Editorial: A decision on Keystone


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The Keystone XL Pipeline, which has been a point of contention between President Obama and Congress, has made it through the Republican-majority Senate, which will prompt a response from the president. The pipeline would bring oil-sand oil from Canada to the United States prompting concern about the environmental effect the transportation of such potentially hazardous materials will have on surrounding areas. The possibility of such adverse consequences played a large role in President Obama’s indecisiveness on the issue, citing the need for comprehensive studies to be done to evaluate the potential harm of the proposed pipeline.

However, this concern has been addressed by the State Department, which stated in a review last year that the proposed pipeline “would not significantly increase the rate of planet-warming pollution.” Furthermore, the litany of lesser grievances offered up to defer a final conclusion of the pipeline’s construction such as the route to be taken through Nebraska and additional reviews by other Cabinet entities have been or are on the cusp of being resolved. That said, Obama has just about run out technicalities to obfuscate the overarching partisan difference present in this issue.

The passing of the pipeline through the Senate will force the president to make a decision, and more than likely, this decision will be a veto. Even though it is unlikely the construction of the pipeline will be the impending environmental disaster some feared, the approval of the bill would contribute to a legislative precedent incongruent with general Democratic environmental policy.

Like many issues muddled in partisan conflict, the realistic implications of a decision can take a back seat to the ideological differences between the decision-making parties. Speculation over job creation or potential environmental damage can be twisted and contorted to fit the relative perspectives of lawmakers. The construction of the pipeline will create jobs, temporarity, and the consensus of recent studies indicates a less than substantial environmental impact. Furthermore, there was even a glimmer of bipartisan agreement with nine Democrats voting with 53 Republicans to form a 62-36 majority in favor. Construction of the pipeline would help alleviate dependence on foreign oil, but this could also be construed as a step away from the advancement of alternative energy choices.

The problem with weighing the pros and cons of the pipeline is that the scales used are biased and partial depending on the person using them. The advantages and disadvantages are not what are being weighed. Any potential merit is instead weighed against its usefulness to a certain party’s agenda and not solely the interests of the American people. The issue of the pipeline is certainly larger than the physical pipeline itself, but in many ways it will be reduced to a matter of political leverage and motivation for further disharmony in the White House. This is a battle neither side is shying away from, and the Daily Iowan Editorial Board believes if the president wants to demonstrate his willingness to cooperate with the Republican majority in Congress, allowing the Keystone Pipeline through would make a fine gesture of good faith. But in our toxic political atmosphere, this may be too idealistic to hope for.

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