Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Canada’s Keystone Pipeline Project: Al Gore’s “Big Bird”

It used to be easy for Republican politicians to warn that runaway government spending would destroy the American Dream and global progress too. Then, along came the awkward elections of 2010 and 2012, when the whole country started to take them seriously. Churchillian rhetoric found itself at war.

During his first debate with that appeaser in the White House, Romney announced with fatherly finality that he’d fire “Big Bird.” An illusion of children and a yellow body costume would have to be sacrificed.

In not asking anything from voters with any propensity to vote Republican, he trivialized his campaign and made fiscal probity a laughing matter.

Stopping the Keystone Project that proposes to transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to under-utilized Texas refiners is the environment movement’s “Big Bird.” Opposing the project generates great visuals, but it offers no strategic value in the fight to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions.

On behalf of the young science of climate change, the project’s opponents ignore nearly three centuries of science on how economies work. They insist the globe’s health is at risk and then aim their guns at Canadian enterprise that won’t alter global prices or fossil fuel consumption, neither globally nor in the US.  They single out a high-cost producer of fossil fuels rather than the cheaper sources of oil that actually allow for excessive consumption.

They say politicians have to start acting globally, in concert, while lobbying the President to divide the continent’s energy market and, in effect, abrogate trade agreements with Canada. They say corporations are polluters and that the middle class is innocent, while complaining that their adversaries are ideological.

They tell Washington politicians to take extreme action against Canadian interests and Albertans who can’t vote and look the other way as US swing states undertake a “renaissance” in fossil development.

There is nothing wrong with playing politics to save the world or, for instance, just a piece of Western civilization. Al Gore and the chief strategists of the climate-change movement, however, appear no smarter or more sincere than Mitt Romney.

Ultimately, we’ve got to do something about entitlements, hard-faced Republicans insist. But first let’s cut off PBS. Ultimately, we have to put a significant price on carbon, Al Gore concedes in the Guardian. And first let’s threaten to burn Barack Obama in effigy if—after all the proper environmental reviews are complete—he doesn’t kill the Keystone pipeline project.

Cynicism doesn’t make climate change or public debt smaller problems. It can, however, crowd out constructive discussion and serious problem-solving.

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