What would happen if the Keystone XL pipeline project did not go forward?
This is the question that Fareed Zakaria, CNN host and TIME editor-at-large, posed in an introduction to the above segment. His guest on the show, Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, strongly disagrees with building the pipeline extension from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico, while Zakaria insists that the project should continue. Both men believe that tar sands oil is dirty, and coal is worse for climate change. However, the CNN host argued, “as long as there is demand for oil, there will be supply,” and Keystone is not the worst offender.
The debate over whether or not to build the Keystone XL Pipeline has been gaining momentum in recent weeks, after the State Department released a thorough review of the pipeline, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) strongly supported Keystone in his new budget proposal.
This is not the only time that Zakaria has voiced support for the controversial project. Many of his sentiments in this clip echo those found in “Build That Pipeline!” an editorial he penned for TIME magazine. “Stopping Keystone might make us feel good, but it really won't do anything about climate change,” he wrote in the piece and reiterated on air.
Unlike many Keystone supporters -- TransCanada calls pipelines "safe and environmentally favorable" -- Zakaria does not deny that the pipeline would have detrimental ramifications on the environment. Instead, he believes that there are bigger issues that deserve the attention of activists.
“Why not try to do something about that consumption issue?” Zakaria asked Brune. “Why are you singling out [Keystone] when, you know, at the end of the day the greenhouse gas emissions profile is not going to be that different, given that we continue to consume the stuff?”
Michael Grunwald tackled this concept in a TIME magazine editorial written a few weeks after Zakaria’s piece was printed. “The pipeline isn’t the worst threat to the climate, but it’s a threat. Keystone isn’t the best fight to have over fossil fuels, but it’s the fight we’re having.”
Another point of disagreement is over how to fund the shift toward clean energy. Zakaria believes that environmentalists should let the pipeline be built, and instead put their efforts into pushing a cap-and-trade system. America could “use the proceeds from these taxes to fund research on alternative energy, which we badly need to do,” said the host.
Brune rebutted this notion later in the segment, saying that Keystone will dry up the financial reserves that could be used for alternative energy exploration. “We're ready for a clean energy transition, but that transition will be delayed, it'll be suppressed, the more money we sink into these new, big fossil fuel projects,” he said.
In both the CNN segment and his TIMES editorial, Zakaria’s support of Keystone is based on the environmental trade-off. “Massive increases in research would make a difference [to the environment],” he writes. “Targeting one Canadian oil field–or one pipeline company–will not.”
Those who disagree with Zakaria, both Michael Brune in the CNN clip and Michael Grunwald in his TIMES piece, believe that accepting the worst of two evils is still unacceptable. “There are many climate problems a President can’t solve, but Keystone isn’t one of them,” Grunwald writes. “It’s a choice between Big Oil and a more sustainable planet. The right answer isn’t always somewhere in the middle.”
Watch the above clip to hear the rest of the debate, and let us know in the comments below: Do you think Keystone is the right fight for environmentalists to pick?