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Joe Conason
Joe Conason
15 Nov 2014
Immigration, Impeachment and Insanity on the Republican Right

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7 Nov 2014
Beneath the Republican Wave, Voters Still Reject Right-Wing Ideology

In the wake of the 2014 midterm "wave election," Americans will soon find out whether they actually want what … Read More.

1 Nov 2014
Plutocrat or Populist? Actually, Hillary Clinton Is Neither

As America's biggest political target — a status she is likely to enjoy for the foreseeable future &#… Read More.

Fix Decaying Pipelines First for Jobs, Health and Safety


With the Keystone XL pipeline stalled again, now perhaps we can look ahead and consider more promising ways to rebuild our energy system, creating many more jobs than that controversial project ever would. No matter where we look, the far larger issue that still confronts Americans is decaying infrastructure — which emphatically includes the enormous web of oil and gas pipelines crisscrossing the continental United States in every direction.

When TransCanada CEO Russ Girling touted Keystone as an engine of employment on ABC News' "This Week" last Sunday, he insisted that its construction would create 42,000 jobs. Not only would his venture create those 42,000 "direct and indirect" jobs, boasted Girling, but also those positions would be "ongoing and enduring" rather than temporary like most construction jobs; he cited a State Department study that drew no such conclusions. A company spokesman later tempered Girling's pronouncements, more or less acknowledging that they had been grossly exaggerated. The number of permanent jobs after the construction would top out at about 50. With or without Keystone, the national economy already produces about 42,000 jobs every week, so it just wouldn't matter much.

Yet even if Keystone would actually result in tens of thousands of permanent jobs, its expected impact on the environment, health and safety raised grave questions about whether it should be permitted to proceed. But there are pipeline projects of unquestioned value that could create far more jobs for many more years than any of Keystone's promoters ever contemplated.

Rather than a new pipeline for the dirtiest tar-sands fuel, what America needs is a commitment to repair the "leaks and seeps" that have made the old network of pipelines a continuing danger to health and safety, air and water — as AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka noted in a 2013 interview with The National Memo. The labor chief estimates that a serious program of repair to degraded oil and gas facilities would mean at least 125,000 jobs a year — three times as many as Keystone — and they would continue for decades.

In that brief remark, Trumka alluded to an important point: With more than 2.5 million miles of corroding underground pipes, often made of steel or cast iron laid decades ago, the likelihood of deadly and potentially catastrophic accidents increases every year.

Fuel and fumes that escape old pipelines every day, along with occasional large spills of petroleum products, pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, as well.

Using pipelines to transport natural gas and hazardous liquid fuels is generally safer than the alternatives of road and rail, but when pipeline accidents happen, they can be devastating — as we have learned in recent years from the tragic explosions in San Bruno, California, which killed eight people and razed dozens of homes, and in Allentown, Pennsylvania, which killed five people and destroyed 50 buildings.

Officials in Michigan are concerned about the condition of 61-year-old pipelines under the Straits of Mackinac, where Lake Huron and Lake Michigan meet — and where, if the pipelines failed, a ruinous oil spill could leave the Great Lakes in the same ruinous condition as the Gulf of Mexico after the Deepwater Horizon disaster. And New York officials worry every day about the perilous state of the city's gas mains, aging and decrepit, which exploded in East Harlem last March, killing and injuring dozens of people and causing millions in property damage.

An investigation by reporters at ProPublica, a nonprofit news service, revealed that over the past three decades, pipeline accidents have accounted for more than 500 deaths, more than 4,000 injuries and almost $7 billion in property damage — numbers that will swell in the years ahead unless repairs and inspections are stepped up drastically. At the moment, replacing only the most dangerously corroded pipes in New York's Con Edison system is estimated to require $10 billion and 30 years of construction.

The upside of this looming threat is that confronting it would create hundreds of thousands of permanent, high-paying jobs while preserving the environment and improving public safety and health. Like so much of the incredible infrastructure left to us by previous generations, the pipelines need to be maintained, modernized or mothballed for the sake of the future. Politicians and their paymasters may prefer to look the other way, but it is a responsibility we cannot escape.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



