THE CLOSER you look at the plans for the Canadian Keystone XL Pipeline, the more obvious it becomes that it would deliver almost no jobs but could hasten environmental catastrophe.
To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, the facts uncovered by scientists and journalists turn out to have a distinctly environmentalist bias.
Maybe that's why Republicans in Congress are so hell-bent on not looking closer at it.
Last month, President Obama announced that he would not decide for at least a year on whether to allow a pipeline to be built through the middle of the country to transport heavy crude from tar sands deposits in Alberta to refineries in Texas.
A revised route for the pipeline (to avoid going directly over a Nebraska aquifer) had been announced, and environmental studies required by law will take many months. (Of course, growing protests and civil disobedience, including a human chain of 12,000 people around the White House on Nov. 6, also influenced Obama's decision.)
But, following last week's cringe-worthy political machinations in Congress - which resulted in an agreement to extend the payroll-tax cut and emergency unemployment benefits for two months - Republicans succeeded in adding a provision that requires Obama to decide within 60 days whether or not to approve the pipeline.
The White House has said that an ultimatum on the pipeline would result in a flat "no," so, if Obama sticks to his principles, that should mean that the project will be canceled, even though it also means that Republicans will spend 2012 haranguing him for supposedly rejecting a jobs bonanza. Given Obama's track record, that's a bigger "if" than it should be. So for the record, here are some facts to consider:
This is not a choice between "jobs" and "environmentalists." Estimates of jobs that would be created have come mostly from TransCanada, the company building the pipeline - and they are highly inflated, growing from 20,000 to hundreds of thousands to a million depending on the politician or pundit making the claim. But a study by Cornell University estimated that the pipeline would result in 500 to 1,400 temporary jobs.
At the same time, building the pipeline would divert crude oil from Midwest refineries, causing energy prices to rise - and killing other jobs. Besides, pipeline spills increase energy costs and kill jobs (as well as pollute the land and drinking water), and you can bet there will be some: TransCanada has had 14 spills since June 2010.
Not to mention that this oil is "dirtier" than other oil: James Hansen, the nation's leading climate scientist, has famously said that refining and burning tar-sands crude would mean "game over" for the climate. Canceling the pipeline is the right thing to do - and it's smart politics to run as the president who "just said no" to ruining the planet for our grandchildren.