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President Obama is proposing funding $2 billion for green energy research out of fees for drilling oil and gas on public land. There should be something for both climate hawks and science deniers to like. One gets increased drilling on public land, the other gets money for replacing fossil fuels. More fossil fuel extraction, but more funding for green energy. This set me to thinking about the Keystone XL pipeline.

The pipeline is a lousy idea for multiple reasons, like refining the oil in Texas instead of near where it’s extracted in Alberta, or even in the nearer states, is a pretty dead giveaway the oil is going overseas — if you’re clinging to the notion it will increase US supplies, get that out of your head. In fact, that might reduce gasoline supplies in the Midwest where we get oil from Canada now. There are all sorts of local pollution risks along the pipeline’s route, even if Nebraska is mollified about its most vulnerable aquifers. Above all of course, the production of oil from tar sands produces a lot more carbon dioxide than conventional oil. Yet for all that, Obama is clearly serious about “all of the above”, meaning he has made serious progress on green energy, but he believes in increased fossil fuel production too. No wonder he’s susceptible to the pressure he’s receiving to approve the pipeline.

But maybe there’s a compromise suggested by the proposal to fund green energy with oil and gas leasing — a pipeline tax. Maybe not all pipelines, but at least those pipelines carrying tar sands oil.  The tax shouldn’t just cover the public costs of leaks, but the revenue should be dedicated to green energy research and subsidies. Maybe the tax would be so much per mile per year. How much is so much? I don’t know, though if the science deniers, oil companies, Transcanada, and the prime minister* who is turning Canada into a petrostate aren’t screaming in pain, then it’s not high enough.

So they would get their pipeline and get their oil shipped overseas, but at the cost of funding oil’s obsolescence.

*The prime minister of Canada is Stephen Harper, whom I refer to affectionately as “George Bush’s Mini-Me”.

cross-posted on MN Progressive Project

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