8 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... We do not need pipelines. Just dump the oil in the river. Every city is built on a river to provide a source of commerce and water. We don't much use our rivers for commerce, and people can drink bottled water which is good for the economy, and they already have to do since the river is a toilet.
Oil floats; So just float it down stream. Pay people chicken feed to get the oil out of the water instead of paying vast sums to have skilled people build pipe lines. Keep your pipe dreams. Why buy a dream when pure fantasy can be had at a fraction of the cost.
It is no secret that every day in this country more oil is spilled than was lost in the Exxon Valdez spill. It is all getting into our water anyway, and one gallon of oil is enough to pollute a million gallons of water. Forget drinking the stuff. Start thinking about burning it. All those people working themselves to death who say fracking is great because I want to move away anyway, and if you got to stay cuz you're not paid, then it sucks to be you; are blessed with that spirit that made much of America an uninhabitable wasteland- unless you have even more energy to clean your air and water and food before it is used.
Since it is our oil to begin with; why are we paying people to spill our oil in our water? Let's nationalize it, and dump our oil in our water for free. It's our right. Why should we worry about the future. When has the future ever worried about us?
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Nov 19, 2014 9:28 AM
Yes, Mr. Conason, we should fix things that are broken, and for the things you mention, a concerted effort probably needs to ensue. But I'm just not sure why Keystone should be left in abeyance. I don't know why anyone would be against it, unless they're against fossil fuels completely.

Hello, Mr. Sweeney. Nice post. I appreciate the satire.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Eric Wixom
Wed Nov 19, 2014 11:47 AM
Re: Eric Wixom;... You like satire? You are not a rare bird. You are an endangered species.
Ask Joe Conason what he likes.
Comment: #3
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Nov 19, 2014 4:20 PM
Re: Eric Wixom;... Try R. Emmett Tyrell Jr... He thinks he's another Johnathan Swift, but a slower version no doubt.
I can remember a lecture as a child at school on how to survive a nuclear attack in which we were reminded that if the house had been closed up from fallout, that we all could drink out of the toilet if necessary. And I was wondering if that was before or after we had used it. It sort of shines a whole new light on the business of survival. I was told once that the Mississipee is drank 6 times before it reaches the gulf. That explains the taste. No wonder fish swim up stream.
I wanted to make a point about burning the water. People were promised that with nuclear power the electricity would too cheap to meter. It was just air. But consider as our energy runs out that we must pay for more expensive fuel with less unaffordable meat. I am too old to eat much meat, and too cheap to enjoy the price, but everything that can be turned into alcohol or takes energy to produce is more expensive. And more energy is not the answer. Einsteins E equals mc etc had already been solved by Hasenohrl, solving for mass which we already have enough of, and while his figures were a little off, he had the thing. We like Einstein because he solved for energy and what have we done with it? If you give most people more energy they will do something stupid with it. They have certainly not made our lives easier or more secure. If in place of a microwave you had a hydrogen plasma fusion generator on your counter top that would power your whole house and charge your car that used a drop of water a day, and everyone had the same thing; how long would it be before most of the world was begging for water to drink? In a world were more is the new enough, there is never enough.
I have no problem asking for revolution. The story of adaptation by the changing of forms is the whole story of humanity; but at some point we might have to consider changing ourselves rather than our external reality, and by change, I mean a change of mind.
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Nov 19, 2014 5:11 PM
Dear Joe, I hate to point out the obvious but the reason the Keystone pipeline will create "temporary jobs" is that just like all the other infrastructure projects you discuss is as being so important. All Construction projects by definition create temporary jobs. Joe, stop following our Presidents lead of treating readers like we are stupid. Oh shucks! I forgot you liberals all think you have bigger brains than us common people and you can Guberize us with your clever 'slight of tongue' or parsing words, so while your statement is true its intention is to deceive people. Why should we build the Keystone Pipeline? Because in addition to the jobs, that we should finish the Keystone pipeline and go all out to produce more gas and oil in the US. 1) The refineries that will process Keystone oil are currently processing oil coming from Venezuela and we should not be helping Venezuela. 2) Canada is so connected at the hip with our economy that we should be good partners and help each other whenever possible, particularly when there is mutual benefit. In addition we should accelerate our oil and gas production so: 1) We produce all the oil and gas possible to become energy self sufficient so Obama should reopen federal lands to accelerated gas and oil development so we stop our dependence on the Middle East 2) we should accelerate building natural gas export ports and ships to start supplying Europe to take away the 'Gas Hammer' Putin has over Europe's head
Comment: #5
Posted by: George Stoll
Fri Nov 21, 2014 9:30 AM
Yes. Fix all the potholes before we build new roads. While we are at it fix those pesky coal plants before we build those darn solar arrays.

The oil already is piped to the Mid West and then shipped via train car to the gulf. Why not build the pipeline and create some jobs?

