With the recent increase in gasoline prices, the Keystone XL Pipeline has become a prominent political issue, which has accentuated the differences in conservative and liberal perspectives on how the pipeline will affect gasoline prices, the job market, and the environment. According to conservatives, the 1,700-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries, would create job security and decrease gasoline prices, while having little impact on the environment. According to liberals the pipeline is not guaranteed to sufficiently change the job market or gasoline prices, but the pipeline will have significant environmental impacts.

Nicolas Loris, a conservative Herbert and Joyce Morgan Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, contends that after a three-year review conducted by the Department of State, it is apparent that “the Keystone XL Pipeline poses no significant threat.” According to Loris, environmental activists’ “relentless opposition” has exaggerated the risks associated with the implementation of the pipeline. Loris does, however, acknowledge that, “with any environmental project, there are some risks.”

Loris believes the risks associated with the pipeline are minimal enough to be outweighed by the significant advantages of Keystone XL are worth its construction. Loris believes that one of the noteworthy advantages to building the pipeline is the effect the pipeline will have on gas prices. He argues, “The best way to combat rising oil prices is to raise the supply.” Currently, he suggests that most effective way to raise the supply is through the completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Loris does not believe, however, that the pipeline will always be the most efficient way to create energy: “I will happily switch over, when biofuels become competitive in the market. For now, oil is the most economical.”

The other major upside of building the pipeline, according to Loris, is the jobs the pipeline will create. “It is wrong to only look at how many jobs would be created,” he said. “Whether 500 or 5000 jobs are created, the increase in jobs will add value to our society. I think it is important to consider the value added.”

Conversely, Daniel J. Weiss, a liberal Senior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy at the Center for American Progess, contends that there are significant environmental risks associated with the implementation of the pipeline: “There are two elements of KXL that are risky.  First, its route through Nebraska is undetermined.  It is unclear how far it will be from either the Ogallala Aquifer or the Missouri River.  A pipeline spill could harm either of these two water resources that are vital for agriculture.   The second is that the pipeline would enable oil sands production to double, which would produce significantly more carbon dioxide pollution.”

Weiss also believes that the implementation of the pipeline would not significantly affect the price of gasoline. While Weiss acknowledges that the pipeline would create around 6,000 jobs, he does not believe that is a sufficient reason to risk environmental catastrophe, adding, “It will not enhance our energy security since there is no guarantee that the refined products made from the oil sands shipped through the pipeline will be sold in the U.S. instead of exported.”

Alison Walter, secretary of the Environmental Action Organization, also opposes the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. Like Daniel Weiss, Walter believes the extensive environmental risks of the pipeline outweigh the potential economic gains. Walter adds that insufficient knowledge contributes to the support of construction saying, “I think that the majority of the people who support the pipeline believe that it will create a significant amount of new jobs and lower fuel prices. From the evidence that I have seen, both of these claims are false. I find it hard to believe that oil companies would be supporting the construction of the pipeline if it would lower domestic fuel prices, as it would decrease their profit and they don’t want to lose money.”

The contradicting viewpoints of conservatives and liberals stem from their conflicting political interests. While the liberals’ voting base is filled with environmentalists, the conservatives’ voting base consists of large business—many oil businesses would benefit from the implementation of the pipeline. There has still been no final decision regarding the pipeline.


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