The Obama administration won't allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the United States, citing environmental concerns. But it is willing to allow ocean drilling off the Atlantic coast - a risk to the environment and to the economic well-being of states like South Carolina that depend on coastal tourism.
Indeed, the administration is willing to let the anticipated Atlantic oil boom start off with a bang. Exploratory work preparatory to sinking offshore wells will be done with sonic cannons, which help determine where oil might be located.
The federal government's own review of the project acknowledges the potential damage to marine mammals and other marine life.
As The Post and Courier's Bo Petersen reported: "In the seismic tests, crews detonate compressed air guns dragged behind ships, creating a series of blasts every 10 seconds or so to read the 'echo' beneath the sea floor. The blasts have been demonstrated to deafen or injure marine mammals, such as whales or dolphins, that navigate by sonar echoes. The blasts also are suspected of injuring other marine life."
Acting Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Walter D. Cruickshank says that his agency will provide protections "aimed at trying to mitigate the effects on marine animals."
"We are taking every step we can that is reasonable to take," he said.
Well, except for continuing the nation's decades-long moratorium on offshore Atlantic and Pacific drilling.
The underwater confusion created by sonic blasts is like the cognitive dissonance created by the president's energy policy.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been vetted for years by a variety of federal agencies and has passed every test. It is a project that would create thousands of construction jobs in the U.S.
It would provide a conduit for Canadian tar sands oil, which will be produced in any event. Sending that oil to U.S. refineries would help make this nation energy independent. And it would be an economic boon to Canada - one of our closest allies.
Keystone is a shovel-ready project. There is nothing speculative about the venture. And while environmentalists point to the downside of producing tar sands oil, our nation's refusal to permit the project won't dampen Canada's resolve to exploit this plentiful resource. Indeed, frustrated Canadian officials are making plans to ship the oil to a ready market in China.
Drilling off the Atlantic, however, will require exploration that risks the well-being of marine mammals, including a whale species on the brink of extinction.
And assuming oil or natural gas is discovered, there will be further hazards to the coastal environment - for example, the threat of spills and oil rig accidents.
Coastal tourism, in contrast, is a clean industry, and an economic mainstay of South Carolina.
It's highly unlikely that offshore drilling will somehow improve the quality of our clean beaches and wetlands.
So why buy a pig in a poke? Elected officials in this state should oppose it.
If the administration wants to increase the quantity of oil flowing into the U.S., allow the Keystone pipeline to be built.
But keep ocean drilling off limits.
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