Put America first
March 20, 2014
Somebody needs to explain to me why America would want to build Canada's Keystone Pipeline, and don't say "jobs" because that's a pretty weak argument. What Canada has is not oil but bitumen. Bitumen is rock-hard at 50 degrees and to be transported through a pipe, it must be heated or diluted and mostly both. It takes a lot of energy to get oil and gasoline out of bitumen; that anyone is even thinking about it is tacit acknowledgement that the world is running out of oil.
Jobs. The U.S. State department says the Keystone Pipeline would create 3,900 direct construction jobs, TransCanada claims 9,000. They both agree that indirectly the pipeline would create 42,100 jobs for material suppliers' right down to the ranchers providing beef for the construction camps.
42,100 jobs is nothing to take lightly except for the fact that these would be temporary jobs lasting a year, some possibly two, while the construction is ongoing. After the construction is complete, TransCanada would lay off everyone except 35 permanent year-round employees needed for maintenance and inspections.
Call me nuts, but I don't think 35 jobs are worth an 1,100-mile scar carved through the heartland when we have better opportunities for employing Americans.
Last week, two five-story East Harlem tenements were blown into rubble, killing eight and hospitalizing 60. The blast was caused by a leak in New York's natural gas infrastructure, specifically a cast iron pipe that was installed in 1887. New York City has 6,300 miles of natural gas pipeline with an average age of 56 years. A recent survey showed an average of four leaks per mile. Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and almost any major city you can name shares comparable statistics. Around 71 million Americans depend upon natural gas. You want jobs? Let's revitalize America's own pipelines before we build Canada's.
There are 84,000 dams in America with an average age of 52 years. High-hazard dams are those that lie above populated areas. The count in 2012 was 14,000, and of those, 2,000 have been judged structurally unsound—disasters just biding time. Guess what state is No. 3 on the list? If you guessed Colorado, with 159 high-hazard, structurally unsafe dams, you'd be correct.
Thomas Edison installed the first commercial electrical grid in downtown Manhattan in 1888. Most of the nation's grid today is closely patterned on the same vulnerable and outdated model. We just keep tacking on to it. It's a system frighteningly susceptible to accidents as well as terrorist and cyber-attacks. Back on Aug. 14, 2003 in Ohio a tree fell into a transmission line that triggered a series of faults leaving 50 million people in the northeastern United States without power for more than a day. That's fragile. It is estimated that to bring up the U.S. electrical grid to a modern, safe and secure system would cost 20 billion dollars a year for the next 20 years. Now we're talking jobs.
We haven't mentioned highways. A simple 70-mile trip to Denver down the I-70 corridor makes it pretty evident that we don't have much of a handle on our highway infrastructure either. The current efforts, and the adding of a paid-Lexus-Lane through the tunnels at Idaho Springs, to me at least, seems a classic case of "too little, too late." There are over 2.5 million miles of paved roads in the U.S. I wonder how many jobs would be created bringing them into a safe, first-class condition.
So color me an ignorant American but I really feel we should take care of our own backyard before making life better for Canada.