The State Department has Koch-connected oil industry analysts justify its "big deal" shrug at the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama will likely approve this big favor to Canada, just he approved the southern leg of the project from Cushing, Oklahoma, to the Gulf of Mexico.
If/when he does, Thomas Friedman contends he'd better be ready to expiate his sin with some green payback:
If Keystone gets approved, environmentalists should have a long shopping list ready, starting with a price signal that discourages the use of carbon-intensive fuels in favor of low-carbon energy. Nothing would do more to clean our air, drive clean-tech innovation, weaken petro-dictators and reduce the deficit than a carbon tax. One prays this will become part of the budget debate. Also, the president can use his authority under the Clean Air Act to order reductions in CO2 emissions from existing coal power plants and refiners by, say, 25 percent. He could then do with the power companies what he did with autos: negotiate with them over the fairest way to achieve that reduction in different parts of the country. We also need to keep the president’s feet to the fire on the vow in his State of the Union address to foster policies that could “cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years.” About 30 percent of energy in buildings is wasted [Thomas Friedman, "No to Keystone. Yes to Crazy," New York Times, 2013.03.09].
Friedman also suggests the President offset the harm caused by Keystone XL by investing in "natural" or "green" infrastructure. Say what?
Green infrastructure generally refers to the use of the natural landscape instead of engineered structures. Applied to stormwater management, GI can be defined as “solutions that manage stormwater onsite through installation of permeable pavement, green roofs, parks, wetland, roadside plantings, rain barrels, and other mechanisms that enhance natural hydrologic functions, such as infiltration into soil and evaporation into the air” [Annie Donovan, Senior Policy Advisor for New Financial Instruments at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, "Smart Communities Will Build Green Infrastructure," Forbes, 2013.01.22].
Ah. Using nature instead of concrete and machines to solve problems. Is there a business case for natural infrastructure?
Wetland and farmland measures in the Chesapeake Bay area, for example, can accomplish more than higher priced measures like refrigeration units at end of pipes or de‐nitrification. In Venezuela, investment in a national system of protected areas is preventing sedimentation that otherwise could reduce farm earnings by around $3.5 million a year. Cultivating about 50,000 acres of mangroves in Vietnam costs just over $1 million but saves over $7 million on annual dike maintenance, while one recent study concluded that re‐establishing oyster reefs as a buffer against coastal storm surges and erosion in the U.S. would be cheaper than pouring concrete bulkheads (there also are not enough basic materials to make a sufficient amount of concrete to protect vulnerable areas) ["Nature as Foundation of Economy: Investing in Natural Infrastructure for Conservation Supporting Human Development," The Aspen Institute, 2012, p. 17].
Natural infrastructure can mean savings for cities...
New York City has long preserved watersheds in the Catskills Mountains and Hudson Valley for the city’s drinking water supplies. Since the 1990s, in order to comply with federal regulations, New York City has committed $1.5 billion dollars for protection of the forests that blanket much of the Catskills rather than build and operate a water filtration and purification plant costing $10 billion [Jim Robbins, "With Funding Tight, Cities Are Turning to Green Infrastructure," environment360, 2012.08.23].
...and for business...
The largest green roof in the world is the 10.4-acre Ford Dearborn Truck Assembly Plant in Michigan, a living rooftop prairie with seven species of grass and flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Ford officials say the roof, part of a 600-acre green storm water treatment system at the facility, cost $15 million and eliminated the need for a $50 million water treatment facility. The roof also reduces heat and cooling needs by 5 percent [Robbins, 2012].
You can put thousands of people to work for a couple years trenching Keystone XL. You can put thousands more people to work installing living roofs, planting trees, and restoring wetlands to keep Chris Christie from washing out to sea during the next Hurricane Sandy. The latter will be doing work that will bolster the nation's economic and environmental bottom line indefinitely, unlike Keystone XL, which brings all sorts of environmental risks and which will contribute to our economic well-being only until the Kochs squeeze the last affordable drop of oil from the tar sands.
Mr. President, if you're going to pour some sugar on Big Oil stock portfolios, you're going to have to give us some greens as well. Carbon tax, tougher emission controls, green infrastructure... pour it on, and just maybe you'll balance out the harm of Keystone XL.
Related: Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, the dude in charge of staring down North Korean missile launches, says the biggest long-term security threat in his theater of operations is climate change.