Should the US Authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline to Import Tar Sand Oil From Canada?
General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The US State Department stated the following in its Mar. 1, 2013 publication "Keystone XL Pipeline Evaluation Process Fact Sheet 2012," available at www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov:
"TransCanada submitted a new application for the Keystone XL Project on May 4, 2012. On March 1, 2013 the U.S. Department of State (the Department) released a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (Draft SEIS) for the proposed project that is consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
The proposed Keystone XL project consists of a 875-mile long pipeline and related facilities to transport up to 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from Alberta, Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana. The pipeline would cross the U.S. border near Morgan, Montana and continue through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska where it would connect to existing pipeline facilities near Steele City, Nebraska for onward delivery to Cushing, Oklahoma and the Texas Gulf Coast region.
A previous application from TransCanada for a Keystone XL project (2008 application) was for a pipeline that would have been more than 1.5 times the length of the current proposal (1,384 miles), with nearly identical routes in Montana and South Dakota. The Final Environmental Impact Statement for that proposal was issued by the Department on August 26, 2011 (2011 FEIS). A permit for the 2008 application was denied."
Source: US Department of State, "Keystone XL Project: Executive Summary-Draft Supplemental EIS," www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov, Mar. 1, 2013
[Editor's Note: On Jan. 18, 2012 President Obama denied the original 2008 application for the Keystone XL Pipeline. For more information about the Aug. 26, 2011 Environmental Impact Statement, as well as President Obama's Jan. 18, 2012 statement denying the 2008 Keystone XL pipeline permit, please read our resource "Background Information on the 2008 Keystone XL Pipeline Application."]
Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, stated the following during his June 25, 2013 speech at Georgetown University, "Remarks by the President on Climate Change," available at www.whitehouse.gov:
"Now, I know there’s been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline, the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. And the State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That’s how it’s always been done. But I do want to be clear: Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant."
Should the US Authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline to Import Tar Sand Oil From Canada?
The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association stated in its fact sheet "Myth vs. Fact: Canadian Oil Sands & Keystone XL Pipeline," available at www.npra.org (accessed Sep. 15, 2011):
"Canada is the largest source of oil imports to the United States, providing nearly 2 million barrels of oil per day. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline expansion would allow the United States to increase those imports from its North American ally by more than 500,000 barrels per day – decreasing our nation's reliance on imported oil from unstable regions of the world.
As President Obama stated March 30, 2011, Canada is 'a stable and steady and reliable source.' Canada's oil sands are important to ensuring secure North American energy supplies today, and production will be even more important in the future as the economy begins to recover and our energy demands increase...
GHG emissions from oil sands production are similar to those of oils produced in Venezuela and Nigeria. If Keystone XL is not approved, GHGs could actually increase through 'crude shuffling.'..
[P]olicies limiting oil sands crude use could cause Canadian producers to ship their product to Asian markets, while the US would have to import more oil in tankers from the Middle East and elsewhere, thus increasing the carbon footprint and creating a crude oil 'shuffle.'..
The Keystone XL Pipeline and oil sands development will create and sustain thousands of U.S. jobs, and benefit local communities through increased business activity and tax revenues...
Completion of Keystone XL pipeline can make an important contribution to lowering oil costs by increasing the supply of crude oil throughout North America."
The US Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy stated the following on its webpage "Keystone XL Pipeline," available at www.fuelingus.org (accessed Sep. 12, 2011):
"The proposed TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline provides the United States with the opportunity to access safe, reliable, and affordable energy supplies from Canada, and reduce our need to import crude oil from less stable countries and regions of the world.
Keystone XL is a $7 billion expansion project that will connect a secure and growing supply of Canadian crude oil –developed from both traditional deposits and oil sands – with the largest refining centers in the United States.
The existing 1,661-mile Keystone Pipeline system became operational in June 2010. It has the ability to transport approximately 591,000 barrels of crude oil daily, non-stop from Alberta, Canada to market hubs in the Midwest and Texas. According to TransCanada, the Keystone XL Pipeline expansion will increase capacity of the Keystone system to approximately 1.1 million barrels of crude oil per day by 2013.
In addition to improving the nation's economic and energy security, the proposed project will provide approximately twenty thousand badly needed manufacturing and construction jobs, and contribute an estimated $20 billion in benefits to the U.S. economy."
Gary Doer, Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America, stated the following in his Aug. 29, 2011 letter to the New York Times, "The Keystone XL Pipeline," available at www.nytimes.com:
"[C]onstruction of the pipeline is necessary to replace the declining imports of heavy crude from Venezuela and Mexico...
[T]he pipeline would substantially reduce American dependency on oil from volatile regions, including the Middle East...
Keystone XL would not appreciably increase global life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. These findings were reinforced by the final Environmental Impact Statement issued by the State Department on Friday.
There are tremendous economic benefits to the United States from an integrated energy strategy. There are more than 900 American companies exporting equipment and supplies to the oil sands; 70 of them are from New York and New Jersey.
