By Noah Smith
If you’re talking domestic policy, you’re talking Keystone. The Keystone XL pipeline expansion has made a big splash in the political sphere, with the Republican party being for the pipeline and the Democratic party being against it. Much of the controversy surrounding the Keystone pipeline is simply unwarranted, however. It’s impact on the job growth in America will be minimal, the estimated number of jobs created is only one tenth of the number of jobs that the United States would naturally create in a month. Environmentalists overplay their hand as well; stopping the construction of the pipeline will in no way hinder oil being extracted in the Canadian reserves. Instead the oil is simply being transported by train and by truck, creating a much higher spill risk than there would be with a pipeline.
The mutual overstatement of the proposed pipeline’s effects between both the Democratic and Republican party is because both use it as a symbol to craft a political stance on climate change. The only official candidate seeking the Democratic nomination with much political clout, Hillary Clinton, has not been vocal with her stance on the Keystone pipeline. This prompted the environmental group 350 Action to stage protests outside her campaign headquarters. The same environmental group brought the Keystone pipeline to the attention of the public, and now hopes that Clinton will join the majority of Democrats in the disapproval of the pipeline. Clinton is likely to oblige them, if not simply for party solidarity, then for the fact that fifty nine percent of voters want a president concerned about climate change.
The Republican Party has plans with the Keystone pipeline in the upcoming election as well, although it is much more in-depth than the jobs against the environment debate that is ongoing. While making speeches during trips to Mexico City and Alberta Chris Christie, one of the potential Republican candidates, talked about Keystone being the centerpiece for an international plan. His plan involved using resources from all three nations to create a North American energy powerhouse. This is intended to alleviate the dependence on nations in the MIddle East as well as Russia and China, simultaneously challenging the latter two in energy superiority. Many other Republicans have a plan like this in mind, and it is likely an integral factor of their 2016 campaign.
Yet throughout all this a third party seems to be largely ignored. A total of 16 Native American tribes have protested the construction of the pipeline. They contest that the pipeline will harm their right to the land and water in the area. Further, they contest that many culturally sacred resources will be compromised by the pipeline’s construction, including a spirit camp that was constructed in the planned route of the pipeline in protest. While TransCanada has taken many steps with the tribes in order to make the pipeline less objectionable, the Native Americans protest still stands, and has the potency to destroy the Keystone expansion altogether.
Keystone means many different things depending on who you ask. As to whether its national effects will be as monumental as the parties claim, well, it won’t be. Still, the pipeline serves as an extremely potent political tool that will be frequently in the hands of candidates in the 2016 presidential election. Given the conflict that has already cropped up around the expansion, it is easy to see that Keystone XL will be the cornerstone of American politics in the coming years.