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Letter: Keystone XL order is a green initiative in optics only

Posted 2/16/21

To the editor:

Our new climate czar John Kerry was asked after an executive order cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline how the folks who lost 11,000 jobs could be helped. His answer was a masterwork …

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Letter: Keystone XL order is a green initiative in optics only


To the editor:

Our new climate czar John Kerry was asked after an executive order cancelled the Keystone XL pipeline how the folks who lost 11,000 jobs could be helped. His answer was a masterwork of aloof cluelessness: They should get jobs in solar plants.

Traversing the planet in his family’s jet dumping tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, it may be difficult for Kerry to understand what life is like for those who drive a pickup with 165,000 miles on it to work. Skilled craftspeople work many years to perfect their art. Identifying with their job, they take great pride in engaging their skills to support their families. Welding pipe sections so they last for decades without leaks is not a trivial skill.

A union pipe welder averages $69,000 a year. Not a fortune like marrying into the Heinz family, or the six homes, multiple yachts and private jet Kerry and his wife enjoy, but a hard-earned income — enough to support a family, a mortgage, and a modest vacation in a rented cabin. A solar plant worker earns around $40,000, and not many solar jobs are in states where the pipeline would be built. Uproot a thousand miles to take a 40-percent pay cut? Why should they be upset?

To an elite on a grand mission, inflicting a heartbreaking blow to the dignity of some stranger’s life incomprehensible to that visionary is just the collateral damage necessary when one is saving the planet.

What of the executive action itself? Does it help our beleaguered planet? Many of the first day executive orders placated the most strident elements of President Biden’s awkwardly sutured together constituency. The new pipeline was to connect Alberta oil fields to the existing Nebraska to Gulf Coast refineries pipeline. Construction was underway. Stopping it made a good headline in Mother Earth News.

In 2020, for the first time since 1880, more electrical power was generated by renewables than coal. All new electrical generating plants in the USA will be natural gas or renewables, with the majority renewable. However, unless we shut off our refrigerators, take cold showers, and ride horseback we are going to need natural gas for electricity and fuel for transportation into the foreseeable future. Economics and environmental concerns happily set a trajectory to cleaner energy, but it is not an instant transformation. The oil from the Alberta oil fields is 98% sold, will be used, and will be shipped by some means.

The Biden executive action will supposedly make safer the transporting crude oil 1,179 miles from Alberta to Nebraska with less chance of spills than trains or trucks. The Ogallala Aquifer is cited as endangered by the new pipeline, which crosses it for 250 miles. 3,000 miles of liquids pipeline safely cross through Nebraska already. The aquifer is crisscrossed by many miles of roads and railroad tracks that transport the oil now. All the data shows that the mostly underground pipelines are 4.5 times safer than trucks and trains, and 70 percent of those far fewer pipeline incidents have zero or less than a cubic meter actual spillage. The executive order does nothing to improve safety.

How about carbon emissions in the transportation process? Cancelling the pipeline saves the planet, right? The pipeline could carry 830,000 barrels of oil every day to be processed into the fuel we need. Comparison should use the best-case metrics of trains; rail transport is four times more fuel efficient than trucks in tons carried per mile per gallon of diesel burned.

A rail car carries 650 barrels. The longest train allowed has 100 cars; almost 13 full trains are needed daily to replace the pipeline. The engines pulling all that oil will blow about 3,340 tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. A day. 1,218,514 tons of carbon dioxide a year for decades could be saved by building the pipeline. Environmental damage is not mitigated. The executive order is a false flag project, a green initiative in optics and headlines only.

If you are a green advocate or a skilled union pipe welder, ask whether this executive order does what it purports to do, and whether it is worth the human cost.

Jack Parquette

15 Birch St.


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