There's been a lot of national discussion recently about the Keystone Pipeline project proposed for construction through the Midwest U.S. and the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste storage facility. So we asked our two Mikes this question:
"How do you determine whether the environmental risks on such projects as Yucca Mountain and the Keystone Pipeline outweigh the jobs creation and monetary gains?"
We are interested in your thoughts and opinions on this topic. Please take a few minutes and weigh in by posting a comment at the end of this article and tell us how you feel. We also invite you to participate in this week's unscientific poll asking about your thoughts on environmental risks vs job creation. Access the poll in the left menu column.
Mike McGreer's Turn
Determining whether the environmental risks on projects like Yucca Mountain and the Keystone Pipeline outweigh the job creation and monetary gains is a joint activity between politicians and government analysts.
Political actors base their decisions on party values, pressure group influence, and monetary support of their election strategies. If political actors use analysis, it comes from outside government sources and is biased towards their position.
Once legislation is passed to implement such a project, the decision moves to various professionals in a number of different agencies to analyze in more detail. Generally, this analysis is separated from the political environment until the final analysis is completed. Once completed, any number of pressure group debates will occur either in support or against the results.
Government analysts (like myself in a former life) would objectively approach the issues by building economic-environmental models. These models are equation driven computer simulations that provide decision makers with probable environmental-economic outcomes if the Yucca or Keystone projects are pursued as outlined in the legislation.
For the Yucca Mountain problem, decision makers are looking for a desirable outcome that maximizes the economic and job gains while minimizing its environmental impact.
For the Keystone Pipeline, the decision makers are looking for a pipeline solution that maximizes the economic and job gains while minimizing its environmental impact.
These models look at a variety of variables. Each variable is measured in dollars. Examples include the projected cost for each project activity (including job creation), a number of variables looking at the economic impact, and a number of variables looking at the environmental impact.
Analysis will show if there are sufficient dollars available to complete the project and create a positive economic impact with a minimal environmental impact.
Several alternatives for each project are modeled and peer reviewed before passing the alternatives to political appointees for delivery to the President and Congress.
The Yucca Mountain problem went through such a process and was argued in both the political and the professional modeling environments. Both processes eventually arrived at the same conclusion: burying nuclear waste at Yucca was both economically and environmentally unsustainable. Analysts knew the impact years before the political environment stopped the project, at least for now.
Mike Young's turn
Should environmental concerns be balanced with regard to their effect on employment? Is this a joke? Ever since the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970 and the passage of NEPA our country’s economic base has been in decline. Just think about it, could the interstate highway system be built today? Does anyone think you could put the highway through “environmentally sensitive areas” like the Virgin River Gorge?
The rise of the environmental movement has caused the decline of America’s manufacturing base and a decline of the economic engine that drove America to greatness.
Just think of those things that were built in the 1800s and early 1900s. How about the inter-continental railroad or maybe the steel mills? Could most, if any of them be built today with the current environmental regulations? We are on a downhill slide because of these unreasonable regulations.
No I’m not for pollution and destroying the environment. I’m for sensible environmental review and regulations. But the EPA has a very heavy hand which they have used to force the closure of many industries. Their tactics close our factories and businesses and force us to buy from abroad. Remember when we used to make clothes in America?
Environmental groups have essentially stopped most oil drilling in the U.S. by their intense pressure for more regulations. They are now trying to stop the oil production in perhaps the largest oil field ever found in the northern mid-west states, claiming that “fracting” can cause pollution with absolutely no proof. They have successfully attacked the oil pipeline from Canada to our refineries in Texas. So let’s buy oil from the Middle East. Let’s, in the name of the delta smelt ( a small fish), shut down the central California farming so we can buy food from South America, and so on and so on. Don’t we get it; this is the ultimate reallocation of wealth. What on earth do we think is happening?
The people working for regulatory agencies’ only focus is to create new and more stringent rules. Have you ever heard of a rule being rescinded except by political pressure? Could their science be so good they never make a mistake? What about the environmental disaster which was going to be caused by the Alaskan pipeline?
In the name of protecting the environment we are destroying our manufacturing base, oil production, and all those things that made America great. We are no longer creating wealth, we are living on the wealth that was created long ago and when that’s gone, so are we. What do you think will happen when the world no longer accepts our worthless dollars? How do we buy things then? Things we used to make.
We need to re- balance our environmental concerns so as not to punish job creators or the industries that make us self-sufficient. This starts by rolling back the predatory regulations imposed by the EPA. By doing so, we will find ourselves moving in the right direction.