Pharyngula

Who trusts Marcia McNutt?

After informing us of her environmentalist cred — she drives a hybrid car and has solar panels on her home! — Marcia McNutt, editor-in-chief of Science magazine, makes a remarkable statement.

I believe it is time to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from the tar sands deposits of Alberta, Canada, and from the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Environmental cred…blown.

She’d better have a really good argument for why an environmentalist ought to support the Keystone XL pipeline, given that it is a great big leaky pipe full of death that will feed America’s oil addiction. Really good. Blow my socks off with an ultra-potent, evidence-based argument, please. And here it is.

Even after accepting that Keystone XL would not accelerate extraction of the Canadian oil sands, I still opposed the project because the pipeline would cross environmentally sensitive regions, such as the Sandhills of Nebraska, a natural wetland that supports many species, including migratory birds, and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest groundwater resources. The project’s developers, the TransCanada Corporation, modified the pipeline to avoid sensitive areas and have promised comprehensive monitoring and state-of-the-art shutoff valves to reduce risk to the environment. No method for moving hydrocarbons can be considered completely fail-safe. At least the current permitting process can, and should, be used to ensure that Keystone XL sets new standards for environmental safety.

That’s it? The Canadians are going to continue to turn Alberta into a toxic craphole even if we don’t build the pipeline, they made a slight detour to avoid the most sensitive parts of our environment (but it’s still a great big dribbly fragile source of poison bisecting the US from Canada to Louisiana), and…

…and…

Fuck me, Transcanada promised to be really, really careful.

We all know that no fossil fuel company would ever, ever, ever lie.

Then she makes the tepid suggestion that we ought to let them build their colossal douchehose of noxious blight, and ask them nicely to contribute some small fraction of their pollution profits towards research in alternative energy.

Seriously? That’s it? That was so pathetic and unconvincing, it couldn’t possibly persuade anyone. But somehow, that’s enough to get the editor-in-chief of one of the most prominent science journals in the world to change her mind.

This does not add up.

McNutt M (2014) Keystone XL. Science 343(6173):815.

Comments

  1. […] By PZ Myers […]

  2. #2 GregH
    February 22, 2014

    And it’s not like TransCanada has ever stretched the truth before, is it?

  3. #3 Chris
    February 22, 2014

    Wowzer!

  4. #4 Lyle
    February 22, 2014

    Actually the US debate is now irrelvant: Transcanada is doing what they should have done in the first place and building the Energy East pipeline (All in Canada so the US need not be involved) to their East Coast and in Particular St John NB. where the Alberta oil could be put on tankers. If you look at the increased production in North Dakota, its not really clear how much Alberta crude would make the pipeline. in particular given that it runs to Cushing OK, where there is a glut (since WTI is still cheaper than Brent) even with the southern half of the pipeline (Cushing to the Coast) in operation. Since Harper wants to export the crude the Energy East proposal will go thru, and it appears there are not the First Nation problems going east that going west presents.

  5. #5 Green Eagle
    Los Angeles
    February 23, 2014

    I notice Ed Schulz has suddenly decided that the Keystone Pipeline is just a wonderful thing. Everybody has their price, and God knows, the likes of Exxon and the Koch brothers have the money to pay it.

  6. […] You for $45 Marc Roth hacked his way out of SF homelessness. Now he’s helping others do the same. Who trusts Marcia McNutt? All washed out: What floods reveal about UK political elite Rational People Sell Out: WhatsApp […]

  7. #7 G
    February 24, 2014

    Re. Democrats & progressives supporting Keystone: AFL-CIO supports Keystone since it would be a substantial source of union jobs.

    There’s a much better source of union jobs, without adding to net CO2 burden, though it will take some changes in the regulatory regime to get at it: build more fission reactors.

  8. #8 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 24, 2014

    More fission reactors? There’s not exactly a lot of uranium left, and that’s before we get to the problem of where to store the spent fuel for the next thirty thousand years.

  9. #9 JR
    February 24, 2014

    If you were about to be raped, would you ask your rapist to wear a condom? This is the question posed by the Keystone XL Pipeline project. It has been said that it is a certainty that the tar sands will be developed with or without the pipeline. The environment is being raped and will continue to be ravaged, stop fighting, and accept this certainty is the message. The strength and will of the perpetration is insurmountable. Is there any possible way to lessen the consequences of the devastation through the use of a condom? The Keystone XL Pipeline is being billed in such a way as it will more cleanly contain the toxins that are being spread. A pipeline is arguably a more efficient way of transporting hydrocarbons as compared to freight in hydrocarbon powered trains, trucks, or ships. Since stopping the pipeline will not prevent the extraction of the tar sands, or any other development of hydrocarbon deposits, and it may be the most effective way to exploit the resource, why not focus conservation efforts elsewhere? Rising to meet the challenges of climate change, environmental protection, and sustainability, can happen from numerous angels. It then depends on how you feel about asking your rapist to wear a condom. Will this make you complicit in some way or even consensual to what is happening? Does not allowing the Keystone XL Pipeline project have the potential threat of greater degradation in the future? Or, should you continue to scream and hope enough people will hear? No easy answers.

