The pipeline is controversial because there are many who insist that it's not as bad for the environment as critics allege. One of the supporters is Dr. Edward Glab, currently a Clinical Professor and Director of the Global Energy Security Forum at the School of International and Public Affairs at Florida International University.
Glab is among the many scholars, diplomats and reporters who will be in St. Petersburg from March 28-29 for the first annual St Petersburg in the World Conference.
CL asked Glab about the pipeline, climate change and alternative energy. After the jump is a mostly unedited transcript of our conversation, which didn't make it into last week's cover story about the conference.
Glab (on the XL Keystone Pipeline):
Glab: Here's the the deal. For every dollar we buy from Canada, they buy back 90 cents. For every dollar we buy from the Middle East and most other places in the world, we get back somewhere between 30-40 percent, so the trading relationship between what we have with Canada is one of the most mutually beneficial we have in the world ... they're one of our greatest allies, with the longest friendly peacetime border in the whole world, a major trading partner. We speak the same language and in my opinion ... there are a number of points (where) it's a slap in the face to the Canadians to not use the XL pipeline.
It will bring in another 800,000-850,000 barrels of oil down into the Gulf Coast areas so we will do a lot of value added. It will also allow a lot of the Bakken Field oil to come down from that same pipeline. I believe it's another 150,000 (barrels), which right now are being shipped out on rail trucks and cars ... two of the most dangerous ways to move oil. A pipeline is much more safer, so it's going to be in our national security interests. It's going to back out oil from the Middle East and it's going to back out oil from Venezuela, and if I'm running U.S foreign policy, who do I want to rely upon for that oil? Canada? One of our great friends and trading partners? Or the madman in Venezuela, or some unstable Middle Eastern country (this interview was recorded the day before Hugo Chavez died).
Secondly, from an economic perspective, it's going to produce jobs. You can argue about how many jobs, but it's going to create jobs. It's not going to produce jobs in building the pipeline or maintaining the pipeline. It's going to create jobs in the Gulf Coast because a lot of that oil is going to be refined, a lot of it is going to go into petro-chemical manufacturing ... gas and abundant low-cost oil also lowers the cost of manufacturing and transportation in the US, so no matter how you look at this pipeline ... it's not going to contribute in any significant way to higher levels of pollution ... so I think it's a total no-brainer.
CL: Alternative energy — I know Germany's done a lot with solar power. How do we compare?
The European examples are very little understood by most people. What I mean by that is in the German case, all of that is very heavily subsidized by the government. None of that can stand on its own two feet. Everything they've done in solar, everything they've done in wind, is very heavily subsidized. And what has happened in Germany is because the installed capacity of wind and solar is never the utilization factor — by that I mean if you install a capacity of generating 100 units of X, typically with solar and wind you get 15 or 20 (units) — so you need something to provide the baseload. What provides the baseload? There are four choices: You can use coal, you can use oil, you can use gas, you can use nuclear. You need something that can generate electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year that cannot be done with solar or wind. So what has happened to Germany? The fact is that in Germany their C02 emissions have actually risen, and you want to know why? Because they have switched and have had to generate a lot more baseload electricity by using coal. They said we're not going to use nuclear, we're going to rely on wind and solar that is heavily subsidized, but what are you going to do for the baseloads? They've been using more coal and now the irony of it is is that their CO2 emissions actually went up a couple of percentage points last year, so a lot that is written about and is talked about what is happening in Europe is frankly quite misleading ...
On climate change, some critics claim it doesn't make sense for the U.S. to do much, since any type of laws that attempt to reduce carbon consumption penalize business, while in China there are no restrictions. Any thoughts?
The US has to play a leadership role. It's true. I mean it's not an arguable fact in terms of climate change and global warming. If you want to do something about it, it has to be a global solution, it simply cannot do on its own anything that is going to dramatically change the current direction. It requires global cooperation.
However, having said that, the US should lead by example, and play a leadership role. And there's a number of things we can do to play a leadership role without harming our economy or national interests ... First of all, efficiency and conservation. The U.S. is a global leader at that. Today it takes a fraction of the amount of energy to produce an equivalent amount of GDP than it did 30 years ago. We're much more efficient, and we conserve our energy a lot more effectively than we did a couple of decades ago. Secondly, what we can do is push very very hard on China to reduce their consumption of coal. Gas at many stages now is even less expensive than coal, and it is between 50-60 percent less than CO2 ... of course that's because you only have one carbon atom and two hydrogen atoms in each molecule versus 14 carbon atoms let's say in gasoline and hundreds in coal. So the more we can push low-cost gas to force out coal we will be dramatically improving the quality of the environment and reducing C02 and therefore global warming and climate change ... Thirdly, we can also do that same thing when it comes to oil, because gas can be used in place of oil in many manufacturing and transportation sectors. For example, chemicals can use gas just as well as oil in order to make all the more molecules you need to make for all the plastics and nylons and all the synthetic rubbers we use in the world and we also can. Compressed natural gas, and even liquid natural gas, can substitute for petroleum and there again you're going to be reducing the amount of pollution by 30-40 percent. So there's a lot we can do that's in our national interest from both a national security perspective as well as an economic perspective.
Edward Glab will appear next week at the March 28-29 St Petersburg in the World Conference at USF St. Petersburg.