It was always the answer. What better way to pave over fears of spills and an unlocked ocean of carbon than by literally paving the soil above the Keystone XL pipeline with a bike path stretching from Canada to the Texas Gulf?
The concept, rendered in hilarious detail by the SWA Group (the design firm behind Google's corporate campus) apparently pitched the plan to the State Department this month. It's at least half tongue-in-cheek, but SWA has a track record of turning blighted landscapes into well-manicured blighted landscapes. In Houston, it transformed a foul waterway into one with shrubbery, trees and a concrete path called Buffalo Bayou.
In its vision for Keystone, a Katy Trail-style bike path cuts through the American heartland. In one frame, a woman on a Schwinn with a basket attached to the handlebars cruises above the pipeline and past sunflowers, an inexplicable herd of stray cattle and what appears to be a rail tanker full of oil in the distribution hub of Cushing, Oklahoma.
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In another, a young hipster woman wearing loudly clashing patterns holds a sign reading "STOP EMINENT DOMAIN" in the shadow of what look like East Texas pines. A protestor, a la KXL Blockade, is suspended from the trees. In yet another, Mormons on bicycles pedal past dancing Native Americans and teepees.
"If it was built, how could you make it better for the population?" SWA's creative director told Bloomberg. "To us, it was ridiculous that you would go through all the effort and it would have only one use."
All told, the price tag is estimated at $400 million. SWA says state and local governments could pitch in to help pipeline company TransCanada pay for it.
Of course, this hinges on the approval of a 1,200-mile pipeline -- connecting Canada's tar-sand mines to refiners on the Texas coast. A decision is due next spring. President Barack Obama has said he won't approve the pipeline if worsens climate change.