On Monday, November 20, the Nebraska Public Service Commission approved a route for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project intended to improve the Keystone system owned by TransCanada.

The Keystone system as a whole moves crude oil from the oil sands in western Canada to refineries in Illinois and Texas. The XL addition would give this Canadian export trade both a larger diameter pipe and a shorter route.

The project has long been a politically contentious matter, in both Canada and the United States. In the latter, the Obama administration was long ambivalent, granting permits only for the southern portion of the proposed route, the portion from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf. On November 6, 2015, it rejected the portion that was to pass through Nebraska.

But Donald Trump embraced Keystone XL during his campaign for President in 2016, and when he took the office it didn’t take him long to give TransCanada the green light for the northern part of the line where Obama had baulked.

That left Nebraska’s state government as the big obstacle and, now, they too have been heard from. The NPSC decision wasn’t a complete victory for TransCanada. The company didn’t get the route it wanted, but got approval for a “mainline alternative route” instead.

Left Wing View

Only four days before the NPSC decision, another pipeline in the Keystone system, one in South Dakota, had leaked 5,000 barrels of crude into farmland near town of Amherst, SD.

Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline saw this leak as a vindication of their position.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Ca.) tweeted, “It’s been just 4 days since the Keystone Pipeline spilled 210,000 gallons of oil in South Dakota. Despite this atrocity, Nebraska has approved #KeystoneXL. I will keep fighting to protect our land from this disastrous proposal.”

Likewise, twitter denizen Adam Byriel wrote, “Company said no worries won’t leak, we’ll look at the news the pipeline leaked. Maybe we should be more concerned saving our world not draining it of all the resources.”

The Sierra Clun tweeted that it was disappointed by the NPSC decision, but that it will continue the fight in the courts, and “we remain confident that #KeystoneXL will never be built.”

Some opponents of the pipeline have sought to make a moral victory out of the NPSC decision, especially in the commission’s rejection of the company’s preferred route. Janet Kleb of the activist group Bold Nebraska said, “[A]nything other than them getting their preferred route is a big victory for us.”

Right Wing View

Conservatives tend to see themselves as the evidence-driven realists on this matter. The world needs its fossil fuels and will continue needing them for a long time, this means getting crude to refineries, and this in turn means the need for pipelines.

Moe Lane wrote a piece in RedState, a conservative blog, a couple of years ago that displays these attitudes well. The piece was nominally about natural gas pipelines, and about resistance to them in New England, although the attitude applies more generally to regions that have cold winters and to crude oil pipelines as well. The headline, “New England to Shiver from the Lack of those Natural Gas Pipelines the Democrats so Hate,” encapsulates the idea.

Lane also advised New Englanders that “it is perhaps not a great idea for the Democratic Party to be more or less dominated by NYC/DC/California liberals. The weather’s better in all three locations than it is in New England and the Midwest, and that’s apparently having an effect on their energy policy thinking.”

Happiness in Alberta

A Canadian conservative tweeting under the name “Unite Alberta” said that the decision in Nebraska was “great news,” and he is happy it was “decided on merits of the project — not by buying so-called ‘social license’ w/carbon tax.”

Likewise, the Premier of Alberta, Rachel Notley, expressed her pleasure with the Nebraskan decision. “What is means is the Keystone pipeline will ensure that we’re able to maintain our existing markets and, to some extent, some additional markets to the Gulf Coast and definitely less expensively and more safely, so it’s good news.”