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The Trans-Alaska Pipeline: Lessons for the Keystone XL Pipeline Debate

Mon March 02, 2015 - National Edition
Stephen Moore and Joel Griffith



According to the Heritage Foundation, issues that cropped up during the original Alaskan Pipeline debate could be instructive during the current Keystone XL Pipeline discussions.

A recent article on the Foundation’s website illustrates the point:

"Citing various environmental and economic objections, in April, the Obama Administration again delayed construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, this time until at least early 2015. Before the latest in a six-year string of delays, the President emphasized ’how Keystone impacted greenhouse gas emissions would affect our decision,’ lamenting ’we’re already seeing severe weather patterns increase.’[1] In a press release, the Department of State indicated that, even after years of delay, it still has not determined whether the project is in ’the national interest.’[2]

The 1,179-mile Keystone XL Pipeline (850 miles located in the U.S.) would cost $5.2 billion[3] and carry 830,000 barrels of oil each day from Alberta, Canada, through the U.S. down to the Gulf of Mexico, where the oil would be refined and sold domestically and abroad. The massive infrastructure project is expected to support more than 42,000 direct and indirect jobs nationwide[4] and would be built almost entirely with private investment, not taxpayer dollars. Polls show solid support for the energy project.

Environmental groups have launched a blizzard of ’green’ objections to the project. The Sierra Club claims that Keystone XL ’is a threat to our water and environment,’ ’poses a health risk to our communities,’ and is a ’climate disaster in the making.’[5] Hollywood has chimed in, too, with Robert Redford exclaiming, ’Tar sands crude means a dirtier, more dangerous future for our children all so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. This dirty energy project is all risk and no reward for the American people.’[6]

Americans have lived through all of this debate before. The Keystone XL debate is almost an exact replay of a similar policy clash during the early 1970s over whether to build a similar multibillion-dollar project: the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. The Alaska project was eventually approved by Congress in 1973 and completed in 1978, but only after fierce debate."

For the rest of the article, click here.