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Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Almost overnight, the approval of the Keystone pipeline has become a key issue in Louisiana’s cantankerous senatorial runoff campaign. Incumbent Mary Landrieu is leading the charge in the U.S. Senate, while challenger Dr. Bill Cassidy is trying to one up Landrieu by being the Keystone champion in the House of Representatives. So two questions: Where have the two candidates been with such an important issue all these many months? And is building the pipeline the huge job creator and economic bonanza that both candidates say it is?

For those readers who have been out of the loop as to what Keystone is all about, here’s a short summery. Canada is proposing the building of a pipeline some 875 miles from Western Canada down to Nebraska, where it would then tie in to other U.S. pipelines. More than 830,000 barrels of oil a day would then flow down to the Gulf Coast for refining and exportation. But the U.S. must give approval, since the pipeline crosses international borders.

Sounds pretty good so far. Those opposing the project fear major environmental damage, as the pipeline is being built and maintained. Not so, I say. Remember, Louisiana is crisscrossed by over 10,000 miles of pipeline with only minor environmental problems. I’m not talking about damages that have destroyed large portions of marshlands by drilling for oil and gas. These are the buried pipelines that take refined petroleum up to the east coast.

Right now, a large number of petroleum products are transported to the Midwest and West Coast by rail and truck. There is probably more ecological risk with land transportation than with pipelines. Environmentally, I just don’t see that great a risk.  So if there’s little downside, according to our two Louisiana politicians, fighting tooth and nail for the U.S. Senate seat, and who are filling the airwaves with the message that Keystone is critical to Louisiana’s economic future, what’s the upside?

Landrieu says some forty four thousand jobs will flow into Louisiana if Keystone is built. Not to be one upped, Cassidy doubles the number of jobs that will be created, and adds assertions that gasoline prices will drop at the pump with more oil that can be refined on the Gulf Coast. So is there any validity to these claims from the Landrieu and Cassidy camps? Absolutely not. None! Zero! Nil! Zip! Zilch! It’s all political hogwash from both candidates.

Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported this year that an eleven-volume report prepared by the State Department concludes the Keystone Pipeline would create (are you ready) 35 permanent jobs. Thirty-Five jobs and not a single one in Louisiana. So the claims of thousands of jobs flooding into the Bayou State, as both candidates contend, are nothing more than a pipe dream.

How about their claims that all this new Canadian oil will actually lower the price of a gallon of gas? Again, not true. What few realize is that Canadian oil, called tar sands crude, is already being imported into the United States, primarily by rail in tank cars, at a rate of more than 3 million barrels a day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. This Canadian oil is being processed in Midwestern refineries, the largest being the Flint Hills refinery in Pine Bend, Minnesota, owned by the Koch Brothers. Numerous other refineries are spread from Minnesota across the west to Montana.

Most of this Midwestern oil is presently sold to U.S. consumers. So the more oil we keep here in the U.S., the lower the price at the pump. Where will the Keystone oil go? To Texas, to be refined and shipped overseas. That means less oil in the U.S., and a higher price to U.S. consumers.

The bottom line is this. The Keystone pipeline, if approved, will have no bearing on jobs or economic development in Louisiana. It might even cause the price Louisiana consumers pay at the pump to go up. Telling those of us living down here in the Bayou State any differently is just more political smoke and mirrors. If congress wants to approve the project to land a few more jobs in Texas, so be it. But in Louisiana, how about more straight talk and less election distortions and gibberish?


“I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.”

~Adlai Stevenson

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide.  You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownla.com.  You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownla.com.


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