The latest environmentalist cause célèbre is to block the Keystone pipeline which would bring Canadian oil sands petroleum to Texas refineries. Already almost two hundred green activists have been arrested at White House sit-ins designed to force Obama to kill the pipeline.
The protests are total and utter nonsense!
Oil sands petroleum is retrieved from the earth by unconventional methods like surface mining since it cannot be extracted through traditional drilling. Almost half of Canadian oil production comes from oil sands and the United States gets about 1.25 million barrels of oil sand petroleum every day from Canada (about one-tenth of our total oil imports). And Canada's production of oil sand petroleum is expected to grow rapidly, offering a key alternative to imports from the Middle East and Venezuela. In addition, the U.S. has about 32 billion barrels of oil sand in eight fields in Utah which are not yet being mined commercially.
But the greens are raising hell because the extraction methods to get at oil sand petroleum generate between six percent and twenty percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil. They oppose the pipeline because they don't want the United States to use more oil sand petroleum. They would rather we develop clean energy and, in the twenty or thirty years until we do so, continue to use Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil.
Environment Canada estimates that using oil sand petroleum instead of other oil accounts for five percent of Canadian carbon dioxide emissions each year and contributes 0.1% of global greenhouse gas emissions. (This stat is "wells to wheels" and includes all emissions connected with oil sand petroleum). So, for this miniscule amount, the greens want us to sacrifice over a million barrels a day of oil imports from our politically most reliable international source - Canada! And they want us to forgo the rapidly growing fuel source that oil sands represent.
The environmentalists do not allege, by the way, that the emissions connected with oil sand retrieval harms human health as much as that it contributes to global climate change.
Obama will have to decide soon if he is going to kill the Keystone pipeline. If he does, he will bear the responsibility for our continued dependence of Middle Eastern oil and for coming gasoline price increases.
But unless he caves in to the greens, he risks their wrath on Election Day, decreasing the turnout of this politically crucial part of his coalition.
We'll all be interested to see what he does.