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Past and Present

No Middle Ground On Keystone

Nati Harnik/AP

A long-standing philosophical debate in American history involves people who believe in unfettered economic development versus those who believe that limits must be placed on the business-related depletion and damage of natural resources.

The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970 represented a major victory for various organizations and individuals who argued that increased water pollution and air pollution was too high a price to pay for national economic growth. Conversely, various business interests argued that complying with new regulations increased their costs for doing business and had a negative effect on job creation.  

This is the historical backdrop related to the Obama Administration’s recent decision to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Keystone sought to transport oil produced from tar sands in western Canada to specialized refineries along the Texas Gulf Coast. This would involve building new pipelines in Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska that would link with existing ones.

The Keystone XL Pipeline project, no doubt, will be one of the topics discussed during the 2016 presidential race. All of the G.O.P. candidates support Keystone as an initiative that would create new jobs. All of the Democratic candidates support the Obama Administration’s environmentally-based rejection of it. Because there appears to be no middle ground on this issue, Keystone represents yet another manifestation of America’s long-standing internal disagreement regarding human interaction with the physical environment.