02/11/2013 03:38 pm ET Updated Apr 13, 2013

Why Larry Summers Is So, So Very Wrong on Keystone XL

I've always wanted to be like Cornel West, so I guess this is my best shot at it. Larry Summers, with whom Brother West so famously tussled, has an op-ed up in the Washington Post this morning in which he repeats the very wrongheaded idea that the tar sands in Canada will be exploited with or without the Keystone XL pipeline. It's so wrong that it makes me want to tussle with Summers, too.

Here's what Summers wrote:

"Fourth, the transformation of the North American energy sector needs to be accelerated. This will have economic and environmental benefits. Those who will decide whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run between the tar sands of western Canada and Nebraska, need to recognize that Canadian oil not flowing to the United States will probably flow to Asia, where it will be burned with fewer environmental protections."

I may never have Cornel's amazing hair or huge intellect, but I do share in his joy in proving Larry Summers wrong. The problem with Summers's argument, besides that its defeatist, is that it's dead wrong. You know who agrees with me? The ENTIRE tar sands industry, who has been telling anyone who will listen that they need KXL to fulfill their grand ambition to develop the tar sands. Here's a fact sheet with quote after quote from the industry in which they say that they have a surplus of dirty oil but not enough pipe to get it out to market. The result has been a price drop so big that the Globe and Mail just published a sort of post mortem on the tar sands industry.

If the industry does develop the tar sands, here's what we can expect: They will move a mass of earth equivalent to the size of France. And we will take concentrations of carbon in the atmosphere from 390PPM today to 600ppm. 390ppm just brought us the hottest year on record in the US; what do you think 600ppm will bring us, Mr. Summers?