Dig Baton Rouge

USEFUL USELESSNESS

By Nick BeJeaux 

Approaching quickly is the oh, so dramatic runoff between Incumbent  Senator Mary Landrieu and Congressman Bill Cassidy and both of these campaigns have viciously been underlining their respective successes and their opponents flaws.

However, one bit of rare common ground that they share is their mutual support of getting the Keystone XL Pipeline off the ground. Bipartisanism of any kind – particularly between such vehement adversaries on the campaign trail – is a breath of fresh air in a Congress that has proven itself a failure. But I suppose it’s too much to ask for bipartisanship on a bill or policy that actually means anything.

Despite claims that the project will boost Louisiana’s local economy and create high-paying middle class jobs, the project is shaping up to be nothing short of useless, at least in the long run. Of course, whether or not it gets its chance to be useless depends entirely upon the Obama Administration, which essentially has all the power to approve the project or kill it. Still, whether or not the project is eventually passed ­– it failed to pass the Senate last week, losing 59-41 in a vote that could prove detrimental to Landrieu, but is expected to come up for vote again when Republicans take control of the Senate in January – the oil from Alberta’s Athabasca tar sands will go (and are going) to Louisiana Gulf Coast refineries by other means.

The White House has delayed the project for six years, and Canadians are apparently not big on waiting for Americans to make up their minds. According to a report from Reuters, Canadian oil shipments to U.S. refineries via railways surpassed three million barrels a day in early October. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers said in the Reuters report that by 2015, one million barrels of oil a day will be flowing into the U.S by rail from fields in Alberta alone. Compare that to the paltry 830,000 barrels per day the Keystone XL is expected to pump in. But rail is somewhat less efficient than transporting oil by pipeline, and they’ve thought of a solution for that too: The Energy East Project.

Still in the conceptual phase, the EEP would convert and extend a natural gas pipeline that stretches two-thirds of the distance across Canada. If/when completed, the pipe would stretch nearly 2,800 miles and send oil from Canada’s rich western region to the eastern coast, where it can be shipped to hell and back without any American involvement.

Landrieu’s failure to pass legislation that would approve the Keystone XL pipeline this time while mean little come January, and even if – or better, when – it passes there, it still needs to be approved by President Obama. At best, it’s too little too late; at worst, fighting over this was a complete waste of time.

Media and politicians have tried to paint this struggle to get this project of the ground as a rare show of bipartisanship in a bitterly divided Congress, but that is only a half-truth. What it actually is is an exercise in futility. It’s actually quite depressing that when we do come together, it’s over meaningless, short sided projects that in the end will actually do more harm than good. If only we could display the same level of cooperation on nuclear fusion, or space travel, or cancer and AIDS treatment research. Imagine where we’d be with leaders that can think farther than what’s right in front of their faces.

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