Hippies really are magical things. Reality just doesn’t apply to them. But give them a “cause” and seventeen pages of someone’s Masters thesis on how capitalism appears to be ruining their jobless lives, and they’ll take to the streets by the thousands, chanting and hoisting giant papier-mache globes and inscrutable signs featuring giant red Communist stars. They don’t even need to know what the protest is for, just that it gives them something to do while they figure out how to ask their parents for more money.
Sometimes, this benefits America (if they’re camping out in the middle of the financial district, they aren’t destroying your morning latte, throwing red paint on your brand new fur vest and stinking up your subway car). Sometimes, as is the case of one group of OccupyDC hangers-on, they’re actually attempting to prevent nearly 20,000 jobs from going to American workers.
Last week, as the #OccupyWhatever protests were heating up, hippies, radical environmentalists, tree-huggers and a motley crew of what will likely turn out to be union workers and Communist party members were weeping and gnashing their teeth at town hall meetings across the Midwest as they protested the “Keystone XL pipeline” – a pipeline that will carry oil pumped out of the Canadian tar sands (read: not from a country controlled by Islamic fundamentalists) through the central US to new and existing oil refineries near the Gulf. The project would markedly increase our domestic energy production capabilities, save or create thousands of manufacturing jobs across the central United States and help North America get a step closer to energy independence. And, if we don’t take the oil, Canada has already agreed to ship it to China, so there’s that.
But, the radical environmentalists think puppies and kittens will die if Americans get more manufacturing jobs and oil. Except that’s not exactly true.
True, the petroleum that comes from Alberta’s “tar sands” isn’t very clean; it produces more carbon emissions than light sweet crude. And, true, pipelines can leak, as recent ruptures in Michigan and under the Yellowstone River demonstrate. But rejecting the pipeline won’t reduce global carbon emissions or the risk of environmentally destructive spills.
Canada’s government — and rising world petroleum prices — guarantee that the country will extract the oil from its tar sands, and that Asia will take it if America doesn’t. That means using pipelines to transport Canada’s heavy crude hundreds of miles to the West Coast and then shipping it abroad, burning fossil fuels and risking ocean spills along the way. China already has a large stake in Canadian oil production. Plans are already in the works to build the necessary pipelines.
And experts have already weighed in on how the environmental impact would actually be more controlled if the pipeline were to go over American soil. In one op-ed for National Journal, the CEO of the George Marshall Institute argued that environmental oversight of American pipeline projects is extensive, and more extensive given the pipeline’s position in the spotlight. According to the State Department, as O’Keefe notes did a full environmental scan of the project including analyzing worst case scenarios, the project is actually safer than a lot of current projects we have underway. And as another commenter, Bernard Weinstein points out, the most significant threat to the environment would be the production of the oil sands, which wouldn’t stop of the pipeline goes forward. But without American involvement and investment, it wouldn’t fall under our power to complain.
So basically, the OccupyDC hippies are actually preventing thousands of American jobs, billions in American investment, standing in the way of their own environmental agenda, AND freaking out the middle American populations they claim to be representing with their drum circles in the Capitol. Sounds like a really productive protest to me!