Advocates for Canada’s Keystone Pipeline Rely on the ‘Stupidity of American Voters’

While support among Democrats has dropped 11 points in 18 months – GOP support has not budged from 83%
Route of Canada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the United States
Route of Canada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline through the United States

A bill to enable construction of Canada’s Keystone XL pipeline across the American Heartland failed by one vote, 59-41, in the Senate yesterday. Although the lameduck Democratic leadership put the bill up for vote in quixotic hopes of helping Sen. Mary Landrieu win her runoff election against tea partyist Bill Cassidy in Louisiana, all the “no” votes came from Democrats.

Republicans vow to bring Keystone up for a vote again when they take control of Congress next year. And while polls are on their side at the moment, support for their position appears to be slipping. A Pew poll released this week found that 59 percent of Americans support building the pipeline — but support is down from 66 percent in March 2013.

A number of factors are driving the decline in support. First, the price of gasoline has dropped below $3 a gallon in some parts of the country, so the frenzy to “drill, baby, drill,” has abated. Second, people have become enlightened about the risks involved in pumping 830,000 barrels of petroleum over vast, fragile aquifers and through critical agricultural areas. Third, the pipeline delivers Canada’s oil to ports on the Gulf of Mexico, where it is exported to world markets and will not add to America’s oil supplies. Finally, the jobs bonanza promised by supporters was apparently a hoax. Building the pipeline will temporarily produce 4,900 construction jobs and as many as 42,000 jobs in service-related areas. The total number of permanent American jobs created by the pipeline? Thirty-five.

Pres Obama summed up the facts about Keystone last week. “Understand what this project is,” the president said, during a stop in Myanmar. “It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

Internals in the Pew poll show the effect of a popular meme these days — politicians relying on the stupidity of the American voters. As facts about the pipeline’s risks and realities have come to light over the last year and a half, support among Democrats has fallen 11 percentage points, from 54 percent in March 2013 to 43 percent now, according to Pew.

At the same time, support among Republicans, who overwhelming rely on right-wing media for information, has not budged. Support for the Canadian pipeline was 83 percent in March 2013, and it remains at 83 percent today.


  • Robin Pettit
    November 19, 2014 - 10:06 am | Permalink

    You article points out another problem, the inadequacy of just listening to your point of view. I hear the Republican arguments and can usually just poke holes in it. When I hear the Democratic arguments I can still poke holes but they tend to be smaller holes. But thinking for yourself can help clear the chafe that politicians count on to mislead you.

    What is a pipeline? It’s a pipe going from an origin to a destination. The only activity is at the two ends unless their is a problem. So the only jobs are in Canada and the jobs in Port Arthur moving the end to load the output onto seagoing tankers. Opps, there might also put it into a refinery in the Houston area. So net, very few jobs and most of them already existed.

  • Joan
    November 19, 2014 - 2:20 pm | Permalink

    I hear that the company who will own the pipeline has a history of leaking pipelines, also that there is an agreement that if it leaks they do not have to pay for the damage it does.

    Why can they not take the oil and ship it from the port in Canada to overseas. I don’t understand why we had to get involved.

  • Bryan
    November 19, 2014 - 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Keystone is a massive would-be socialist project, based on the use of “eminent domain” to violate private property rights. No conservative should support it.

  • Ken
    November 19, 2014 - 4:38 pm | Permalink

    As a Canadian I’m impressed by Americans’ collective inability to anticipate what might happen next when dealing with this issue. In the short run, there has been a huge increase in railcars carrying Canadian crude oil across American tracks – with all the attendant environmental and safety risks from derailments. And next, Canada is now in the process of constructing new pipelines to Canadian ports both east and west, so their crude can be sold internationally rather than overwhelmingly to US refineries. Outcome – more $ to Canada for our oil and when that fracking starts to run out of steam, you’ll be competing with the Chinese to see if you can bring any Canadian oil to the States. Thanks America!

  • Joan
    November 24, 2014 - 7:10 am | Permalink

    Ken I don’t think so, we have enough poisons of our own and why did the people of British Columbia reject the pipeline?

    How can a foreign country seize the land of americans through eminent domain ?

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