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U.S. State Department Likes Keystone XL Pipeline: Go Away Darryl Hannah

By Jim Fink on August 31, 2011

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The proposed Keystone XL pipeline could drastically reduce overseas energy imports to the U.S.

– Roger Conrad, Canadian Edge

Hollywood’s job is to entertain us. For about ten bucks, we receive two hours of escape from our hum-drum lives by watching movies. Movie actors get paid a lot of money for reading lines somebody else wrote and I don’t have any problem with that. But when actors use their immense wealth and fame to enter the political realm and expect us to follow along, they have gone too far. Just because somebody is a celebrity doesn’t make them any more knowledgeable about a political issue. In fact, it probably makes them less knowledgeable because their glamorous lives are so far removed from the lives of most ordinary Americans.  

Hollywood and Washington Don’t Mix

Based on a 2007 CBS News poll, the public is pretty evenly split on this issue, with a slight plurality agreeing with me (49% to 46%). Veteran Hollywood director Barry Levinson produced a 2009 documentary for Showtime examining the interplay between Hollywood celebrities and Washington politicians called PoliWood. In an interview discussing the film, Levinson discussed the value of his own opinions in a way that a lot of Americans would agree with concerning all celebrities:

I don’t think anybody cares what my opinion is, and when you give it they always say, ‘What does he know? He doesn’t know anything!’

Darryl Hannah is Arrested and its Not an Act

The reason I bring this up is because I read this morning about actress Darryl Hannah getting arrested in front of the White House. She was protesting the construction of TransCanada’s (NYSE: TRP) Keystone XL pipeline, which will bring much-needed crude oil to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast in Texas. Don’t get me wrong, I think Darryl Hannah is a good actress, and especially enjoyed her portrayal of one-eyed Elle Driver in the Kill Bill movies, but her environmental activism is really whacko. In a blog post, Ms. Hannah wrote – in conjunction with the head of Greenpeace USA – that the Keystone XL pipeline should be stopped because it doesn’t move the U.S. away from fossil fuels and toward renewable forms of energy like solar and wind:

Millions of voters had hoped that President Obama would have the vision to get America off of oil with a moonshot program for oil-free cars by the next decade. Instead, oil profits have been pitted against the world that our children will live in, hooking America to some of the highest polluting oil without moving America quickly to a foreign oil-free future.

Darryl Hannah Doesn’t Understand the Needs of Ordinary Americans

Last time I checked, more than 13 million U.S. citizens are unemployed – many with children – and these families are barely making ends meet. Unlike Ms. Hannah, they cannot afford to spend thousands of extra dollars on hybrid and electric cars. According to a 2011 study by JD Power and Associates, the cost of a car matters more than the environment for most consumers. The U.S. budget deficit is out of control, which is why Standard and Poor’s just recently downgraded the U.S. credit rating. Simply put, we cannot afford as a nation to throw money at “moonshot” programs that cost potentially hundreds of billions of dollars with no guaranteed result.

As for solar and wind, these intermittent energy sources simply cannot replace fossil fuels. Not only are they much more expensive, but the energy can’t be stored for use in an electric grid system. Consequently, renewable energy will for the long-term foreseeable future only be supplemental adjunct sources of power; the bulk of power will continue to come from fossil fuels.

Rather than a moonshot program, what the U.S. needs are jobs and low-cost fuel that will help get our economy moving again and that is precisely what the Keystone XL pipeline will provide. As my colleague David Dittman of the high-yield Canadian Edge investment service recently wrote:

According to a 2011 study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI), new oil sands investments are expected to create 444,000 new U.S. jobs by 2035. As for right now, TransCanada’s Robert Jones, the executive in charge of the project, recently noted that Keystone XL is indeed “shovel ready” and that construction would involve hiring as many as 10,000 Americans immediately and up 34,000 by 2014.

Canada is our Friend

As for Ms. Hannah’s desire for a “foreign oil-free future,” is she seriously comparing U.S. dependence on Canadian oil to our dependence on Middle-Eastern oil?  C’mon, Canadians are the friendliest people on earth. I don’t mind being dependent on Canadian oil; they’re practically American anyway. The real danger is dependence on Middle-Eastern, African, and Venezuelan oil because those dictatorial regimes are using petrodollars for anti-Western and non-democratic purposes. Increasing dependence on Canadaian oil means lessening our dependence on oil from these dangerous regimes and that’s a net positive not only for the U.S., but the peace-loving world.

U.S. State Department Report Debunks Many of Darryl Hannah’s Criticisms

Ms. Hannah’s last bone of contention is that Canada’s oil sands require strip mining that destroys forests and pollutes water supplies. Maybe so, but Canada’s going to produce its oil sand deposits whether we buy the oil or not. If not us, they will just sell the oil to Asia. As far as Ms. Hannah’s claims that the Keystone XL pipeline itself will pollute the U.S. environment, the U.S. State Department just issued a report last week (Aug. 26th ) concluding that “there would be no significant impacts” to the environment from Keystone XL, other than damage to the habitat of the endangered American burying beetle. Are we going to jeopardize the health of the U.S. economy over an insect? I sure hope not.

The State Department report also concludes (p. ES-11) that it is in the U.S. national interest to build the Keystone XL pipeline because our Gulf Coast refineries are running out crude oil supplies and need reliable supplies:

Three of the four countries that are major crude oil suppliers to Gulf Coast refineries currently face declining or uncertain production horizons. As a result, those refineries are expected to obtain increased volumes of heavy crude oil from alternative sources in both the near term and further into the future.

If the proposed Project is not built and operated, the Gulf Coast refineries could obtain crude oil transported by marine tanker from areas outside of North America. Many of the sources outside of North America are in regions that are experiencing declining production or are not secure and reliable sources of crude oil, including the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, and South America.

If the proposed Project is not implemented, Canadian producers would seek alternative transportation systems to move oil to markets other than the U.S.

As a result of these considerations, the Department of State does not regard the No Action Alternative to be preferable to the proposed Project.

The report also concludes that the Gulf Coast oil refineries will need additional sources of crude oil even if renewable forms of energy become more prevalent in the U.S.:

Even if improved fuel efficiency and broader adoption of alternative fuels reduced overall demand for oil, demand for Canadian heavy crude oil at Gulf Coast refineries would not be substantially affected.

Bottom line: Darryl Hannah should stick to movies and stop trying to impose her anti-economic growth ideology on the rest of America. I’d love to see Elle Driver (a.k.a. California Mountain Snake) return in a new movie with two eye patches or perhaps a new bionic eye. Unfortunately, Ms. Hannah appears to have become her character and is just as blind.

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