With publications as influential and far-flung as The Washington Post, The San Diego Union-Tribune and Nature magazine all having nice things to say about approval for the Keystone pipeline, who am I to offer a contrary perspective? Well, I'll tell you: I am a recovering addict, and that makes me a vastly better authority on this matter than any of those supposed sages, because I know addiction when I see it. And I know denial when I hear it.
The Keystone pipeline is like a gigantic hypodermic needle stuck into America. Its promoters know we are addicted to the wrong drug -- fossil fuels -- but they know we do not have the willpower to kick the habit as long as the pushers find new ways to slip us one more fix. The Keystone pipeline is just such a fix. Injected deep into this country, it would shoot massive amounts of those intoxicating but ultimately destructive drugs into American fuel tanks.
Here's the thing. Someday -- someday -- we have to kick the habit. Those addicted to other dangerous substances, such as drugs and alcohol and food and gambling, say that they couldn't begin recovery until they hit "low bottom" -- a point where they felt utterly ruined. We have to decide now whether we will perpetuate our addiction with fresh supplies of fossil fuels through crutches like Keystone until we hit low bottom or whether we will voluntarily begin our recovery before then.
While hitting low bottom is unquestionably effective as a motivator for those individuals who survive it, not all do survive it, and there is no assurance that we as a nation or the planet we call home will survive an environmental low bottom. Consider this: There really is such a thing as a point of no return in our destruction of the environment. We as a nation are deep in denial, on the verge of becoming so self-deluded in our feckless energy consumption that one day it really could be too late. Low bottom could mean misery without end. Ever.
But just imagine: If we decline a fresh fix from the Keystone pipeline, we will impel fresh thinking and new investment to enable our eventual weaning away from fossil fuels to abundant, clean, inexpensive sources that do not threaten the well-being of the planet and future generations.
Yet we all know this will not happen as long as the path of least resistance is still laid out before us. Keystone is just such a false Yellow Brick Road, leading us to the wizards of extractive industries' castles where, when we pull back the curtain, we find nothing but exploitive pushers hoping not to be found out until they are settled into comfy retirement.
What would be lost if we deliberately refused the next injection from our pushers? The supposed boon in job-creation trumpeted by Keystone backers has been roundly debunked. And why not, since the would-be constructor TransCanada laughably saw fit to predict Keystone "spin-off" jobs including 51 dancers and choreographers, 138 dentists, 176 dental hygienists, 100 librarians, 510 bread bakers, 448 clergy, 154 stenographers, 865 hairdressers, 136 manicurists, 110 shampooers, 65 farmers and 1,714 bartenders.
But still, the sages warn us in one editorial that failure to forge ahead would "antagonize our longtime close ally, Canada." Just ask recovering addicts how they feel now about having had their addiction tolerated or supported by spouses who were "co-dependent." If the only way to keep certain greedy Canadians from feeling antagonized is to do the wrong thing environmentally, then it's time to draw the line and set an example for them.
But we are also warned that our failure to accept the Keystone needle might encourage "a worrisome de facto Canada-China partnership to build a pipeline from Alberta to the British Columbia coast, where the bitumen would be shipped across the Pacific." Set aside the fact that China will necessarily go through the same stage of early-industrial pollution that all developed countries have done before wising up. Let's address that "worrisome" partnership.
Keystone alone cannot handle all the oil shale Canadian producers want to sell, and having served as a strategic consultant to TransCanada Pipeline Co. (the prospective builder of Keystone), I can assure you that they will happily lay pipe to serve any export markets the producers go after.
In a mutual backscratching of the sages, a San Diego Union-Tribune editorial praises its colleagues at the Washington Post, who presume the only reason President Obama quashed the Keystone pipeline was to "please his green base." Perhaps it was exactly that. But since when would that be a poor reason for a good decision?
The fact is that America's green base is on the march. In the Election Day surprise of 2012, some people were harshly awakened by the new and permanent clout of women and minorities. Well, just wait until they feel the impact of America's growing green base in the years and elections to come.
The only question is whether the editorial pages of America will lead or delay this country's long-overdue renunciation of its addiction to bad stuff.
The author is a former management consultant who served as a global strategy consultant to the would-be builders of the Keystone pipeline during the mid-'90s and has coped with addiction to food for a lifetime.