The Washington Times-Herald

Our Perspective

December 21, 2011

Playing politics with an oil pipeline

New Castle — When is a pipeline not a pipeline?

When it’s converted into a political football and used to divert attention from larger issues.

To hear congressional Republicans tell it, a proposed pipeline that would run from Canada across much of the United States is crucial to the nation’s economy. And the Obama administration is doing everything it can to make sure it’s never built.

But like most of what’s coming out of Washington these days, what’s said and what’s true are two different things. There are indeed differences over this pipeline, and elements of politics on both sides of the issue. But a few facts can put things into perspective.

The pipeline is intended to boost energy production by pumping petroleum from Canadian oil sands to various American refineries. These oil sands are a petroleum-laden, tar-like product that is America’s largest source of oil these days.

There’s no doubt that new construction from more than 2,000 miles of pipeline would provide an energy benefit to the United States. There’s also no doubt that thousands of people would be employed building that pipeline. The number of permanent jobs is far less dramatic.

Republican lawmakers are pushing the project as a jobs package, and inserted pipeline language into a bill that would extend a payroll tax cut into the new year.

Interestingly, that language does not specifically call for the construction of the pipeline. Instead it gives President Obama 60 days to make a decision.

Now, if you think it’s no big deal to dig a ditch and lay a pipeline across much of the United States, then you probably would make a good bureaucrat in China. That’s how such decisions are made there.

In America, however, we like to look at the lay of the land, so to speak, to consider options and even offer locals impacted by the project the opportunity to provide input.

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