-by Bibi Lichauco- Environmentalists all across the country held their breath on November 18th, as the Senate voted on the authorization of the notorious Keystone XL pipeline. Passing this controversial bill that would have allowed the construction of a massive 5.3 billion dollar pipeline capable of carrying 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, where it would connect with the southern trail that leads to Texas oil refineries. There are both economic and political implications in the construction of this pipeline. Supporters, who are composed of the Canadian oil companies, labor and building trades unions, most Senate Republicans, and 66 percent of Americans, believe that the pipeline will create thousands of jobs and greatly advance economic growth. The State Department released a review that estimated the pipeline would generate about 2,000-4,000 jobs over a two-year period, most of which would be temporary. The pipeline was also predicted to contribute 4.3 billion dollars to the American economy over this time. Additionally, a “pro” for the pipeline is that it would strengthen trade relations between the United States and Canada, as Canada’s only customer for oil trade is the United States.
On the flip side, environmentalists and Senate Democrats are opposed to the bill. Environmentalists use the point that the pipeline will cause greenhouse gas emissions, which trap heat in the atmosphere and are heavy contributors to climate change. The pipeline would therefore contradict Obama’s efforts towards adapting America to more sustainable sources of energy; however, Obama has left this decision to the State Department and tiptoed around proclaiming a definitive opinion on the issue for several years. On the day of the vote, the bill failed to pass by one vote. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, faced a runoff election in her home state and vied to use the bill’s passing so as to bolster her political legitimacy and help her campaign. Ultimately, her loss was humiliating, as the Senate was still dominated by Democrats who would not vote for the bill; ironically, this bill will most likely pass easily in a Republican majority senate, which we will see this coming January.
Overall, putting the issue back on Congress’ floor was nearly futile as the situation is at a standstill but will undergo discussion again when the Senate changes in a few weeks. In the month of November, the Keystone XL pipeline served a political wedge; we shall await the final decision to come early next year, around the one-year anniversary of the protests in Washington in which some Winsor students were involved. Perhaps because the pipeline bill is expected to be passed, Winsor environmentalists will venture back down to the National Mall and show Congress that this pipeline would not be beneficial for Americans.