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The New Green: Fork in the road for green economy

Campus Correspondent

Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

The transition to green energy cannot happen overnight - no matter what actions the government takes it is likely that the use of oil and other carbon-based fuels will continue to be mainstream for many years to come. However, the climate is warming at a terrifying rate and if we want to mitigate the worst effects of climate change, it is essential that our government and business sector take every opportunity to pull out of fossil fuels and invest in widespread green energy.

This urgent need for transition is the reason why thousands of Americans will be gathering in Washington D.C. this Sunday for the “Forward on Climate” rally, which stands to be the largest climate rally in history. The protestors will be expressing their opposition to the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700-mile pipe that would transport oil from Canada´s tar sands (one of the least efficient and most environmentally destructive sources of oil) through the country’s Midwestern states and to the Gulf of Mexico. Approval of the project, which must go through the State Department as the pipeline would cross international borders, would mean a long-term, seven billion dollar investment in one of the dirtiest forms of energy.

Building the Keystone XL pipeline will, in the long-term, almost certainly be detrimental to society in terms of degraded public health, energy insecurity and increased extreme-climate events. The problem, however, is that these costs are intangible to many Americans. They seem far away and not directly related to the actions that we take today. What’s tangible are the immediate benefits of building the pipeline, namely the $20 billion in private-sector investments to the American economy, the creations of 20,000 direct jobs and 118,000 spinoff jobs and the pay out of some five billion dollars in taxes to local counties over the project’s duration, according to MoneyMorning. In hard economic times, it is extremely difficult to make arguments based on “the big picture,” or long-term time spans. A huge number of Americans are out of work and frustrated. They want an immediate fix.

Obama did not mention the Keystone pipeline in his State of the Union address earlier this week. However, he did express his serious intent to begin re-structuring the economy to be greener by creating “market-based” climate legislation. Certainly America is at a fork in the road in terms of how its future economy will operate, and the decision over the Keystone XL pipeline could not come at a more critical time. This could be the moment that we, as citizens, decide to make the inevitably painful shift away from oil to green energies. It will mean forgoing the instant economic gratification that the Keystone XL pipeline would bring, and voluntarily taking on some initial financial hardship, as green technologies still remain expensive. Taking on a bit of shared hardship now, however, may spare us all from a painful future.

 

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