At least until I can get that sail to work on my car.
Comment: #6
Posted by: david
Fri Nov 21, 2014 10:34 AM
Re: George Stoll;... We have to give away our oil, which means giving away our money for our oil instead of giving away our money to the middle east for their oil?
Consider why Iran is intent upon nuclear technology. Their oil is rinning out, and when it does they will not be able to energize, feed, or care for their population, so they will be instantly transported to the condition their people knew 500 years ago.
And with our oil gone, we would be little better off. It does not matter if we give the middle east money by the billions. If it does not suit us, we can instantly turn that money into paper, and even the most wealthy of them will be a begger. Instead of using ours, which is our true wealth, give them paper for theirs, and call them idiots to accept it. And if they want to be idiots is no reason for us to be idiots. We have given over so much of the commonwealth for nothing. In Australia everyone who takes anything out of the ground pays a large royalty for the privilage and there is no want of people to do so. We ask nothing and are constantly asked to do so again. Enough is enought. We better learn to live with less, quit trying to set up camp in space, and quit trying to be masters of the world on our dime. Like I said: Everyday we spill enough oil on our roads to make an exxon valdes disaster. And you want to give the rich more thinking you'll be dead soon and your grand kids will be born with the solution. Hear me my son: Not very effin likely.
We have not solved the problems we were born with, and we did not make most of the problem we will leave for our children. Do you love life? Do you love your children? Quit pretending you do and prove your love. Turn down the thermostat, and put another layer of clothes on. The more you give the rich the more they waste and in wasting what they got too cheaply, they will set the worst possible example to the young and uniformed.
Comment: #7
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Nov 21, 2014 6:25 PM
Re: david... We have enough roads going to enough places, and while you worry about criminals in your cities only begin to worry about the criminals who sucked all the wealth from those places, and left them sink holes of poverty and desparation.
There is no reason to blacktop over farm land we may need, and there is no reason to let cities decay and crumble. If primitive people with little technology could yet manage democracy, defense, and the allocation of resouces; so can we, with the will. We do not have to faver the flight of business and manufacture from our cities and country, but could tax it into place, or out of existence. Detroit has moved half way to Lansing and all the way to Jackson and Flint. This sort of nonsense does not happen in Germany, and I bet their standard of living is higher than our own. My job often took me all the way into Detroit, and it is like an abcess. Where is state, local, and federal government in all of this? Where is the tax advantage in having business smeared all over the country. It does not matter where your business is because the price of aging infrastructure will some day touch it there. And the society must still provide for the city because they are usually the most obvious points of ingress and egress.
They are starting farms in the city of Detroit. The whole south east of Michigan is beautiful for farming and is very productive, and it is not just wasted to us, but to humanity.
Primitive humanity would not have survived the degree of economic anarchy we take for granted, and we can only endure it because of the wealth of natural resources available to waste. But when our wealth of resources is gone we will have nothing to show for it, and the whole of this country will be a wasteland like inner Detroit. You do not get all the many millions of miles driven every day in this state alone because we cannot govern economic activity. We cannot say no to this trashing of our environment and cities. We cannot even make the rich pay taxes on all they steal from us. We give hours of our lives unpaid to our jobs in order to keep our families from the hells created by the factory. We pay for gas, for insurance, for auto, and upkeep on the road when the profit belongs only to the boss. We could control this situation so it was fun, cool, and possible to live near where we work, but why should I help you, or you help me, or anyone help anyone, and why doesn't everyone go to hell because that is where our lives are. The more we let the rich run our world the more they run it into the ground, and all you hear is give them more, give them more so we can have a crumb.

Where is the uplifting of humanity from technology and economy? We are reduced to rats in a rat race, or to dogs in a dog eat dog world. The people we leave behind we consider no better than sub human, but we all look like monkeys living like this. We have to Get a grip.
Capitalism denies reality, and makes a new reality. Is there any reason we can't look at this new reality honestly and see if we have a future in it. They are not just making us individually unnecessary to the process, but are making humanity obsolete. At this moment in time, it is simply less expensive to feed us food and exploit our labor, than to feed energy to a robot. When the expense of caring for people made unproductive in the name of profit grows too great, there will be hell to pay. And if we cannot exert the same sort of social control that made survival possible for all primitive people we will have proved our degradation into an animal state, and deserve no better than to be culled or kiled.
Comment: #8
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Fri Nov 21, 2014 7:12 PM
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