The Norman Transcript


January 24, 2012

Why we need the Keystone pipeline

NORMAN — “Game on” was the cry from the industry. “Game over” was the cry from the environmentalists, as they expressed their feelings over the Keystone pipeline construction. The true story lies somewhere between.

Some media commentators describe an abrasive arrogance that emanates publicly from various figures in the oil patch. To them, this arrogance reflects an insulation coming from a lack of communication with the non-oil types and the environmentalist groups derisively believed to be a bunch of ignorant, angry tree huggers.

On the other side, the so-called tree huggers exhibit a pernicious and pervasive polarity in their attitudes to the big oil “polluters.” This includes a congenital hatred of anything big, anything they do not understand and, in some cases, a primordial fear of progress itself. The extremes of these two groups are stubbornly obstinate, and their inabilities to see past the rhetoric leads to a dead-end of intransigence, stagnation, diminished opportunity and lost jobs.

Some would argue that the Canadian developers went about their project backwards. Instead of a branded multi-million dollar, upfront public effort to inform, shape and educate the public, they front-loaded their approach by budgeting tens of millions of dollars to pay for lawyers, lobbyists and experts to push this project through the local court systems — a bonanza for the legal profession and experts like myself. Some, however, would call this a good-business decision.

The pipeline should be a shoo-in. For anyone who is willing to approach the situation with an open mind, there are at least 10 pros that overshadow every single con.

In the first place, today, there are more than a 100 pipelines that crisscross the same region contemplated by this new pipeline. The map looks like a spaghetti plot overlying the 174,000-square-mile Ogallala aquifer. These lines are not only carrying oil of generally better flow quality but also lighter oil products which — to the learned, concerned individual — are more environmentally dangerous in the event of a spill than the tar sand crude.

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