Supporters of the Keystone Pipeline, including Joe Manchin and our local "newspapers," have argued that building the pipeline is necessary for our energy independence. Interestingly, Joe and the Republican Party had a chance to demonstrate their support for that argument yesterday in the Senate. They failed miserably.
As David Nir at Daily Kos wrote earlier today:
Democratic Sen. Ed Markey had a good idea: Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline keep talking about how it'll improve America's energy security, so why not set that claim in stone? Markey proposed an amendment to the current Keystone legislation pending in the Senate that would require oil transported through the pipeline to remain in the United States. It only makes sense, right?
Guess who voted against the amendment? Every Senate Republican plus three Democrats:
Markey's amendment is good, populist politics, which is why senators from red states like Jon Tester (Montana), Joe Donnelly (Indiana), and Claire McCaskill (Missouri) all supported it. If anything, it's the kind of legislation you'd be happy to see your opponent oppose, since you can easily frame a vote against the amendment as a vote against U.S. interests.
But now Manchin, Warner, and Heitkamp are not only on the wrong side of this issue, they also look like phonies. And no voter likes a phony.
(Note to Kos staff – it’s embarrassing to them only if the local media report their vote and in the Northern Panhandle – that ain’t gonna happen.)
Did you see any mention of this amendment in today’s Intelligencer editorial about the pipeline? Of course not. If our oil needs are as important as that editorial suggests, why didn’t they take Joe and the Republican Party to task for their vote? The answer is simple: because the Keystone Pipeline is not about energy independence or even the cost at the pump, it’s about giving big oil what they want. Joe, the Republican Party, and our "newspapers" know that – they just need to keep repeating the right mantras ("energy independence" and "price at the pump") to carry the day.
I think Markey knew his amendment didn’t have a chance – in all likelihood it was an act of political theatre to call out and embarrass the supporters of the pipeline. Too bad most West Virginians won’t read or hear about this vote.
Correction January 22 - The vote was not on the amendment itself but rather on a motion to table it. (The end result is the same.)
Update January 22 - In addition, to the Markey amendment, Senator Al Franken also proposed an amendment:
Republicans also rejected an amendment proposed by Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) to require that if the pipeline is approved, it must be built with American iron and steel. Every Republican, except North Carolina Senator Richard Burr, voted to table that amendment as well.
Senator Manchin did support this amendment.
The Straw men are back
In its support for any and all fossil fuels regardless of the consequences, this morning’s Intelligencer gives us still another editorial in support of the Keystone Pipeline. Lacking any good arguments, the editorial argues against points the critics of the pipeline haven’t even raised.
An objection to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline being made by some of its liberal opponents may be based on the fact at least 60 percent of Americans are too young to remember the 1973 Arab oil embargo. . . .
Some opponents of the pipeline say it should not be built because the nation does not need the substantial quantities of Canadian oil it would bring us. Low gasoline prices prove that, they insist.
Please, could you give us the name of even one critic who makes this argument? Think about much stronger the Intelligencer’s argument would be if they said something like "noted critic of the Keystone Pipeline Joe Blow has argued that . . . ." They don’t because that’s not the argument that critics of the pipeline are making.
No, opponents argue: (1) the oil is not intended for our use. If it were, the pipeline would have stopped in the middle of the United States. Instead it’s going to New Orleans in order to be exported to China and elsewhere. (2) The pipeline will have little or no effect on prices at the pump –the pipeline’s owner even admits that. (3) The projections on the number of permanent jobs that will be created are very small. (4) (and most importantly) The tar sand oil from Alberta is "the dirtiest oil in the world." It is an ecological disaster waiting to happen.
It would certainly add to the debate on the pipeline if the Intelligencer dealt with the actual arguments that critics raise instead of making up irrelevant ones. However, that's probably not going to happen.
The best congress money can buy?
Opensecrets.org recently did an analysis of lifetime political contributions to senators by the oil and gas industry and by environmental groups. They then looked at how the senator voted on the Keystone pipeline last month. Not surprisingly, they found a strong correlation between money received from oil and gas and a vote in favor of the pipeline. There also found a connection between a "no vote" and money contributed from environmental groups although the environmental groups have given far less. As the article’s title suggests: ""Yea" Votes Took In Six Times More Oil & Gas Money Than Opponents."
I was interested in how West Virginia’s two senators faired in this study. Joe Manchin, who was one of only 14 Democrats to vote for the pipeline, has received $280,000 in contributions from the oil and natural industries vs. $40,000 from environmental groups. Rockefeller, who voted "no," has received $320,000 from oil and gas and $60,000 from environmental groups in his 30 year tenure. Joe appears to be doing quite well with the oil and gas industry – dividing $280,000 by the four years he’s served works out to $70,000 a year. Compare that to Rockefeller whose $320,000 over thirty years yields only about $10,000 a year. I realize that inflation and the amount that these groups have given have increased significantly in the last couple of years. Still, it appears that Joe doesn’t discriminate when it comes to fossil fuels -- he's more than willing to do go to bat for all of them.