With midterm elections just finishing, I knew that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and Senate would waste no time in moving some bills forward. This past Friday, the Republican-controlled House approved the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and now it will proceed to the Senate for voting. Over the past six years, Congress has been notorious for its inability to move even the smallest bills due to the huge divide between Democrats and Republicans. Recently in my Political Science class, we talked about the ideas of Conservatism and Liberalism from the perspectives of Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill. It is interesting to see how the ideas of these two philosophers can be seen in why the Keystone Pipeline bill has been taking so long to go through the Government and how the views of each party is explained by both Conservatism and Liberalism.
Now before diving into how Conservatism and Liberalism has been hindering the Keystone bill, what exactly is the Keystone XL Pipeline and how will it affect America? North America has one of the largest oil reserves in the world and the United States uses a lot of crude oil sourced not only from America, but also from Canada. Over the past few decades, the United States has been trying to move away from being dependent on OPEC crude oil and instead focus on using the reserves found all over North America to satisfy regional demand. The main hubs for where crude oil can be refined into fuels lie in the South around the Texas-Oklahoma area and this poses the issue of how crude oil from all around the United States should get there. Moving crude oil is no easy task, so one way oil companies use for transporting heavy crude oil cheaply and efficiently is to use pipelines. Currently, oil sourced from Alberta, Canada is moved through pipelines to the United States and one of the pipelines is called the Keystone Pipeline. This Pipeline runs from Hardisty, Canada all the way to Patoka, Illinois providing oil companies with an easy way to move crude oil from Canada to their refineries. What the Keystone XL Pipeline would essentially do is increase the efficiency of the already laid down Keystone Pipeline by providing a direct and quick route from Hardisty, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. Not only would it take less time for crude oil to get down to the United States, but also the pipeline would allow oil companies to store excess crude oil in Baker, Montana for emergencies. The Keystone XL Pipeline passes through many states so the Federal Government has to approve the plan and this is where the battle between Conservatism and Liberalism has played a role in delaying a final conclusion on this very controversial bill.
In Edmund Burke’s Reflections of the Revolution in France, we are introduced to the values of Conservatism which pretty much boils down to conserving traditions over the years no matter how much the world changes. He says in his essay,” Compute your gains: see what is got by those extravagant and presumptuous speculations which have taught your leaders to despise all their predecessors.” From this quote, we can interpret that Burke believes in having subsequent leaders who believe in the same core values as their predecessors instead of trying to change them. On the other hand, John Stuart Mill talks about the values of Liberalism in his essay On Liberty. He says in his essay, “The despotism of custom is everywhere the standing hindrance to human advancement, being in unceasing antagonism to that disposition to aim at something better than customary, which is called, according to circumstances, the spirit of liberty, or that of progress or improvement.” This quote is pretty much saying that holding onto traditional customs leads to no human advancement. Republicans, the conservatives, and Democrats, the liberals, have taken completely different stances on the Keystone XL Pipeline due to their core values. Democrats are arguing that if the pipeline is built, there could be huge environmental impacts and the money used for this venture could instead be used to fund alternative energy projects. Looking at the concept of Liberalism, we can see that it makes sense that the Democrats would take this stance because they believe that the United States needs to start moving away from its old ways of using oil and damaging the environment and instead focus on alternative energies and helping abate global warming. In contrast, the Republicans are arguing that the Keystone XL Pipeline would create upwards of 20,000 jobs and help reduce America’s dependency on foreign oil. This thinking does make sense if we look back at what Conservatism is. Conservatism would say that keeping the economy running using traditional values(oil) is how the world should be run. Now of course both sides have very logical arguments, but the stark divide between the two camps is mostly due to how different Conservatism and Liberalism are form each other.
As a result of the Democratic-controlled Executive Office and Republican-controlled Congress and differing views between the two parties, it will be very difficult for the US government to pass laws moving forward. Now of course this might not be a bad thing because the two parties will now have to put aside their differing views and compromise on many issues, resulting in, hopefully, better laws being passed with every person in mind.