I believe it was back in 1973, when my dad was an executive with an oil company, he got hauled in front of Congress to testify on the proposed Alaska pipeline. Senators on the Left accused the industry of threatening the environment in the name of greed, by trying to bring oil to market that was entirely unnecessary. A few months later, once the Arab oil embargo had begun, he was back in front of Congress answering questions from the same Senators who opposed the Alaska pipeline about whether the rumors were true that oil companies were holding tankers off-shore, purposely making the shortage worse and driving up prices. It was an early life-lesson in government for me, watching my dad be publicly accused within months of seeking new oil supplies too aggressively and purposely withholding oil supplies from the market.
I am reminded of all this by the Keystone pipeline brouhaha. One wonders how many of the people opposing the Keystone pipeline will be the first out on the picket line protesting oil prices the next time there is an oil price spike.
It is interesting that the buck just never stops at this President's desk. Apparently, the reason for the delay in approval of the Keystone Pipeline is the Republicans.
The approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline has been delayed by Republicans playing “political games,” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew says.
Lew said that the economy is “strong” and more resilient after 40 months of growth but the economic recovery is not fast enough, which led Chris Wallace on “Fox News Sunday” to ask whether approving the pipeline would help speed up job growth.
“If you’re so interested in creating more jobs, why not approve the Keystone pipeline, which will create tens of thousands of jobs?” Wallace asked of the pipeline under review.
“There were some political games that were played, that took it off the trail and path to completion, where Republicans put it out there as something that was put on a timetable that it could not be resolved. It caused a delay,” Lew said. “Playing political games with something like this was a mistake.”
One thing that many green energy advocates fail to understand is the very scale of US energy demand in relation to the output of various green sources.
Let's consider wind.
The Keystone XL pipeline would have provided 900,000 barrels of oil per day, roughly equivalent to 1.53 billion kw-hr per day. A typical wind turbine is 2MW nameplate capacity, but at best actually produces about 30% of this on average. This means that in a day it produces 2,000*.3*24 = 14,400 kw-hr of electricity. This means that the Keystone XL pipeline would have transported an amount of energy to the US equal to the output of 106,250 of those big utility-size wind turbines.
Looked at another way, the entire annual output of the US wind energy sector was about 75 terra-watt-hours per year or about 260 million kw-hr per day. This means that the Keystone XL pipeline would have carried energy equal to over 5 times the total output of wind power in the US.
Of course, this is just based on the potential energy in the fuel, and actual electricity production would be 50-65% less. But even so, this one single pipeline, out of many, is several times larger than the entire wind power sector.
(update: link is fixed) My new Forbes column is up, and it attempts to strip away the window dressing around the Keystone pipeline decision to get at the core issue -- "a quasi-irrational ('I'm blogging against the modern economy from my iPhone'), almost aesthetic distaste for energy production, the modern industrial economy, and capitalism itself. " Read it all here.
PS- the contrast between the Administrations support of the egregious HSR project in CA and its rejection of the takes-no-tax-dollars Keystone XL infrastructure project reminds me of my earlier piece on the Timeless Appeal of Triumphalism. Politicians love to shift capital from private, boring, productive things like pipelines to sexy taxpayer-funded things that they can put their names on.