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There are words and phrases that become symbols or shorthand for mixed items and events, and recently the word "Keystone" is but one more example. "Remember the Maine" was a term that inflamed the country to take action against the vestigial Spanish empire, to bring the advantages of democratic nation building but at the price of being made a colony subject to occupation and exploitation. Or better, the emotion of national destiny of what  "Fifty-Four Forty of Fight" meant as to what belonged to United States by right.  And no, this doesn't have anything to do with the Keystone State.

What the term Keystone does do for some, is to delineate the change of the status in energy of at least four decades in the United States and in North America. What has happened and will happen is remarkable for anyone who waited on even and odd days in the hope to fill their cars' gas tank or had to turn down their thermostats and live in the gloom and chill of darken houses, businesses and streets during the oil crisis's of the seventies.

And this change has been a contribution of technology, still hard to fathom, as to impact and opportunity the technique of 'fracking' provides as to the creation and availability of energy and at low and lower costs. This technology and use also changes the world energy equation, making North America in general, and the United States specifically the world power in the supply of energy and in energy independence from none North America sources.

However, this does come as a cost, a cost to the production and provision of energy, no matter what the source, be it fossil, hydro, other renewables and nuclear. Again, America is blessed with all of these sources. Yet, with the dramatic creation of North American reserves in fossil fuel, the energy potential of the United States has been developed beyond imagination, not only as the result of fracking. but further, as a result of continued exploration and innovative extraction techniques that can find new reserves and provide for their extraction at reasonable costs added with the ongoing legacy of getting more use from fuel produced and being diligent in the conservation of their use, much less the contribution of alternative and renewable sources.

There are, of course, environmental impacts on the extraction, production and use of any energy. And not all fossil fuels are alike, as to cost and environmental consequences in their extraction, production and use. And further, even use has been changed by technology, experienced cost and ongoing regulation where items like coal are being used less as natural gas is used more in the overall energy production and consumption of the nation's energy economy.

We live in an energy demanding economy, where costs and available help determine the success of that economy to produce jobs, provide income and create government revenues.  And yet with our use, we are consuming less and consuming what we produce, better.  That is not to say there don't remain consequences for what energy we do use. There is a carbon price to pay for the use of fossil fuels. However, we are getting better at producing and using carbon based fuels at a lesser production of carbon residues, particularly in our atmosphere. Yet, it has to be recognize that our effort is offset by the rise of the rest of the world economy where those economies do not have a luxury of either the production or use of energy as we have achieved in North America and most of Europe, and a few other selected parts of the world.

The Keystone of this discussion is the Keystone XL pipeline as proposed, to cross the plains of the United States to send Canadian produced Alberta oil sands extraction to the middle of the United State's oil complex which starts in Oklahoma. What is proposed with this pipeline, is additional capacity and is not something new in concept or technology. There already exist such a pipeline(s) whose current capacity is inadequate to the ongoing and future production of oil from the Alberta oil sands. Currently, the Alberta production that can't be shipped by the existing pipelines is sent to refiners, mostly in the United States, by rail car. As a means of delivery, rail is more expensive and more inherently more dangerous and subject to more accidents than a proper executed pipeline. And these pipelines already exists throughout the United States which carries many forms of energy such as oil and natural gas to customers as it fuels our way of life and living.

Much can be said about the alternatives and changes that are and can be made as to what and how we use energy and we have had that discussion for decades and have made changes that now add to our life and living as it deals with subjects like air and water pollution.  The proposed Keystone pipeline extension does not add nor necessarily detract for the discussion and debate as what has to be done to better our environment.

Those concern see the need for continue vigilance and action, and that is to the good of all.  However, there remains the ongoing demand for energy that is efficient and cost effective and that can sustain a viable way of life. And yes, in the end sacrifices have to made, but they need to be reasonable, rational and be over-time to discover, introduce and refine what it is we can do to maintain and sustain our environment.

The approval of the Keystone XL pipeline will improve the economy, and minimally impact the environment as we know it.

Regardless, Keystone or something like it, will be built and it could end up being built to serve the needs of our economic competitor, China.

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Tags: Keystone, energy, environment, oil, pipeline

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Comment by exedir on February 1, 2014 at 6:40pm

Thanks Muffin for the dialogue...

Comment by Mandy Muffin on February 1, 2014 at 12:58pm

A potential driver of any economy is some form of progress in energy development, exploration or innovation. America probably made the biggest mistake in the history of energy development when guys like J. Paul Getty went to Saudi Arabia and other places in the Middle East and negotiated advantageous arrangements for meeting much of our energy needs.  In fact, we ended up financing much of the anti-American movement that consumes the globe right now.  On hindsight, we should have left those sheiks poor and nomadic.  

Early in my career, I thought the future of America rested with the atom.  My company, GE, had invested billions in developing atomic power to run the country and possibly the world.  I worked down the hall from the doomed "atomic engine" test lab in Cincinnati, that was developing much of the technology for aircraft.  But Three Mile Island happened as well as some other accidents and that entire era is history, as protestors stopped applications.  Some submarines were made with atomic engines but that's about it.

Now the powers that be are trying to determine what energy to develop and what to delay.  You should hear the backlash in Kentucky and West Virginia about coal.  I don't know the answer but know the government claims to be altruistic but generally is political, with politicians with open pockets.  I prefer to trust the market. 

So the Keystone Pipeline remains a symbol of inaction in the light of potential economic boom times.  I almost went to work on the Alaskan pipeline when I was a youth.  But I stayed home to make jet engines.  I've seen the pipeline a couple of times and toured the facility at Valdez.  As far as ecology is concerned, I understand the caribou like the Alaskan pipeline and actually mate in it's shadow.  Maybe not.  

In America, I am familiar with the mating habits of the Sand Hill cranes, who habituate the grasslands of Nebraska and are everywhere here in the Everglades where I live.  They mate all over the place, including the golf course.  They love people and probably would love a pipeline.  So what's stopping us? The mating habits of cranes?    

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