Providing Progressive Cover for John Lewis’ “Pragmatic” Support for the Keystone Pipeline

by lizard

The short-sighted pandering required of Montana Democrats to extractive industry is understandable. It’s the pragmatic thing to do if you want a chance at winning a trip to the big trough in DC where the piggies feed. I do marvel, though, how one who claims to not support the Keystone pipeline describes why he supports Lewis’ support of that same pipeline. Sorry if that’s confusing. Maybe this will clear things up:

Yesterday, Democrat John Lewis released a detailed energy plan to “make Montana an energy leader” and Ryan Zinke issued a childish response that was as factually-challenged as it was simplistic.

To start with, both men support the Keystone XL pipeline. A key difference is that Lewis would legislatively mandate protections for landowners and that highly-skilled American workers would use high-quality materials to build the pipeline.

Now, as I said before, I don’t support the Keystone XL pipeline and have concerns about relying on coal to power the nation and Montana’s future economy. Those caveats aside, Lewis’s proposal recognizes political reality in the United States: the most viable energy policy in the short-term is to use fossil fuel resources to fund the transition to cleaner energy. It might feel good to demand an immediate shift and ignore the need to transition our economy, but Lewis is offering a pragmatic solution that suggests some real thought.

How exactly will fossil fuel resources fund the transition to cleaner energy? Will Congress end subsidies and raise taxes to fund research? Or are we just suppose to hope those nice oil companies will see the error of squeezing every last drop from the ground and willingly ween themselves off the habit we’re all locked into?

Here is the reality of what Lewis is ultimately supporting: a pipeline that will require the taking of private property through eminent domain to benefit a foreign company that will ship and refine some of the dirtiest fuel on earth. It will create less than 40 permanent jobs, according to the state department, and will more than likely end up in foreign markets, therefore NOT lessening our dependence on foreign oil.

Here is another political reality for Lewis and the rest of the Democrats in this state: 57,000 more voters turned out to vote in the GOP primary.

I believe there is a rich vein of bipartisan disgust that could be mined (using an extractive industry analogy) to fuel a populist charge against the establishment, but instead we have Democrats who are too afraid to even say climate change. No wonder Democrat voters are apathetic.

It sure would be nice to have a Democrat capable of articulating that the talking points for the Keystone pipeline are bullshit, but we won’t get that from a Baucus acolyte showing his chops at political expediency. Too bad the political reality doesn’t intrude on the actual reality, like the hoax of energy independence:

In a true supply and demand economy, higher prices would indicate demand is greater than supply, and the price of gasoline would drop if supply increased. This is one reason people are pushing for the construction of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline. They also believe it will help America become energy independent.

The facts, however, indicate that energy independence has relatively little to do with America producing more gas. In fact, some Americans are paying more for gas from American oil fields while other Americans are paying less for gas from foreign oil fields.

According to GasBuddy, which keeps track of gasoline prices and predictions throughout the United States, refineries in the Rockies and upper Midwest are producing less expensive gas because they are paying $85 a barrel for Canadian crude oil. Refineries on the West Coast, however, are producing more expensive gas because they are paying $110 per barrel of crude oil. The quality of crude oil and the difficulty of obtaining and transferring it play a role in the price differences, but the bottom line in this case is that oil taken from American soil is costing more than oil taken from Canadian soil. (This apparently is not the case with the Keystone Pipeline. That oil will be produced in Canada by a Canadian company, cross the U.S. in the pipeline to Texas and then be shipped to other countries. Very little, if any, of that oil will remain in the United States and have little impact on our energy prices.)

The myth is that if we obtain more oil here, we can become energy independent and the prices will go down. If that were the case, then gas prices should be cheaper all across the U.S. this year because we are producing more oil and gas. Even though supply has increased the price is higher because we send most of our gas outside the country. According to GasBuddy, “the U.S. has turned into a net exporter, regularly sending more gasoline offshore than it brings in from foreign destinations.”

Anyway, just forget all that reality stuff and do the pragmatic thing, which is vote for John Lewis in November.


