An opportunity to make headway

Following the State Department’s advice that the economic, security and environmental implications of the Keystone XL oil pipeline need more research to be completely accounted for, President Obama rejected the hastily-made provision to the payroll tax cut Republicans were banking on to create thousands of jobs Jan. 18.

According to an official White House news release, President Obama wrote that, with the State Department’s input, he has determined that “60 days is an insufficient period to obtain and assess the necessary information (and) that the Keystone XL pipeline project as presented and analyzed at this time would not serve the national interest.”

The nation is understandably preoccupied with finding employment to be able to recover from the economic meltdown. Despite what can accurately be called our desperation to balance both our collective and individual checkbooks, we must go beyond meeting our short-term needs. We need more insight and foresight.

In other words, it is no longer enough in our current economy to create jobs, as though creating jobs is a simple task. The jobs that government and industry work together to create must be designed to benefit the country in long-term and multiple ways.

Encouraging and funding more research into less hazardous forms of energy is in the better interest of the nation than the Keystone XL pipeline because there is greater potential for more jobs to be created by ingenuity, innovation, research and development.

According to a Jan. 1 editorial in The New York Times, “Obama needs to lay out the case that industry, with government help, can create hundreds of thousands of clean energy jobs without incurring environmental risks.” We do not necessarily need to choose between economic recovery and environmental stewardship to create jobs, as proponents of the pipeline would lead us to believe.

Making a conscious commitment to oil independence via developing “greener” alternatives would have a greater impact on our economy, rather than shifting our fossil fuel sources to a location that is closer to home.

The New York Times editorial argued that the U.S. can simultaneously create jobs and become more sustainable “by upgrading old power plants to comply with environmental laws, retrofitting commercial and residential buildings that soak up nearly 40 percent of the country’s energy (and produce nearly 40 percent of its carbon emissions) and promoting growth in new industries like wind and solar power and advanced vehicles.”

Renewable and efficiently used energy can go beyond reviving our economy by improving our nation’s health and equality issues. We have the power to create jobs that can improve air quality and reduce asthma rates, turn waste into raw material and banish the daily, costly hour-long commute by integrating a rapid transit system into our cities.

Jobs should not be seen as a panacea to our economic woes, but rather as a plan for achieving national wealth and well-being. Obama should not approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline proposal because it does not make as great of an impact on the American job landscape as a more holistic, environmentally sound program has the potential to.

 

Reach the columnist at jlgunthe@asu.edu

 

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