My View From The Country

Of Pipelines, Polar Bears and Power Grabs

Debates over fossil fuel use and polar bears are merely a smokescreen for larger social and political issues.

I read two different articles about the Keystone pipeline project this week, and it was obvious that the pipeline debate is really not about the pipeline at all. Rather it is about the much bigger issue of carbon-based fuels and whether we are going to use them or not. Like the global warming debate, this becomes a debate about the direction of our economy and our values. The pipeline and polar bears are merely props.

These debates are about fossil fuel use. As a result, the Keystone XL project has the attention of the highest levels of government and has big money being poured into the debate from both sides. I’m going to surprise you all and not give my opinion on the pipeline project. But I will say this: the potential positive economic impacts and the potential negative environmental impacts have both been greatly overstated. 

Which brings me to Earth Day. I admire the industry’s efforts to take an active role in Earth Day and to mitigate its negative impacts, but reading the “official” version of Earth Day and the take from its biggest supporters once again makes it clear that it really isn’t as much about preserving our earth as it is an attack on capitalism and the excesses of modern societies.

Whether the environmental movement began with the environment in mind and then came to believe that private property and capitalism was the root of the problem, or whether the environmental movement was created by those opposed to personal liberty and capitalism is largely irrelevant. 

Ultimately, it isn’t about science or the environment. The debate is about who should be allowed to make decisions that affect both the economy and the environment, like the Keystone pipeline. Earth Day supporters may hate the greedy capitalist and all they have produced, but I like to drive my truck, I appreciate grocery stores full of products and all the other luxuries that anti-capitalists see as a testament to greed and selfishness.


A Closer Look: Ranchers Were “Green” Before It Was Cool


In many ways these debates are merely a microcosm of the debates we are seeing play out on the bigger political stage in the battle between government control of our economies and lives, or independent liberty and self-actualized innovation. These are debates that are as old as time, and they won’t go away soon. 

And the outcome is far from decided. The dismal results in countries that reject individual liberty and economic freedom are obvious from Europe to Africa to Central America to the Middle East, but democracy and capitalism have not been embraced. In fact, the failures of these systems are largely attributed to the success of individual, privately-owned entities and the belief that they prosper at the expense of others.

Yes, the battles may be waged over endangered species or pipelines, but in the end, victory or defeat is determined by whether or not we lose our ability to make our own decisions and control our own property. While the weight of history is definitely on the side of those who advocate individual liberty and economic freedom, current political trends are worrisome.  

The debates won’t go away. The best the beef industry can hope for is to slow the present trend toward socialism in the U.S. and then hope we can make some political hay should the sunshine brighter in the future.


You might also like:

Is It Fair To Use Religion In The Animal Rights Debate?

60+ Stunning Photos That Showcase Ranch Work Ethics

3 Lessons We Should Learn From The Previous Generation

Help Us Celebrate The BEEF 50 - Deadline Extended!

Discuss this Blog Entry 3

Earnest Christ (not verified)
on May 3, 2013


That is the whole problem...we DO have environmental challenges...for some of these problems the cost to reverse them outweigh the benefit that stopping the problem would provide...for others, the economic gain we get from our current action does not outweigh the costs that not acting will cause long term due to the effects we are having on the environment. Folks can disagree on what to do, but if we treat the discussion of these problems as some kind of commie conspiracy, we can't have an honest discussion about what we need to do or not do about real problems.

Your adding to the problem by not looking at these things from a realistic fact based perspective..your being as bad as those environmentalists who say all GMO's are evil and that we have to crater the economy to save the planet--your the other side of the coin.

What happened to pragmatic reviews of issues and looking them through something other than an ideological and partisan lense????

This is why rural America is in trouble.

John Wiester (not verified)
on May 5, 2013

The main reason for Obama to delay the Keystone Pipeline is because one of his main supporters, Warren Buffet of Berkshire-Hathaway owns Burlington Northern Railroad which is making a fortune transporting the North Dakota oil to east coast refineries.

Curtis (not verified)
on May 8, 2013

I find this article a little intersting as we all have our own views of the Keystone project and most of us tend to draw a line. I percieve it as a bit of a mess.
First off I'm a believer that in order for a capitalist society to exist it starts with democracy. It's well documented that there is more wealth going to the top than the middle so I have to disagree with the statements of this country becoming a socialist society.
Enviromentally, we need to do the best we can. There are alternative energy sources out there but oil is still going to be needed. My biggest issue when referring to energy with Keystone is this oil does not belong to the U.S. and everyone thinks they will get cheaper fuel if it goes through. There is nothing showing this fuel source with stay in the United States. Most likey on its way to ports in Houston its going to find it's way on a tanker and end up in China who wants the oil more than the U.S. Keystone made statements a year ago that they would sell the oil to China and were looking at alternate routes to the west coast.
Last I heard there were Nebraska ranchers who were in D.C. protesting the pipeline going through the Sandhills. Another thing is eminient seems as long as it's someone else's property it effects it's not a problem but I woud have to be concerned someone saying they are taking your land.
The other thing people seem to forget there is already an existing pipeline Keystone put in that goes through Montana over to North Dakota then down to Steel City, NE. They have a right away already so why don't they just pipe this line parallel to the existing line that was installed just a few years ago? The only answer is cost.
Again there are a lot of things going on with this project and everyone seems to think there is a simple solution and pin the country against each other with a simple line instead of trying to work things out.
We need oil, I need my 1 ton truck to pull my trailer because my bicycle won't get the job done but are we going to get this oil?

Please or Register to post comments.

What's My View From The Country?

As a fulltime rancher, opinion contributor Troy Marshall brings a unique perspective on how consumer and political trends affect livestock production.


Troy Marshall

Troy Marshall is a multi-generational rancher who grew up in Wheatland, WY, and obtained an Equine Science/Animal Science degree from Colorado State University where he competed on both the livestock...

Sponsored Introduction Continue on to (or wait seconds) ×