Let us count the many ways Joe Nocera is wrong on Keystone XL

Joe Nocera of the New York Times is back with another column in support of Keystone XL. I counted 4 errors or willful oversights in Nocera’s piece, although I’m sure I missed some. Let’s review.

1. Speaking about KXL’s importance: “Energy independence is a long-sought national goal. We would no longer need OPEC, a cartel of countries with values, in many cases, antithetical to ours.”

First, it remains unclear how “energy independence” can be achieved by continuing our reliance on fossil fuels and the corporations that supply them. Exxon made $45 billion last year; its CEO Rex Tillerson made $100,000 a day by supplying our fossil fuel addiction. If Joe wants to keep lining their pockets and strengthening their grip over our democracy that’s his deal, but you can’t argue in favor of independence if you want to keep a supplier from whom you can’t shake loose. Second, no one that I know of seriously thinks that the Keystone XL export pipeline would lead to us no longer needing OPEC. The only way to do that is to drop Big Oil and petro states once and for all. And the only way to do that is to get serious about green energy, which Nocera treats like a punch line. I wonder if they are laughing in Iowa now that they are getting 25% of their electricity from wind? 

2. “That oil is coming here anyway — by rail and boat, where spills are common, and via pipelines that are older, and hence less safe, than Keystone would be.”

On spills, one word: Arkansas. Oh, and every major export pipeline in Canada is under heavy scrutiny and suffers from huge public opposition. Even under the most rosy scenarios, none of these pipelines will be built any time soon. In fact, Alberta is so nervous about the pipeline proposals being blocked that it recently started looking into the possibility of exporting oil all the way up at the port at Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., a.k.a way the heck up there. On the rail question, Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told Reuters yesterday, “It (rail) is a good supplement but not the longer-term solution…I don’t think anybody would suggest it is.” He doesn’t know Joe Nocera!

3. “Notwithstanding the development of alternative energy sources, the world is going to continue to need oil; Oliver, quoting the International Energy Agency, says that global energy demand is expected to grow by at least 35 percent over the next 20 years.”

Nope, enviros don’t think that pixie dust will fuel our cars any time soon. But the US is using less oil this year than we did last year, and less oil last year than the year before that. The question is do we want to lock in 40-50 years of oil addiction with Keystone or get serious about dropping fossil fuels once and for all?

Also, while Nocera quotes from the IEA, he neglects to mention that the IEA also said that we need to leave a full 2/3s of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground if we are to avoid runaway climate change. It would be funny how he leaves that part out of IEA’s findings if climate change was funny at all.

4. “The notion, pushed by environmentalists, that blocking the oil sands will spur green energy is delusion.” 

Nope, don’t know anyone who says that. Not a one. Think that’s called a straw man argument. Anyway, what enviros say is that committing to more oil reduces incentives to invest in green energy. I think it’s called supply and demand. Not sure, but Nocera is a business columnist. Maybe he can tell me.

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