn Kirts, edited by Monika Mitchell
By focusing on sustainable energy, economies are able to save money through energy conservation, and generate jobs by developing new technologies that allow for increased efficiency. During a time of declining economies in the European Union (EU), could this be their saving grace?

The European Union is a prominent leader in sustainable development and environmental preservation. In 2006, the European Council decided to renew their current EU Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) with the intent of meeting new and more prestigious challenges, as well as furthering present commitments. The biggest goal of the SDS is to create long-term improvements and lasting impacts through environmentally conscious decisions. The EU has already incorporated SDS into daily life through more efficient use of resources, reaching new levels of clean air and water, and reducing the amount of waste; all of which generate jobs.

The EU Environment Commissioner, Janez Potočnik issued a serious warning on the relationship between the environment and the EU’s current economic challenges. He states that inefficient use of valuable natural resources could spark another recession in Europe. Through inefficient energy use, natural resources are wasted, while their costs are rising due to supply and demand. Europeans consequently get less bang for their buck as resources dwindle.

Potočnik argues that, “It’s very difficult to imagine [lifting Europe out of recession] without growth, and very difficult to imagine growth without competitiveness, and very difficult to be competitive without resource efficiency.” He believes that consumers and producers must work together to reduce wasteful methods and boost the economy. He stated that his department was investigating current regulations and proposing new more effective regulations. The desired outcome is to put Europe back on the competitive economic track.

The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions provide a recent example of the financial impact of failing to respect the environmental-economic relationship. The country’s emissions rose 3.1% in 2010. This statistic is met with disapproval in Europe as the UK did not follow SDS regulations. Furthermore, an increase in emissions represents a rise in energy usage and increases financial stress on consumers.

Keith Allot, head of climate change at WWF-UK, addresses the issue by stating: “It is alarming to see emissions from homes rising when people are struggling to pay their energy bills. The UK’s overreliance on gas has pushed up emissions along with people’s energy bills. It’s a clear sign that the government needs to back investors in renewable energy and get us off the fossil fuel hook once and for all.”

EU Climate Commissioner, Connie Hedegaard, takes the argument a step further. After attending an EU summit that discussed methods to create jobs and manage debt, Hedegaard claimed the solution is sustainable development. She asked her peers, “When we want to adjust our economics and make them more resilient, can anyone come up with a better proposal than to address energy efficiency?”

Hedegaard’s argument is simple: energy efficiency creates durable economies.  She suggests that installing better insulation in European buildings would create about half a million jobs, and also decrease the energy import bill ($413 billion dollars for oil in 2011). With debt increasing, Hedegaard urges that investment in sustainable development could not only stimulate EU failing economies, but it could also help the European Union become a leader in economic innovation.

The answer is clear. In today’s world, sustained economic growth cannot be achieved without resource efficiency.  If the EU can properly implement SDS procedures and protocols, Europe may be able to jumpstart its global competitiveness again. The question remains: will the EU use energy efficiency to help solve their financial crisis?

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Shealyn Kirts is a recent graduate of the University of Delaware with a degree in International Relations.