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Monday, February 06, 2023

Leak in the Keystone Pipeline highlights underlying problems

Earlier in November there was a monumental leak in the Keystone Pipeline, resulting in over 200,000 gallons of oil spilling into the land of South Dakota, close to the Lake Traverse Indian Reservation. This marks the pipeline’s third significant leak in the United States since 2010. Originally, the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada Corp, projected spills once every seven to 11 years in the US and once every 41 years in South Dakota.

Despite the obvious pitfalls and wildly inaccurate projections with the pipeline system, TransCanada Corp, with continued support from President Donald Trump, continues to advance its pipeline expansion via the notorious Keystone XL pipeline. What has been demonstrated to this point is that pipelines of this nature will inevitably leak, causing damage to surrounding wildlife, livestock and natural resources.

When compounded with the public outcry last year, Trump’s backing of the Keystone XL pipeline is egregiously unacceptable. The risk of leakage was repeatedly highlighted by protesters and environmental agencies, helping to influence then-Secretary of State John Kerry and Obama to reject the proposal.

If it was not already obvious, this recent episode displays the magnitude of apathy and ignorance that went into Trump’s decision to reverse Obama’s decision.

Obama’s original decision to reject the pipeline was met with harsh criticism from Trump when he was running in the Republican primary. As usual, there was a Trump tweet for the occasion, as he wrote “So sad that Obama rejected Keystone Pipeline. Thousands of jobs, good for the environment, no downside!”

However, according to facts, common sense and general reality, there most certainly is a downside. Pipelines such as this are an affront to the environment, Native American rights and basic human decency.

As if the indecency towards Native Americans was not already apparent, Trump recently delivered a speech to Native American leaders in front of a portrait of Andrew Jackson where he chided Senator Elizabeth Warren by calling her Pocahontas.

In addition to maliciously embarrassing Native Americans and ignoring environmental risks, the pipeline does not make long-term economic sense. The argument implored by the right is that the pipeline will create jobs.

This is undoubtedly true. However, providing some short-term employment does not mean that the country needs to throw out any shred of decency to advance a project with catastrophic consequences.

The conservative ideology is rooted in allowing the free market to generate growth through advancement in ideas and technologies. Regardless of one’s position on this mentality, the push for pipeline expansion is antithetical to the base of this economic theory.

Like coal mines, pipelines are outdated technologies. The notion of advancing them for the sake of limited employment is incredibly short sighted and discourages innovation and improvement.

The labor market is already trending towards clean energy, as the renewable energy market currently employs five times more people than coal, oil and gas combined.

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Economic growth does not lay in preserving archaic technologies, but rather in promoting the new industries that have already surpassed them.

Additionally, there are already philanthropic organizations that help retrain workers who lose their jobs from clean energy employment and these efforts could be even better with government programs.

As former Sierra Club Executive Director Carl Pope explained, “In 1924, we didn’t say ‘we’re going to lose harness makers because of the Model T.’ We didn’t make America great by protecting harness makers; we made America great by launching the Automotive Revolution.”

Supporting our native population, preserving our environment and advancing economically should be common goals in American society. Simply put, the promotion of the Keystone XL Pipeline shows that our government does not agree.

Jake is a junior majoring in economics and history with a certificate in environmental studies. What are your thoughts on the Keystone pipeline spill? Please send any and all of your questions, comments and concerns to

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