  10. #10 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    February 25, 2014

    A pipeline is arguably a more efficient way of transporting hydrocarbons as compared to freight in hydrocarbon powered trains, trucks, or ships.

    It’s more dangerous, though. Links to actual data are in the FtB version of this thread.

    Since stopping the pipeline will not prevent the extraction of the tar sands

    It wouldn’t completely prevent it, but would reduce it a lot. Follow the link I just provided.

    And I have to say I’m not comfortable with using rape as a metaphor.

  11. […] approval process and should be used to ensure that the Keystone XL will … Read more on ScienceBlogs (blog) study shows such as resource scarcity threatens clean-tech industries can … […]

  12. #12 Bonnie D MacEvoy
    United States
    February 25, 2014

    I think Ms. McNutt’s reasoning is poor and I would have hoped for more academic logic from her.

    The worst thing anyone with an environmental bent can do is to cave into an original plan because a more hellacious path was chosen as a second plan.

    All any development group will need to do in the future when they are stopped from a disastrous plan A is to find a more disastrous choice for plan B. If environmental groups will then back down and let the corporation proceed with plan A, such bait and switch will be the method of the future. This is like giving a child candy after his crying for the candy morphs to a full blown tantrum. Bad parenting.

    “No” means *no* and it is what we must adhere to. Whatever the second plan is, we can then battle that one.

  13. #13 Steven Earl Salmony
    Chapel Hill, NC
    February 28, 2014

    Demographers and Economists: Pseudoscientists?

    s it not science, and science alone, that allows us to confirm our perceptions as objective correlates of reality and truth? Without science, thought leaders and power brokers in cultures everywhere are free to transmit memes at will, regardless of the extent to which the memes bear a meaningful relationship to what could be real and true. For example, a preternatural factoid or meme like “food must be produced in order to meet the needs of a growing population” is falsely given credence as an established scientific idea although it reflects the opposite of the actual relationship between food supply and human numbers. Findings from science indicate population numbers are the dependent variable and food the independent variable, just like the population dynamics of other species. By increasing the food supply, we are in fact growing the human population, are we not? That human exceptionalism applies to its population dynamics and therefore is essentially different from (not similar to) the population dynamics of other species is a pseudoscientific factoid, bereft of an adequate foundation in science. Overwhelming science regarding the human population indicates that human population numbers appear as a function of food supply. For many this scientific idea is on the one hand irrefutable and on the other hand unbelievable. So completely are we enthralled by the notion of human exceptionalism. Exploding human numbers are the natural result of the Industrial and later Green Revolutions, are they not?

    Refuse to be duped by clever vendors of words and highly educated sycophants of the rich and powerful who falsely claim they are scientists and then promulgate preternatural theories they pass off as proven results of scientific research. Demographers and economists are not scientists. Is there any question about that fact? These pseudoscientists are presenting false knowledge that is appealing because it presents us with what we wish to believe about the way the world we inhabit works as well as about the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things. Their false knowledge happens simultaneously to be politically convenient, economically expedient, socially desirable, religiously acceptable and culturally syntonic. This is ‘the standard’ for determining what is real among the economists and demographers.

    Many of you have evidently come across false knowledge from conventional, Neoclassical Cornucopian Economics and the Demographic Transition Theory. These theories are bereft of a foundation in science. Is there any question about the speciousness of what is presented ubiquitously by demographers and economists? Endless resources in a finite world? Indestructible ecology that is in fact frangible? Automatic population stabilization? A benign end to population growth soon? A glorious world by 2050 when the entire human community will reap the benefits you and I enjoy now because everyone will have entered Stage 4 of the demographic transition?

    Not economics and demography, but science must to be our guide because science stands alone as the best method by far for comprehending what could be real and true. Science needs to be categorically distinguished from all that is not science. Then, perhaps, we will be able to see more clearly how the world we inhabit works and more accurately our placement within the natural order of living things. The ‘imprimatur’ of science has been not so surreptitiously usurped by pseudoscientific disciplines in which professional research is primarily underwritten by wealthy power brokers. Economic and demographic research is designed and the findings presented so as to comport with the transparent self interests of the rich and powerful. Where in the research is intellectual honesty to be found? Where are the scientists who will speak out to correct this widespread wrongdoing? The conscious and deliberate silence of scientists that gives consent to such unethical professional behavior cannot be longer tolerated because of the confusion it willfully engenders among those who are seeking direction from the best available scientific research. Would anyone object to having the findings of demographic and economics research described as preternatural results? Demography and economics are prime examples of what science is not.

  14. #14 David Marjanović
    Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin
    March 1, 2014

    tl;dr

    Exploding human numbers are the natural result of the Industrial and later Green Revolutions, are they not?

    Absence of famine is the natural result of these revolutions.