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Dismiss nonconforming facts as irrelevant to your position.

That’s not what Mr. Nocera meant to say in his latest New York Times column, but that’s what I got out of it.

Mr. Nocera holds that we should let the Keystone XL pipeline go through because it won’t make a greasy drop of difference in the Big Picture.

I disagree with Mr. Nocera. For me, and many others, it’s a line in the (tar) sands.

This position is eloquently stated by this New York Times commentor, responding to Mr. Nocera’s Feb. 10 column on the same topic.

You can always argue that a line drawn in the sand is at an arbitrary place, and could be moved back a bit. But a line has to be drawn, and saying no to this pipeline seems a good place. Shifting to cleaner energy will not be painless, and it won’t happen until we either stop using dirty fuels voluntarily or they run out. If we continually find excuses for waiting until they run out, we will leave our descendants a very nasty planet.

I believe it’s in the best interests of our country’s future prosperity and health to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline. For lots of reasons, all well and ably described by Bill McKibben, 350.org and the tens of thousands of people who marched in D.C. this past Sunday.

So rather than rehashing, I’ll put in my $.02 as a communications person.

Mr. Nocera loses credibility in my eyes with two little words: Well, maybe.

The column starts off well enough with the promise of a conversation with climate scientist Dr. James Hansen. When Dr. Hansen finally shows up in the eighth paragraph,  Mr. Nocera dismisses the evidence Dr. Hansen brings to the table nonchalantly. Just so.

Via NYTimes.com:

How Not to Fix Climate Change

He said that such a tax could reduce emissions by 30 percent within 10 years. Well, maybe.

That’s like saying, “Stop smoking and you’ll reduce your cancer risks. Well, maybe.”

With that small, dismissive, statement, Mr. Nocera shows his hand.

It says to me that he’s not really open to accounting for all the costs involved, including the true costs of negative environmental impacts.

This commentor, jb smith from Brooklyn, NY put it perfectly:

Mr. Nocera completely overlooks the other environmental impacts of extracting oil from tar sands. Aside from the fact that processing tar sands produces 12 to 14% more carbon emissions than standard oil production, the effects of water pollution and large scale strip mining necessary to process this source are horrendous.

I am sorry Mr. Nocera, you need to be honest on the true environmental costs if you are going to pontificate on this subject. I am sorry, but solving the problem needs a full accounting of the true costs to the long term viability of our planet, and not some anecdotal analysis that glosses over these problems.

That’s the bigger picture. No maybe about it.