  1. Greg Strandberg

    You have to remember that Democrats only need you one or two days every couple years in June or November. Democrats need oil money, however, a lot more frequently. You are expendable, the companies aren’t.

  2. JC

    I have to laugh when politicians like Lewis link Keystone XL (which will be used to import foreign oil from Canada) to the notion of “energy independence.” How stupid do they think we are? Is using Canadian oil indicative of energy independence? How-so?

    And then there is the stupidity of this:

    “the most viable energy policy in the short-term is to use fossil fuel resources to fund the transition to cleaner energy.”

    We are going to use oil & coal to fund the transition to, say, solar? Really??? How?

    We don’t have a problem with transitioning. We have a political and a corporate problem where oil companies and their paid-for politicians like the status quo. Just how is locking in more oil usage going to break that? Remember who stands to gain the most from Keystone XL: the Koch brothers.

    If we were truly interested in energy independence we wouldn’t continually jack up the tariffs on solar cells and panels from China to protect our measly energy transition programs:

    “The U.S.-based Coalition for Affordable Solar Energy described the latest decision on tariffs as a major setback for the U.S. solar industry that would raise the cost of solar power and cost jobs in “one of fastest-growing sectors of the U.S. economy.”

    The ruling may not hurt Chinese solar manufacturers that much. They are already pivoting away from the U.S., where demand is slowing, to feed a growing appetite for solar panels back home.

    U.S. imports of Chinese-made solar products last year fell to $1.49 billion, less than half the $3.12 billion imported in 2011, according to the U.S. Commerce Department, which cited U.S. census data.

    Meanwhile, China recently set an ambitious target of boosting its solar-panel capacity to 35 gigawatts by 2015, up from around 18 gigawatts now, which would put it on par with Germany, the current world leader.”

    It’s all such a farce. How stupid do they (and people like Pogie) think we are?

  3. Turner

    I’d feel better about voting for Walsh and Lewis is I had some reason to think they’re now just cozying up to Big Oil and Coal to get elected, after which they’d pivot and take pro-environmental stands in Congress.

    Is there any evidence that this might happen?

    • Craig Moore

      If you feel good about people knowingly lying to their benefactors, just how could you trust them ever?

      • Turner

        I’d feel better voting for someone pretending to be a whore for oil (in order to get in office where he could oppose oil) than for a straight-out whore who would continue whoring once in office.

        I don’t expect honesty in politicians. Everything is tactical.

  4. steve kelly

    To me, the most notable Montana primary statistic is the 27.6% turnout of those eligible to cast a vote. At that rate it’s hard to call our election process anything but dysfunctional. We have strayed far from any reasonable definition of democratic, or republic.

    • JC

      Jimmy Carter, last year: “America does not at the moment have a functioning democracy.”

      Yep.

  5. Gabby Johnson

    The Saudi royal family certainly wants Keystone completed so it can feed the giant Motiva refinery complex they co-own with Royal Dutch Shell in Port Arthur, Texas. Then it’s on to their tankers, through the newly widened Panama Canal and off to China.
    Anyone who can read a map can see it’s an export pipeline.
    It’s nothing less than the invasion of America by foreign powers.

  6. troutsky

    Support from politicians is a green light for investors and believe me, you don’t invest in a project in order to “transition” away from it. The other whores are the Central Labor Council who also tout the “transition” line.

    Oh. and they think we are really stupid because we are really stupid. Remember Tammy Faye Baker, Shock and Awe, energy deregulation, etc etc…

    • JC

      I guess by “we” I was referring to the non-Tammy Faye Baker worshipping crowd. ;-)

    • Turner

      In Montana Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Labor, and both political parties are speaking as though with a single voice on Keystone XL. Is it remotely possible that corporate money got to labor leaders and bought their allegiance?

      I can understand politicians being bought by corporations, but labor leaders? What happened to the traditional struggle between labor and management?

      • JC

        The struggle has moved on to a battle between labor leaders and laborers. All the austerity and workplace rights hoopla has served to pit workers against unions and union leaders — the new boogieman.




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