We're celebrating Earth Day this week, and maybe that's what the White House hoped people would think it was doing when it earlier delayed construction of the job-creating, energy-boosting, science-endorsed, Keystone XL pipeline. It was more nearly a means of bringing in bribes. A real way to celebrate would be to cheer on fracking, an environmental as well as an economic blessing.
An initial government-sponsored study of the proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas took three years during which scientists filled eight volumes with data verifying it was safe. Environmental activists said phooey on that, President Barack Obama agreed, the route was revised, and there was another study saying not to worry. Obama still worried to the point of this recent delay. The issue was that, if the project took off, liberal California billionaire Tom Steyer might not give millions to Democrats in November's congressional elections.
That's not Fox News speculating, but The New York Times, which points out in an analytical piece that it's not just Steyer afraid that Keystone will contribute to global warming through greenhouse carbon emissions from the oil it transports, but still other liberals whose donations are coveted.
The Times, which figures the delay will last at least until the midterm elections have come and gone, points out that the Keystone contribution to greenhouse gases would be a meaningless smidgen. Obama should know that and either (1) has joined the flat-earth society he once said is the home of warming skeptics or (2) is willing to sacrifice the good of unemployed workers and Americans in general for the sake of campaign moola.
My guess is that the latter is more nearly true, as political advantage has been the motive on other issues but not so much on the issue of fracking. Yes, the administration has bent some as activist groups have dished out unsupportable propaganda. But two leaders of the Environmental Protection Agency under Obama have insisted the environmental concerns are minimal. I myself was convinced at a meeting of dozens of geologists that the oil and gas industry is exercising caution as meticulously as meticulously gets.
"Fracking" is a relatively new word in common discourse. It refers to hydraulic fracturing of underground rocks by means of liquids pushing powerfully to create escape routes for natural gas or oil. A vertical version has been around for 60 years, but there's a more recent horizontal version permitting easy access to vast deposits of gas and oil. This means that, in meeting our energy needs and environmental goals, we are relying more on cheap natural gas, a fossil fuel that emits far less carbon dioxide than the others.
Already, owing largely to this gift from the free market, an ever larger percentage of electric generators are using natural gas instead of coal and that's a big reason we're seeing the lowest carbon-dioxide emissions in this country since the mid-1990s. In the European Union, where fracking was frowned on and carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, renewables and the Kyoto global warming treaty were embraced, the 28 member nations are in retreat because of the costs. Continued full enforcement of some of the rules could lead to "deindustrialization" of his country, one German official was quoted as saying, and fracking has come to have increased appeal.
In a way, it is almost incredible there could have been this fracking development meeting environmentalist objectives even as it spurs economic growth to the extent of an emerging, nation-lifting energy boom. As you might expect, some radicals aren't satisfied and are sparing no exaggeration or technique to either shut up or denigrate the other side in an effort to end use of all fossil fuels. It is people of this ideological ilk who also oppose the Keystone pipeline successfully enough to have a president at least temporarily cheat America out of something beneficial.
But happy Earth Day, everyone.
Jay Ambrose is an op-ed columnist for McClatchy-Tribune. Email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
By JAY AMBROSE