Here’s a letter to WTOP Radio in Washington, DC:
During today’s 10:00am hour you reported that Maryland governor Martin O’Malley objects to building the Keystone XL pipeline because (as you summarized his objection) “the pipeline will create too few jobs to offset its environmental cost.”
I have no idea if this pipeline should or should not be built. But I do know that Mr. O’Malley’s stated reason for opposing it makes no sense. Labor (like each of the other resources) used to build the pipeline is a cost, not a benefit. So whatever are the environmental costs of the pipeline, this project becomes more justified the fewer are the workers used to build and to operate it. Mr. O’Malley seemingly thinks that one cost (namely, the pipeline’s environmental risk) becomes acceptable to bear, not if it is offset by lower costs on other fronts but, instead, only if another cost of the pipeline proves to be even greater than the environmental cost.
Mr. O’Malley’s objection, in short, is that the pipeline is not costly enough!
It’s distressing that people as economically illiterate as Mr. O’Malley have influence over public policy.
Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030