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Hurricane Sandy Shows Us Why We Can't Afford Dirty Energy Projects Like the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

11/03/2012 06:28 pm ET | Updated Jan 23, 2014

As we clean up from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy, it behooves us to listen carefully to climate scientists who predict climate change will bring us more frequent and destructive storms like Sandy. Climate change is arguably the most pressing challenge we will face as a nation in the years ahead and we cannot let deliberate campaigns to undermine climate science -- as exposed last week by Frontline -- to derail what is a national and international imperative to confront the reality of our changing climate.

First on the agenda is investing in clean energy. But we will also need to say no to new sources of dirty energy. Take the massive tar sands pipeline proposal, the Keystone XL pipeline, from Canada to the Gulf that Governor Romney has said he would approve on Day One of his Administration. Not only would this override decades of bipartisan review for projects of this size and import, it would take the country down a ruinous path to greater fossil fuel addiction and increase our national security risks from climate change.

As the former Army senior logistician in Iraq, responsible for providing our forces with two million gallons of fuel each day, I saw the impact first hand of our dependence on oil. In Iraq and Afghanistan, over 1000 personnel were killed just transporting oil over long and difficult supply lines. And accessing tar sands oil would contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions and climate change -- which the Defense Department says can "act as an accelerant to instability and conflict." We urgently need to lessen, not increase, our dependence on oil.

Governor Romney puts the pipeline forward as a key component to our economic recovery. Yet Keystone XL will do nothing to reduce gas prices. Oil prices are set on the global market based on speculators and global economics -- and the president has little power to lower costs for U.S. consumers. Because the pipeline is mainly an export pipeline, noted oil economists have hypothesized that the pipeline may even increase prices at the pump as the oil flows overseas.

As for economic development, it will do little to build the kind of long-term jobs we need. The Republican ticket has seriously inflated the number of jobs the pipeline would create and independent analysis by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute warn that more jobs could be lost in tourism and agriculture from pipeline spills.

I rarely agree with President Obama, and Governor Romney remains my choice for president on other grounds. However, my fellow Republicans should concede that the president made the right call in January when he postponed granting a permit to build the pipeline.

Governor Romney's pledge to approve the pipeline would take us in the wrong direction, putting Big Oil's interests over U.S. interests. It will give us the false sense of security that we can rely on oil -- even if it is the dirtiest on the planet -- for the next 50 years.

Instead of approving a dirty and dangerous tar sands pipeline, we should make fuel efficiency and new sources of fuel a Day One agenda item. We have the chance now to unhook from Big Oil, distance ourselves from volatile regions, and focus on efficiency and innovation, putting American ingenuity to work. Not only will this reduce the perils of our oil dependence, it will reduce our exposure to climate change and the ravages of more frequent storms like Sandy.

Brig. Gen. Steve Anderson (U.S. Army-ret.) served under Gen. David Petraeus as deputy chief of staff, logistics. He is the now chief marketing officer of RELYANT, a service-disabled veteran-owned small business based in Knoxville, Tenn.

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