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April 25, 2013
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Guest column: The Keystone Pipeline: Truth the first casualty

I must have been 5 years old when my father taught me a valuable lesson about the importance of honesty. My parents had a living room clock that they warned me to stay away from since it could easily break.

So naturally I did what any curious 5-year-old would do under these circumstances. When my parents weren’t looking, I took hold of the clock. And sure enough, I broke it.

When my father inevitably discovered the evidence of my crime, he asked me if I had broken the clock. Now my father was a big man — at least in the eyes of a 5-year-old.

In return for breaking his clock, I was afraid he’d clean my clock. So I simply denied even touching it. My father paused and then just said, “It’s important that you be honest. If you tell me the truth, there will be no punishment.”

I swallowed hard and admitted my wrongdoing. My father returned my honesty with his own. There was no punishment. When it comes to the Keystone Pipeline, it is unfortunate that the State Department and some government officials could not have also learned the same lesson about honesty and openness from my father.

The Keystone Pipeline is a proposed plan to send dirty, carbon polluting oil through the United States from the Canadian Tar Sands. President Obama will make a decision soon and most likely will base it on a recently released report from the State Department. That report concluded the pipeline posed no major environmental problems, including global warming.

Are they to be believed?

One way of looking at it is this: If the surgeon general produced a report stating cigarettes posed no significant health problems and it turned out the report was done by a company that had once worked for the tobacco industry, would anyone take it seriously?

That’s precisely what the State Department has done, and more than once. Ensys Energy, one of the two consulting firms hired, has worked for Exxon Mobil, BP and Koch Industries, which owns oil sands production facilities and refineries that process heavy Canadian crude oil. Not only that, Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon.

But it gets worse.

The company that accounted for most of the report’s preparation, Environmental Resource Management, has worked for Chevron and Shell, both of which are developing Canadian oil sands.

But it gets worse still. The State Department’s earlier version of its report in August 2011 listed Cardno-Entrix as a consulting firm — who named Trans Canada, the developer of the pipeline, as one of its clients.

And as for claims of jobs from the pipeline, honesty is in short supply as well. Rep. Greg Walden of Oregon stated we would see 20,000 jobs overall, including 800 in Oregon — a claim Politifact labeled as mostly false. Walden based his assertion on a chamber of commerce claim, which, in turn cited a study by — who else? — the American Petroleum Institute.

As for the 20,000 jobs, the actual number estimated by the State Department itself was 3,900 — and they would average about a year. Permanent jobs after pipeline completion would total just 35.

The real consequences of building the pipeline are sobering. By the State Department’s own admission, Tar Sands oil produces 17 percent more greenhouse gasses than conventional oil.

In light of Hurricane Sandy, rising seas, extreme weather and droughts, not to mention recent pipeline oil leaks, we have a moral obligation to let our president know the pipeline has no place in America’s energy future.

For our children and grandchildren will surely hold us accountable for the decisions we make today.

And that is the honest truth.

Stuart Liebowitz is a board member of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition. He has been a Roseburg resident for 30 years and can be reached at 541-672-9819.

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The News-Review Updated Apr 26, 2013 10:28AM Published Apr 25, 2013 10:32AM Copyright 2013 The News-Review. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.