Rapidly rising gas prices might pose a problem for the United States, but tearing up nearly 2,000 miles of American wilderness to build the massive oil pipeline known as Keystone XL is certainly no solution.
Many Republican presidential candidates hope to pump $7 billion of taxpayer money into the pipeline’s construction. Instead, the federal government should invest that money into fuel efficiency, alternative energy and support for Americans who are hit hardest by the high cost of gas.
The global energy crisis demands a solution far more comprehensive than simply improving American access to oil.
There will come a time when that demand for oil cannot be met, no matter how much drilling we do at home. When that happens, we need to have a well-developed alternative energy sector and a minimal dependence on oil.
Keystone XL, a pipeline designed to carry the heavy crude produced by Canada’s oil sands to refineries around the Gulf of Mexico, offers no other benefit. The expansion of off-shore drilling, another Republican proposal, demonstrates an equally narrow focus.
Construction of the pipeline would threaten the environmental welfare of regions such as Nebraska’s Sand Hills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Proposed passage through these areas prompted significant resistance to the pipeline’s initial route.
The controversy culminated in President Barack Obama’s rejection of the pipeline’s construction permit last month — at least until a new route can be negotiated.
It is better to abandon the project entirely. If we want to lower gas prices and to decrease dependence on foreign oil, we should concentrate on improving our nation’s fuel efficiency rather than depleting our natural resources.
At the height of the energy crisis in the 1970s, President Jimmy Carter urged Americans to take steps on an individual level to reduce their use of fuel. Four decades later, the hike in gas prices demands a similar lifestyle change.
By subsidizing the alternative energy industry, backing technology and engineering education, improving public transportation, and providing tax breaks to companies manufacturing fuel efficient products, the government can curb the demand for gas. The government should not force itself to meet it. The distinction between these two alternatives is vitally important.
Attaining such stability takes time, which is why we need to begin working toward it immediately. In the meantime, initiatives like the payroll tax cut can help support Americans struggling to afford expensive gas. Educational and industrial development will create benefits for up-and-coming generations through the creation of jobs and the enhancement of technical and other modern fields of study.
The price of gas is steadily becoming a huge issue in the 2012 election campaign. Voters should support a candidate whose solution to the problem considers the long-term health of the nation.
Francesca Bessey is a freshman majoring in narrative studies.
Point/Counterpoint runs Fridays.