NEW CASTLE —
When is a pipeline not a pipeline?
When it’s converted into a political football and used to divert attention from larger issues.
To hear congressional Republicans tell it, a proposed pipeline that would run from Canada across much of the United States is crucial to the nation’s economy. And the Obama administration is doing everything it can to make sure it’s never built.
But like most of what’s coming out of Washington these days, what’s said and what’s true are two different things. There are indeed differences over this pipeline, and elements of politics on both sides of the issue. But a few facts can put things into perspective.
The pipeline is intended to boost energy production by pumping petroleum from Canadian oil sands to various American refineries. These oil sands are a petroleum-laden, tar-like product that is America’s largest source of oil these days.
There’s no doubt that new construction from more than 2,000 miles of pipeline would provide an energy benefit to the United States. There’s also no doubt that thousands of people would be employed building that pipeline. The number of permanent jobs is far less dramatic.
Republican lawmakers are pushing the project as a jobs package, and inserted pipeline language into a bill that would extend a payroll tax cut into the new year.
Interestingly, that language does not specifically call for the construction of the pipeline. Instead it gives President Obama 60 days to make a decision.
Now, if you think it’s no big deal to dig a ditch and lay a pipeline across much of the United States, then you probably would make a good bureaucrat in China. That’s how such decisions are made there.
In America, however, we like to look at the lay of the land, so to speak, to consider options and even offer locals impacted by the project the opportunity to provide input.
Yet the Republican Party, which routinely gives lip service to the joys of local control, is advocating a big-government, cram-it-down-their-throats approach to this pipeline.
From the Obama administration’s view, the environmental impact of this pipeline is a concern. That appears to be especially so in parts of Nebraska, where sensitive lands could be impacted.
A recent agreement in that state to alter the projected pipeline route may speed the process, but this doesn’t mean the issue is resolved.
Again, a key point here isn’t that the Republican legislation forces construction of the pipeline. Instead, it forces Obama to take a stand within a narrow time frame. The goal of the bill isn’t to build a pipeline; it’s to put the president on the spot, with the hopes of creating a campaign issue in 2012.
Plus, it’s intriguing that Republicans are insisting on pipeline language before they will back a payroll tax cut. Isn’t this the same party that advocates tax cuts on a routine basis, arguing that they pay for themselves by putting money in the private sector and prompting economic growth?
The Democratic-controlled Senate approved the bill with the pipeline language, but in a twist of its own, limited the tax cut to just two months. This will force Republicans to act again early next year, and House Speaker John Boehner is threatening to kill the final deal that most Senate Republicans agreed to.
There are good reasons to oppose a payroll tax cut — or any tax cut for that matter. Both parties in Washington need to bring spending under control. After that’s done, cutting taxes makes sense.
But rational policies and fiscal discipline aren’t part of the equation in Washington. Instead, we get an endless supply of games. And the American people are the big losers.
NEW CASTLE —
When is a pipeline not a pipeline?
- Mitchel Olszak
Mitchel Olszak: Playing impeachment politics
This may be the first time in U.S. history that an administration has welcomed talk of impeachment.
Mitchel Olszak: IRS email fight clouds the issue
A scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service is now focused on missing emails. The absent data could represent the smoking gun Republicans have been seeking in their endless efforts to discredit the Obama administration.
Mitchel Olszak: Iraq is good argument for fracking
A friend of mine is a big advocate of shale gas drilling. It’s not because he owns land and is looking forward to royalties. He owns no property.
Mitchel Olszak: Government officials can’t dismiss Sunshine Law rights
There’s a fundamental problem I frequently see with government. It has to do with the people who hold positions of authority. Too often, they seem to overlook the real reason they are there.
Mitchel Olszak: Forced pooling and a clash of rights
There’s an old saying: The right of your fist ends where my nose begins. It’s a reference to the fact that in a free society, there are still boundaries that must be respected.
Mitchel Olszak: The consequence of cowardice
The anonymous letter came with a question. The writer claimed to be concerned about a decision made by a municipal governing body. Supposedly, this action was suspicious, devious and possibly illegal.
Mitchel Olszak: Jitters about the health effects of coffee remain unfounded
I drink plenty of coffee. The reasons are mainly two-fold. First, I like it. Second, it’s something of an occupational hazard. Traditionally, coffee and the news business go hand in hand.
Heartbleed raises the stakes on Internet security
My column last week dealt with Internet and related scams, along with steps people can take to protect themselves. Today’s column could be termed Part 2 of that topic, albeit from a different angle.
Mitchel Olszak: There’s no reason to be surprised by modern scams
P.T. Barnum once observed that there is a sucker born every minute. Judging from the people who complain about being caught up in computer scams, I think he was too conservative in his count.
Mitchel Olszak: Doubting the basic intelligence of ravens nevermore
Every now and then, I find myself watching the ravens around my house. That’s because their behavior is fascinating, and at times more than a little disturbing.
- More Mitchel Olszak Headlines
- Mitchel Olszak: Playing impeachment politics