The construction of Keystone XL would create 20,000 direct and 118,000 indirect jobs, providing the kind of infrastructure stimulus that your editorials have promoted."
Robert Bryce, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, stated the following in his Sep. 12, 2011 article "Ten Reasons Why the Keystone Pipeline Will Be Built," available at www.nationalreview.com:
"[O]ver the past two weeks or so [Aug. 20-Sep. 2, 2011], several hundred protesters assembled outside the White House to oppose the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is designed to transport bitumen produced from oil sands in Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast. During the protest, actor Daryl Hannah, climate scientist James Hansen, and author and activist Bill McKibben were among some 1,200 people who were arrested...
For many years, the US has relied most heavily on crude imports from Mexico and Canada. Over the past ten years, Canadian crude production has risen by 600,000 barrels per day while Mexico's has fallen by about that same amount. I'd rather have a reliable, long-term supply of crude from Canada than rely on overseas suppliers, whether they are part of OPEC or not. How long can we rely on the Canadian oil sands? Probably for decades. The resources there are estimated at over 100 billion barrels...
Like it or not, oil is here to stay. US oil consumption — as a percentage of its total primary energy consumption — now stands at about 37 percent. That's the exact same percentage as in 1949... the hard fact is that petroleum is a miraculous substance. Nothing else comes close to oil when it comes to energy density, ease of handling, flexibility, convenience, cost, or scale...
Demonize oil all you want, but coal is the real issue when it comes to carbon-dioxide emissions. Again, look at the numbers: Over the past decade, global coal use increased by 47 percent to about 71.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day. During that same time period, oil use increased by 13 percent to about 87.3 million barrels per day. If Hansen, McKibben, and their allies want to protest projects that result in lots of carbon-dioxide emissions, they should be looking for coal mines and coal-fired generators, not oil pipelines."
The Calgary Herald published an Aug. 24, 2011 editorial "Pipeline Protesters Ignore Some Inconvienient Truths," available at www.calgaryherald.com, stating:
"[S]punky but naive White House protesters would be doing the planet a bigger service if they were to target the coal-fired generation industry, which has a carbon footprint 60 times larger than Alberta's oilsands. The oilsands, of course, are an easier target. Coal is widely dispersed across the continent, whereas Alberta's oilsands are a big, fat bull's eye...
[P]rotesters want the oilsands to be shut down permanently, forever, or else it will, in their eyes, be game over for planet Earth. They ignore that Canada only produces two per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions and that Alberta's oilsands comprise just five per cent of Canada's overall greenhouse gas emissions or just 0.1 per cent of total world emissions. In 2007, greenhouse gas emissions from the oilsands were 37 megatons. Emissions from U.S. coal-fired electricity the same year were 1,987 megatons."
Mark J. Perry, PhD, MSA, Professor of Finance and Business Economics at the University of Michigan-Flint, stated the following in his Sep. 18, 2011 article, "Plan Reduces Reliance on Unstable Regimes," available at www.news-journalonline.com:
"[T]he Keystone pipeline would create 20,000 American jobs and nearly 120,000 indirect jobs as well as increase revenues for state and local governments along its route.
It would be senseless to forfeit such a huge economic stimulus with guaranteed job creation and an estimated $20 billion in revenue at a time when 25 million Americans are looking for work.
The enormity of the challenge before us is obvious. If America is to have a reliable and affordable supply of oil in the future, we will need Canada's oil sands.
Since this great resource is nearby and its development will stimulate our economy, provide jobs and strengthen our energy security, there are few more important tasks than ensuring the Keystone pipeline gets built. President Obama should approve its construction, for the good of the country."
Mary Anastasia O'Grady, MBA, Editorial Board Member of the Wall Street Journal, stated the following in her Sep. 12, 2011 article "Canada's Oil Sands Are a Job Gusher," published in the Wall Street Journal:
"Canada has recovered all the jobs it lost in the 2009 recession, and Alberta's oil sands are no small part of that. The province is on track to become the world's second-largest oil producer, after Saudi Arabia, within 10 years. Meanwhile Mr. Obama clings to his subsidies for solar panels and his religious faith in green jobs...
TransCanada has been trying since September 2008 to get a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf Coast. The Environmental Protection Agency has so far blocked it...
TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline, if the U.S. ever issues the permit, will mean $20 billion in investment. The company says the construction phase will require 13,000 direct hires and indirect new jobs could total 118,000 in the U.S...
[Delaying] the construction of oil sands export pipelines such as Keystone XL, will likely have a detrimental effect on production, jobs, and government revenues."
Patrick Moore, PhD, Chair and Chief Scientist of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd. and former International Director of Greenpeace International, stated in his Mar. 1, 2011 FOX Business interview, "Green Peace Founder Backs Oil Exportation From Canada," available at video.foxbusiness.com:
"Well obviously getting more Canadian oil into the United States helps solve the most important energy security problem in the country, and that is 250 million cars and trucks that need oil every day, and much of that oil is coming in from the Middle East, Nigeria, and Venezuela. Canada is a friendly democracy that has good environmental laws and a very stellar human rights record... and this is no different than any other mining operation...
