Trans-Alaska and Keystone XL: A Tale of Two Pipelines
Subscribe today for Free Enterprise Updates
- Latest business trends and best practices
- News about legislation and regulation impacting business
- Business how-to articles from industry experts
- Commentary and interviews with newsmakers in business and politics
Happy belated birthday to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline (TAPS). On June 20, 1977, oil started flowing from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) noted that TAPS has “delivered more than 16.6 billion barrels of oil” and “more than $171 billion in revenues to the state treasury.”
In digging into the history of the pipeline’s construction, I notice how the path to getting TAPS built is similar to that of the Keystone XL pipeline. First, in both cases, there was plenty of study about environmental effects. A 9-volume environmental impact statement (EIS) was compiled for TAPS, and the State Department has an 8-volume EIS for Keystone XL.
Both pipelines were also hot political potatoes. In 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew had to break a tie in the Senate over a pro-TAPS amendment, while with Keystone XL, President Obama announced that he would delay a decision on the pipeline until 2013 only to have Congress force his hand with legislation requiring him to decide. He chose to reject the pipeline barring more study--I guess over three years of study wasn't enough. Since then, the House of Representatives has tried approving the pipeline by passing multiple bills.
What ultimately moved Congress to approve TAPS was OPEC’s oil embargo following the Yom Kippur War. Our current global environment isn’t as volatile, but it’s still disconcerting. Today's situation is 8.1% unemployment with thousands of jobs waiting to be created from Keystone XL if the project is approved.
Hopefully, the administration will quit playing politics, and Keystone XL can move ahead. If we’re lucky, about 35 years from now we will be celebrating its anniversary. Like we’re doing with TAPS now, we’ll look back at Keystone XL, see the oil flowing and the jobs created, and wonder what all the arguing was about.
[H/T Steve Maley]