Keystone Kops

I made a dreadful mistake during lunch yesterday.  While chowing down on my sandwich wrap I flipped on C-SPAN 2, there to behold the public testimony at a State Department hearing on the Keystone Pipeline.  I know—what an exciting life I have.  (If you’re insomniac, or a glutton for punishment, you can watch the whole four hours here.)  The proposed Keystone pipeline that will bring Canadian oil down to Gulf Coast refineries has become the Greenham Common of our decade for the Left.  The hearing brought out all of the usual tropes of ideologically-based grievance groups untethered to reality, including especially the reality that the Obama Administration is going to approve Keystone.  I predict it will happen late on a Friday afternoon around Christmas time, to minimize the political fallout from the Left.

My first thought on watching a few minutes of this dirge was: didn’t these folks get the memo that they’re supposed to be occupying Wall Street this week?  But maybe it just shows that the professional Left can do more than one thing at a time.

There is one little detail about this whole ruckus that jumped out at me in The Economist magazine’s story about Keystone in last week’s (October 1) issue, and I’ve been slow bringing it to the attention of Power Line.  The Economist noted the typical NIMBYism of the farm community in Nebraska, and included this note: “Many Nebraskan are worried that a leak from the pipeline might pollute the Ogallala aquifer, a vast underground reservoir that stretches from South Dakota to Texas and provides Nebraska with almost all its tap water and irrigation.”

I’ve long been interested in the Ogallala because it is indeed a huge aquifer, and environmental alarmists have long been saying that it is being used unsustainably and is going to be depleted.  This has always struck me as a plausible thing to worry about, for the simple reason that common pool resources tend to be overused.  But I’ve been hard pressed to find any good data on Ogallala levels, or any good studies that assess trends for the whole of this massive aquifer.  It is admittedly a hard thing to do over such a large geographical area.  So it appears we simply don’t know what the trends are.  (Needless to say, this won’t slow up environmentalists, who don’t care about data and never check trends anyway.)

That’s why this small bit of The Economist story jumps out: “The aquifer rises especially close to the surface in the Sand Hills region in the north of the state, near Mrs Luebbe’s ranch.  The water table is so high, explains one of her neighbors, that if you drive a piece of piping three or four feet into the ground, water clean enough to drink will start gushing out.”

Doesn’t sound like an aquifer in trouble to me.


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