Thousands of demonstrators marched around the White House this past weekend in opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project, which would bring oil from tar sands in Alberta, Canada, to Texan refineries. This is ironic. Environmental groups frequently enlist conservative support for alternative energy by claiming that imported oil from the Middle East is a national security concern, but the demonstrators’ attempt to convince President Obama to deny the necessary permits for this pipeline punctures any illusions that the environmental movement’s infatuation with alternative energy is motivated by a concern about national security.

It is estimated by geologists that Canadian oil sands may contain the second-largest known oil reserves, behind only Saudi Arabia. The United States has only two choices: continue to import more oil from the politically troubled Middle East, or encourage the development of oil reserves in North America. Environmentalists’ call for replacing oil with alternative energy is a siren song that will lead the U.S. economy to crash on the rocks of higher energy prices and the resulting loss of U.S. jobs. Vehicles are not going to be powered by wind sails or solar panels for the foreseeable future. Electric vehicles, with their modest range, do not meet the transportation needs of most Americans. An engineer at General Motors once told me that the future of electric vehicles is limited unless we can reinvent the periodic table.

Some call into question the environmental safety of transporting oil through a trans-Canadian pipeline. I would respond that it is no less risky than, say, traversing the ocean in a ship. In other words, like every venture, this pipeline involves risk — but the risk here is commonplace and manageable. 

If the United States does not utilize oil derived from Canadian tar sands, China will; it has already expressed interest in the Canadian oil. The U.S. government should permit the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline; our national security depends upon it.