Ben Stein, Visine spokesperson and former speechwriter for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, has decided to call people who disagree with him mentally deficient. Like all actors, turned political person, turned actor, turned political commentator, Americans everywhere have been waiting on the sidelines to hear what Mr. Stein has had to say about the Keystone XL pipeline. Thankfully, Stein did not disappoint.
On Saturday Ben Stein appeared on the Fox News Network’s Neil Cavuto show. Stein, a proponent of the Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t seem to understand what protesters are getting all upset about. In fact, he believes that those who oppose the pipeline are doing so on the sole basis to give them something to do. Speaking to Cavuto he said, “This isn’t really about any policy issues, it’s about attracting attention to the protesters, giving them something to do, making them feel as if they’re morally superior to their parents. Protests of this kind are a psychological issue, they’re not about an economic or political issue, they’re about a psychological or mental disease or defect.”
Here is the video via Media Matters:
Contrary to Mr. Stein’s belief, those who oppose the pipeline actually have very good reasons. Those reasons are not the result of some mental deficiency or defect or a lack of having anything else to do with our time. The arguments against the pipeline project stem from something Mr. Stein may be unfamiliar with which is what many humbly call, “Science.”
The 1,700-mile pipeline would stretch from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf. TransCanada’s Environmental Impact Summary regarding the construction of the pipeline said it would disturb 20,782 acres of land, 740 acres of wetlands and other river systems. The battle of the pipeline comes from those who believe the pipeline is necessary for America’s energy independence and those who believe the environmental cost of the project to be to high. It is more than that though, it is a fight between relying on a dying energy resource and forcing ourselves to find and invest in new ones. The argument that the pipeline would do anything for America’s energy independence is weak at best. The pipeline would only provide 4% of the U.S. petroleum supply.
The environmental impact, though downplayed by the State department, would be substantial. Extracting from oil sands produces higher greenhouse gas emissions than many other forms of crude oil production. Another obvious concern would be an oil spill, which would have disastrous consequences to wildlife, water, and plant species. The amount of water necessary for the extraction and refinement of this oil has also been cause for alarm. Each step of production will require a high environmental cost to be paid. Every barrel of oil requires 2-4.5 barrels of fresh water. Now consider that this water must often be transported via tankers, another source of carbon emissions. Unlike the water we use, which is treated and then used again, this water may never again be utilized. According to senior policy analyst Dan Wollynillowicz at the Pembina Institute, “Current oil operations in Canada withdraw more than 349 million cubic meters of water per year, the equivalent to the amount required by a city of 2 million people.”
That is current production, that does not even take into consideration the increased production that the creation of the Keystone XL Pipeline would bring. The pipeline would require deforestation, displacement ... every aspect of this pipeline is wrought with an environmental cost that outweighs any possible benefit. Though TransCanada likes to talk about land reclamation, this land is rendered virtually unusable by the extraction process. That’s because companies do not want to spend the money to make the land usable again, so it sits unused and utterly wasted. The short-sighted goals of creating an unknown amount of temporary jobs and providing alleged relief to increasing oil-prices requires us to be dependent on variables we cannot possibly control for. That's a risk I'm not willing to take, it's a risk none of us should be willing to take.
For all of his supposed intellect, Ben Stein seems to be completely bereft of the incredibly obvious environmental cost this pipeline would have on our already damaged environment. The Keystone XL Pipeline discussion is one of the most important ones President Obama will make. It is the choice between stagnation and innovation, between the past and the future and I for one hope that for once the President is brave enough to the latter.