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Of Pipelines, Polar Bears and Power Grabs

oil production on beef pasture

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.


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