Nebraska is a conservative state. We appreciate sound and fair business practices.
That’s why I oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. It is a bad investment. It is like investing in typewriters in the age of computers. Fossil fuels, like typewriters, are technologies of the past. Renewable energy is the technology of the future.
Can you imagine signing any contract in perpetuity? That’s what TransCanada wants landowners to agree to. Does TransCanada have to accept responsibility and pay for any spill that might occur? The answer is no; they pay some -- but far from all costs.
What happens if TransCanada goes bankrupt, sells to another company or abandons the pipeline? Who gets the bill? The landowners would bear the burden of renegotiating or decommissioning the pipeline. What if TransCanada decided to pump water instead of tar sands oil? Where might they get that water to send? From our cherished aquifer? Certainly, this would not be in Nebraska’s best interest.
There will be spills. The question is when, where and how big? As for the claim that the pipeline is 99.999 percent safe -- a dubious claim at best -- the sheer amount of tar sand oil pumped daily 24/7 at 830,000 barrels per day makes even a .001 percent error catastrophic, spilling thousands of barrels of oil per year.
If spills happen in a water source, it would be devastating. Any initial response to a spill would likely have to be performed by volunteer first responders. TransCanada has not offered to pay to fully train local first responders on how to deal with the dirty tar sands oil that are diluted with toxic chemicals.
How does the contract for the KXL pipeline compare with a contract for a wind turbine or a solar farm? Once again, it falls short. Contracts with landowners for wind turbines, for example, are generally for 20 to 30 years. The landowner gets paid a set amount every year of the contract. When the contract is over, it covers decommissioning.
There is no taking property by eminent domain. The community benefits from property taxes, businesses are more likely to thrive from the boost in the economy and public schools benefit from an increased tax base. With the KXL pipeline, the payments are one time, the property taxes paid by TransCanada are on a depreciated basis and, as mentioned before, there is no provision for decommissioning the pipeline.
We already know that state-of-the-art modern businesses such as Facebook are demanding renewable energy sources. Omaha Public Power District helped to entice Facebook to the metro area by promising them a 100 percent renewable energy portfolio. These types of projects will provide more jobs at higher wages and for a longer period of time than the jobs required to build the pipeline.
Is it really likely that one of the dirtiest foreign fuels that requires huge amounts of energy to extract and huge amounts of water while leveling forestland is going to be the energy of the future? Clearly, the answer is no.
Let’s stick with our conservative Nebraska roots and conserve our valuable soil and water to create a booming urban and rural economy with the energy sources that we have in abundance – wind and solar. One-hundred percent renewable energy combined with energy storage is already possible.
In addition, both conservatives and progressives are promoting a carbon fee with dividends returned to the people. Such a plan would boost the economy and hasten the transition to renewable energy. This would greatly benefit Nebraska, which is short on fossil fuels and rich in wind and solar potential.
If we in Nebraska carefully harness our abundant, renewable resources and protect our soil and water, we can be national leaders in a new clean energy economy.
David E. Corbin is vice chair of the Nebraska Sierra Club and an emeritus professor of public health at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.