US-capitol-building

"United States Capitol - west front" by Architect of the Capitol - aoc.gov.

The U.S. Senate voted 62 to 36 yesterday to build the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline that would bring oil from tar sands in Canada down through the U.S. Tar sands are one of the dirtiest forms of oil and expansion of their use would ensure too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, helping climate change wreak even more havoc. Yet this prospect is exactly what many of the same Senators who approved the pipeline voted to avoid, philosophically at least, just last week. How can that be? And who are these legislators? Let’s go the Venn diagram.

A cavalcade of votes occurred in the last few weeks. First, the U.S. Senate voted 98 to one that climate change is no hoax and is happening now. A bit later, however, the Senate split 50-49 in favor of the proposition that humans "significantly" contribute to climate change (though that fell 10 votes short of the 60 needed to ensure the amendment was included in the final bill) as shown in yellow. And yesterday 62 Senators approved Keystone XL, shown in blue. So that means that 14 senators, depicted in green are in a bit of a muddle.

comparing-senate-votes

Fourteen senators found it intellectually consistent to vote in favor of the proposition that humans contribute to climate change and to build another oil pipeline.

This group of senators both voted in favor of the proposition that humans are making climate change worse, mostly by burning fossil fuels. And yet they also approved massive new infrastructure to ensure that the continued reliance on fossil fuels should by all means go forward, even if that locks in future pollution.

Those 14 Senators are:

Alexander (R-TN)

Ayotte (R-NH)

Bennet (D-CO)

Carper (D-DE)

Casey (D-PA)

Collins (R-ME)

Donnelly (D-IN)

Graham (R-SC)

Heitkamp (D-ND)

Kirk (R-IL)

Manchin (D-WV)

McCaskill (D-MO)

Tester (D-MT)

Warner (D-VA)

In their defense, pipelines like Keystone XL are the safest and least polluting way to transport oil, at least compared to carrying it by rail car, truck or barge. And if Keystone is not built, other pipelines (along with those trains, trucks and barges) may carry some of the load, though with low oil prices the tar sands start to look less appealing economically speaking. But it remains hard to see how one squares the circle of believing that climate change is human-made and believing that no action is necessary to restrain the use of fossil fuels.

Still, the Senate has made some progress on the issue of climate change it appears. Only one U.S. Senator still thinks climate change is a hoax—and no, it's not the Senator who wrote a book by the title "The Greatest Hoax: How the Global Warming Conspiracy Threatens Your Future." Instead of uber-denier (and chair of the Senate's Environment and Public Works Committee) James Inhofe, it was Mississippi's Roger Wicker who does not believe "the science on this matter is settled."

Wicker thinks climate change is a hoax, and therefore he thinks that humans cannot be significantly contributing to it, along with 48 of his fellow Senators. At least he is consistent.