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Thursday, March 8, 2012 08:28 am

The Keystone XL flim-flam

For Rep. Allen West, the skyrocketing price of gasoline is not just a policy matter, it’s a personal pocketbook issue. The Florida tea-party Republican (who, of course, blames President Obama for the increase) recently posted a message on Facebook wailing that it’s now costing him $70 to fill his Hummer H3.

It’s hard to feel the pain of a whining, $174,000-a-year Congress-critter, but millions of regular Americans really are feeling pain at the pump – especially truck drivers, cabbies, farmers, commuters and others whose livelihoods are tethered to the whims of Big Oil. It’s an especially cynical political stunt, then, for congressional Republicans, GOP presidential wannabes and a chorus of right-wing mouthpieces to use gas price pain as a whip for lashing out at Obama’s January decision to reject the infamous Keystone XL pipeline.

This friendly Canadian corporation, they cried, would send 700,000 barrels of “tar sands crude” oil per day through the 2,000-mile-long pipeline that it would build from Alberta, Canada, to Texas refineries on the Gulf Coast. “Less dependence on OPEC,” they chant like a mantra, “more gasoline for America, lower prices for consumers.” What’s not to like?

Aside from inevitable environmental damage from pipeline leaks, and the fact that this foreign-owned corporation would use the autocratic power of eminent domain to take land from unwilling sellers along the 2,000-mile route, here’s something not to like: The gasoline and diesel that would be made from this Canadian crude would not go to American gas pumps, but to foreign markets.

The dirty little secret that those pushing so urgently for building Keystone XL don’t want you to know is that the tar sands oil producers are in cahoots with Texas refineries to move the product onto the lucrative global export market, selling it to buyers in Europe, Latin America and China. The pipeline and the toxic crude it will carry across six states would do absolutely nothing to shave even a penny off of the price we pay.

Already, U.S. refineries are exporting record amounts of the gasoline they make. For the first time in 62 years, America is now a net petroleum exporter. Valero Energy Corp., the largest U.S. exporter of refined petroleum products, is a major lobbyist for Keystone XL. Valero has signed secret, long-term contracts with Keystone’s owner (TransCanada Corp.) and several tar sands oil producers to bring this crude to Port Arthur, Texas. All three have upgraded their refineries there to process diesel for export.

Adding to Big Oil’s enjoyment is the fact that the Port Arthur refineries of Valero, Motiva and Total are within a Foreign Trade Zone, giving them special tax breaks for shipping gasoline and diesel out of our country. TransCanada has quietly boasted that Keystone XL would cut gasoline supplies in our Midwestern states, raising prices and siphoning billions of dollars a year from consumers pockets to oil interests.

So, let’s tally the score in this Keystone pipeline deal: The American people’s environment would be put at risk, foreign nations would get the fuel, pipeline and oil investors would get the tax-subsidized profits, and we’d all stay hooked on deadly polluting oil.
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