Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pipe Dreams

My beloved right-wing correspondent was kind enough to pass along an NRO article from Victor Davis Hanson, who is always good for a few laughs. In this case he leads off a lengthy kvetch about the Keystone XL pipeline decision by saying "it is hard to remember a presidential decision that had as many negatives as this one."

I guess it's "hard to remember" the downside to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, particularly if, like Mr. Hanson, you were an enthusiastic cheerleader for that particular decision. But GOP support for this dubious Canadian pipeline boondoggle is of a piece with using our troops to install a client regime in an even more lucrative oil patch. In both cases frugality with our tax dollars takes a back seat to subsidizing the fossil fuel barons.

The Republican party (along with its attendant think tanks and journals) is so in thrall to the pipeline of dollars from this 19th century technology that they have led a successful 30-year effort to prevent us from transitioning to 21st century clean energy.

If, instead of removing solar panels from the White House in the Reagan Era, we had started buying them for every government building in America, photovoltaics would by now be cheaper than coal. That prospect, long delayed, is now not too far off, thanks in part to the efforts of our global competitors in Asia and Europe.

Republicans are not content with blocking the removal of corporate welfare for the oil industry (about a half trillion over the past century, and half a trillion a year now, on a global basis). On top of all this they keep whining about the inefficiencies and costs of renewable energy (about $6 billion in subsidies over the last 15 years). Their hypocritical efforts at scandal-mongering over Solyndra serve the same agenda of delaying the inevitable as long as possible – not unlike the white South Africans of the Reagan Era.

Of course, the staggering price for all this foot-dragging will be paid by our children and grandchildren in the form of irreversible climate change, and the attendant war, pestilence and famine. Meanwhile Hanson just can't think of any decisions with more negatives than denying a taxpayer-funded straw into another pool of oil.

To make so ludicrous a claim, the author must assume his readers have forgotten that the GOP deliberately forced the rejection of the Trans-Canada deal because, as one congressional aide candidly stated, “It’s a question of whether we’d rather have the pipeline or the issue.” Well, now they have their issue, but as Hanson's article demonstrates, it's pretty thin gruel.

He bullet-points five separate complaints: One is the snarky invocation of the president's desire for large-scale infrastructure projects. There are innumerable such plans the GOP has blocked or dismissed, not least of which would be the transit systems needed to break our petroleum addiction. Most predictable is the concern-trolling over our vast debt, a legacy of our previous GOP presidents (see also the links in my fifth paragraph).

Hanson waves off environmental concerns, and also strains for a national-security dimension, laughably invoking the Iranian bogeyman. This would hold more water if he hadn't advocated the forcible removal of their chief regional rival, to be replaced by a Shiite-majority regime warmer to the mullahs than any other neighbor.

But of course the whole reason the GOP preferred the pipeline as an issue to the pipeline as a reality is so that they could complain about "job destruction." The subsidizee inflates their claim to 20,000 jobs, and while all construction jobs are temporary, any job in this economy is certainly welcome, especially in that distressed sector. Yet the exaggerated claims have already sparked calls for an SEC investigation, as the numbers given to US authorities are 67 times the job creation claims cited in Canada. Moreover, according to XL's own documents, the number of permanent US jobs arising from a completed pipeline would amount to as little as twenty.

Hanson's concern over job creation would have more credibility if the last Republican administration hadn't presided over an economic collapse that shed nearly nine million jobs before it bottomed out early in Obama's term. Since the recession's trough, the economy has added 2.6 million private-secor jobs. The overall employment number would be even higher if it weren't for GOP obstructionism, leveraging and blackmailing forced-austerity policies that have caused continued public-sector contraction.

After all, suppose that we grant the dubious claim that a subsidized pipeline allowing Canadians to export to world markets through the Gulf of Mexico would create 20,000 jobs. Just last month, the US economy added ten times that many. So good luck making an issue out of this. The only way that will work is if one assumes that a pool of credulous low-information voters is an inexhaustible resource. Oh, wait.


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