Pipelines, Trees, and Demosclerosis

Maybe you’ve seen the short video below of the giant Sequoia tree that fell recently in Sequoia National Park in California.  It immediately reminded me of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.  (No, my synapses haven’t gone haywire, and I’m out of whiskey at the moment, so you can shelve that one, too.  Besides, this is not so bizarre.  Joss Whedon says he got the inspiration for Firefly from reading Michael Shaara’s fine novel about the battle of Gettyburg, The Killer Angels.  If someone can get from The Killer Angels to Firefly, then I can make the jump from a giant Sequoia to an oil pipeline.)

What do these two stories have in common?  Simple: no one seems to be able to decide what to do with either one of these things, without endless “process” and “public input.”  Already the public is being asked for “input” into what to do with the fallen tree, and we’re going to fret over it at some length I suspect: I guarantee there will be pubic hearings, appeals to higher authorities, special committees perhaps, an environmental impact study, and maybe even a lawsuit before someone some official body decides whether to cut a segment out of the tree where it fell over a walking trail, or leave it where it is, or do some third thing.  (I think it would make nice coffee tables. . .)

Now it seems Obama has said that he will make the final decision about the Keystone XL pipeline.  On the surface this appears to be Obama taking responsibility for something important, but I suspect this will entail another likely delay in the timeline for the already overdue decision.  Supposedly the decision was going to be made by the end of this year, but now the White House says Obama will take his time into next year.  At the very least, Obama has decided that he’s going to really anger one faction or another.  Or he’s hoping to put it off until after the next election, when he’ll probably nix the pipeline, since he’s drunk fully of the “green energy” Kool Aid, which he and Stephen Chu apparently really think is just a few years off.  (I note that the pipeline, and the jobs it would generate, will run exclusively through red states, and who wants to reward those bitter clingers.)

In the old days, when the U.S. built things relatively quickly like Hoover Dam or the Golden Gate Bridge, someone actually got to make decisions.  Today, I suspect the slightly authoritarian figures like Robert Moses or Frederick Law Olmstead would be arrested for their manner of public administration, or have their designs so slowed down and corrupted by “public input” and review processes that we wouldn’t have Central Park.  More likely we’d have 50 Zuccotti Parks scattered around New York City.

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