In the latest national news, the bill to authorize the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline was vetoed by President Obama. This was only the third veto of President Obama’s time in office, but this one was not unexpected. Now that the Republicans have control of both houses of Congress, this will likely not be the last time he uses his veto pen in the coming years. This veto was a rather decisive move on an issue that has been prolonged and wildly overblown for the past seven years. President Obama had promised time and again to veto this bill, so now that he has, the next political question is whether Congress will try to override his veto. It is likely that there will be an override vote, but not one that the GOP will win. Whether this all matters in the scheme of things or is just another political sideshow is yet to be determined.
The main arguments regarding whether to allow construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline from either side revolve around job creation and the environment. Much of the Keystone Pipeline itself already exists, but the recent debate is whether to allow an extension of it that will run from Alberta, Canada into Nebraska. There was actually some bipartisan support for this bill, something we very rarely see in this day and age in United States politics. While most Democrats sided with the environmental lobby, nine broke off and supported the bill and have also indicated they would vote to override President Obama’s veto. The bill has had strong Republican support from the beginning. Additionally, the majority of the public is in favor of allowing the pipeline to be built, according to Gallup.
According to most estimates, construction of this pipeline will create up to 30,000 jobs during its construction. This accounts for both the direct jobs in creating the pipeline and the indirect stimulus to the economy from spending related to the project. Critics of the bill usually cite that this is a very small number of jobs created in comparison to how the economy naturally grows. This begs the question: how many jobs does a project have to create for it to be considered useful? I am sure that many people working construction would be glad to see this project come through and offer them a place to work and earn. Do we not care about businesses with the propensity to hire less than a certain number of employees? Where is the cutoff for when a business becomes big enough for us to care about? The argument that the pipeline will not produce enough jobs to justify its authorization for us to care about it seems to be oversimplified.
In response to the environmentalist argument, the nation is at a point where we accept that climate change is occurring and need to make the right decisions about how to handle it. Despite our highest hopes, renewable energies are not yet at a stage where they can be relied upon to sustain our energy usage, so blocking all ways to extract and transport oil is counterproductive. The most important environmental aspect of the argument is one that the environmental lobby has not properly considered. Most of the oil that the pipeline would carry will be extracted whether or not the pipeline is built. Without the pipeline, it is likely to be carried by trains, which pose a greater public health risk than the pipeline would, as they have the ability to derail and catch fire, which has happened on multiple occasions in the past few years. There are other concerns about damage done to the Sandhills region and the Ogalla Aquifer, which TransCanada has responded to by proposing several alternate routes that would avoid damaging these areas.
Above all else, this issue has been used as a weapon for politicians to paint their opponents as being anti-jobs or anti-environment, or as a tool to appeal to their constituencies. In reality, this project will have a minute impact on the economy and the environment, but has been used to dramatize ideological divisions. The country likely would have been better off by allowing the pipeline to be constructed, but the bottom line is that at this point, the political capital that has been wasted discussing this issue of minimal impact has probably outweighed any benefit we might have gotten from its construction.
Garvey is the president of the College Republicans.
Garvey is a member of the class of 2016.