The political weight of the Keystone XL pipeline

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By Erin Delman

On Dec. 23, the House and Senate passed a bill that ensures a two-month extension of a payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits for millions of Americans. The legislation was a sigh of relief after weeks of malicious partisan debate over extending tax relief worth about $1,000 a year for the typical working family. Many saw the success of the bill as a small victory for the Obama administration, an important fact as the 2012 election cycle approaches.

Yet the extension of the payroll tax cut came with a substantial caveat; President Obama now has until Feb. 21, a sixty-day window from the passage of the payroll tax cut legislation, to decide whether or not to construct the contentious interstate Keystone XL Pipeline.

Among all of the egregiously contrived and manipulated actions taken by our ineffectual legislative body in recent history, nothing is as offensive as the Keystone XL.

Ignore the fact that the pipeline threatens ecosystem health and water quality throughout America’s heartland. Forget the Keystone XL emissions and their irreparable effect on Earth’s climate. Discount that every independent study on the pipeline’s economic impact say that 6,500 temporary jobs at most will emerge (and while you’re at it, never mind that a Cornell University study concludes that more jobs would be killed than created).

These issues are pressing, but not as much as the fact that Obama now has a limited amount of time to make an extremely important decision. It is clear that Senate and House Republicans are attempting to embarrass the president by forcing him to make a rash decision with an arbitrary deadline on an issue of paramount concern.

Right now, Obama is contemplating a choice that will profoundly affect those at home, as well as the entire global community. The contribution to climate change from the proposed Keystone XL makes the pipeline an issue for everyone, not just American citizens. I just hope that our leader is able to base his rational on the common good, rather than the results of the next election.

A few quick Keystone XL facts: TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company initially proposed the Keystone XL pipeline in 2008. When it is completed the pipeline is slated to carry up to 900,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil and will extend for over 2,000 miles from Alberta, Canada to refineries on the United States Gulf Coast.

The Keystone XL pipeline is an extension of the Keystone pipeline and will cut through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Experts believe that the pipeline will triple our reliance on tar sands oil upon its completion. President Obama has postponed the decision as to whether Keystone XL is in the national interest until 2013.

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