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Tar sands and the environment: Keystone cop-out

IF YOU can’t think of anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. That, more or less, seems to have been the philosophy behind the State Department’s decision, after careful consideration of the pros and cons of a proposed oil pipeline from Canada to Texas, to make no decisions until after next year’s presidential elections. Thus Barack Obama can face the voters without having passed judgment on a project that had prompted a showdown between the business lobby and environmentalists.Businesses and the unions like the proposed Keystone XL pipeline because it would generate orders and jobs—20,000 of them, says TransCanada, the firm behind the scheme. Environmentalists dislike it because it would be filled with oil from Alberta’s tar sands, the extraction of which involves copious emissions of greenhouse gases. To bolster their case, each side has marshalled secondary arguments: that the pipeline would enhance America’s energy security by displacing imports from unfriendly places, in the case of the pros, and that it would imperil a huge aquifer in Nebraska, for the cons.In the end, it was concerns about the…

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