President Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline is, predictably, inciting reactions from both sides of the aisle. The Keystone XL pipeline began as just one individual and relatively unimportant infrastructure project. Now, it has morphed into a symbol of climate change policy, a determinant of President Obama’s legacy and an indicator of America’s place as a world leader in preventing climate change.
President Obama argued that the pipeline poses a number of environmental problems; however, many articles concerning this rejection have stated how his official reasons are somewhat weak. They claim that this decision is largely symbolic, and that President Obama is attempting to create a legacy as the president who took a stand on environmental change, making his officially announced reasons appear insignificant.
Other critics of President Obama’s decision have suggested that it doesn’t really matter if this project succeeds or not because it has such little impact on the environment as a whole, but it is a truly important issue. If we all thought that the little we could give wouldn’t make a difference, what incentive would there be to give or to help at all? Every step we take is a step that moves us forward, however small the progress.
It may be completely true. The failure of one oil infrastructure project will not have a noticeable impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas pollution, but that does not mean that the gesture is useless. Perhaps this decision will help influence the minds of policy makers and lead to positive change in the future.
When deliberating about whether or not President Obama reasons to shut down the project were justified, consider the five years that citizens put into marching, rallying and protesting the Keystone XL pipeline project. These environmental activists are what made a simple infrastructure project into a national symbol. The symbolic reasons behind President Obama’s decision are justifications enough to reject the project.
Saying the pipeline has a negative impact on the environment is true: the 1,179 mile pipeline would have extended from Alberta, Canada, all the way to Texas, and carried over 800,000 barrels of carbon-heavy petroleum every single day.
The aim of rejecting the pipeline project may have been to send a message to other countries that the United States is ready to be a world leader in climate change and to encourage others to follow suit. It could’ve been the government giving a group of environmental activists what they wanted or it may simply be the president trying to leave his mark. Whatever the reasons, I believe that President Obama’s decions is a step in the right direction.
Aidan Zielske ’18 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is from St. Paul, Minn. She majors in sociology and anthropology.