The Keystone XL bill is a pointless gesture. It’s no substitute for a real agenda about energy, transportation or the economy. It’s hard to understand why House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell insist it’s such a high priority as to make it the first item on their legislative agenda.

The reality is that the technology already exists to cut our projected oil use in half over the next 20 years. We just need stronger efficiency standards, incentives for better fuels and a bigger market for electric vehicles. Congressional leaders should be putting time and effort into advancing those policies.

Instead, KXL focuses on helping a Canadian oil company extract and sell tar sands diluted bitumen, a fuel source considerably dirtier than conventional crude oil. Extracting and refining it creates up to three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude. The cost to the climate is real. At a time when we need to confront climate change and encourage innovation in energy, this bill takes us in exactly the opposite direction.

Instead, the Republican Party should focus on a proposal designed by former Republican Treasury Secretary George Shultz, which is revenue neutral, relies on the market to do its work and reduces carbon dioxide emissions faster than the president’s regulatory plan. The plan would provide a carbon dividend to every household paid for by a fee imposed on all fossil fuels at their source. The dividend would be more than enough to pay for increases in the costs of various items now dependent on fossil fuels, and would encourage conservation and innovation in alternative energy sources. And, unlike the XL pipeline, it also would create millions of jobs for the long term. If the Republican Party voted for such a bill, the president would sign it.

Peter Garrett

Emery & Garrett Groundwater Investigations

Winslow

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