All of this land [where the oil sand is mined] will be re-vegetated after the mining... the area is completely reclaimed afterwards... they are basically steam cleaning the oil to get the oil off the sand, and then putting the sand back, and then eventually putting vegetation on it...
I cannot imagine a US administration dithering over such an important decision [whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline]...
There's thousands of miles of pipeline across North America, the reason I support it is because it is the safest way to transport oil."
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated in its Mar. 2011 publication, "Say No to Tar Sands Pipeline: Proposed Keystone XL Project Would Deliver Dirty Fuel at a High Cost," available at www.nrdc.org:
"The Canadian pipeline company TransCanada has proposed a tar sands pipeline that could bring as much as 900,000 barrels per day (bpd) of costly and polluting fuel to the U.S. Gulf Coast. This pipeline, called Keystone XL, will lock the United States into a dependence on hard-to-extract oil and generate a massive expansion of the destructive tar sands oil operations in Canada. In addition to the damage that would be caused by the increased tar sands extraction, the pipeline threatens to pollute freshwater supplies in America's agricultural heartland and increase emissions in already-polluted communities of the Gulf Coast...
The United States should instead implement a comprehensive oil savings plan and reduce oil consumption by increasing fuel efficiency standards, hybrid cars, renewable energy, environmentally sustainable biofuels, and smart growth to meet our transportation needs...
The Alberta tar sands are found under a region of Boreal forest and wetlands similar in size to Florida. The bitumen—or the unrefined product excavated from the tar sands—must either be strip-mined or melted and pumped up after the ground has been heated with steam for several months. Both forms of tar sands extraction fragment and destroy the Boreal forest, killing nesting migratory birds and many other species. Toxic waste from the mining operations is stored in vast man-made dams—called tailings ponds—that already cover sixty-five square miles...
Tar sands oil threatens our air, water, land, and economy, and will increase already dangerously high greenhouse gas emissions and demand for natural gas. Tar sands oil has no place in the clean energy economy."
Nine former Nobel Peace Laureates, including the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Rigoberta Menchú Tum, stated the following in a Sep. 7, 2011 letter to President Obama, available at www.nobelwomensinitiative.org:
"We—a group of Nobel Peace Laureates—are writing today to ask you to do the right thing for our environment and reject the proposal to build the Keystone XL, a 1700-mile pipeline that would stretch from Canada's Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast...
[S]trip-mining and drilling tar sands from under Alberta's Boreal forests and then transporting thousands of barrels of oil a day from Canada through to Texas will not only hurt people in the US—but will also endanger the entire planet. After the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, the full development of the Alberta tar sands will create the world's second largest potential source of global warming gases...
Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependence on oil, coal and gas and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency.
We urge you to say ‘no' to the plan proposed by the Canadian-based company TransCanada to build the Keystone XL, and to turn your attention back to supporting renewable sources of energy and clean transportation solutions."
Al Gore, Jr., Chairman of the Alliance for Climate Protection and former Vice President of the United States, wrote in his Aug. 31, 2011 blog entry "The Dirtiest Fuel on the Planet," available at blog.algore.com:
"The leaders of the top environmental groups in the country, the Republican Governor of Nebraska, and millions of people around the country—including hundreds of people who have bravely participated in civil disobedience at the White House—all agree on one thing: President Obama should block a planned pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico.
The tar sands are the dirtiest source of fuel on the planet. As I wrote in Our Choice two years ago, gasoline made from the tar sands gives a Toyota Prius the same impact on climate as a Hummer using gasoline made from oil. This pipeline would be an enormous mistake. The answer to our climate, energy and economic challenges does not lie in burning more dirty fossil fuels —instead, we must continue to press for much more rapid development of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies and cuts in the pollution that causes global warming."
James E. Hansen, PhD, Director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies at NASA, stated the following in his June 4, 2011 article, "Silence Is Deadly: I'm Speaking Out Against Canada-US Tar Sands Pipeline," available at www.commondreams.org:
"The US Department of State seems likely to approve a huge pipeline, known as Keystone XL to carry tar sands oil (about 830,000 barrels per day) to Texas refineries unless sufficient objections are raised. The scientific community needs to get involved in this fray now. If this project gains approval, it will become exceedingly difficult to control the tar sands monster. The environmental impacts of tar sands development include: irreversible effects on biodiversity and the natural environment, reduced water quality, destruction of fragile pristine Boreal Forest and associated wetlands, aquatic and watershed mismanagement, habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, disruption to life cycles of endemic wildlife particularly bird and Caribou migration, fish deformities and negative impacts on the human health in downstream communities...
An overwhelming objection is that exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts. The tar sands are estimated (e.g., see IPCC Fourth Assessment Report) to contain at least 400 GtC (equivalent to about 200 ppm CO2). Easily available reserves of conventional oil and gas are enough to take atmospheric CO2 well above 400 ppm, which is unsafe for life on earth. However, if emissions from coal are phased out over the next few decades and if unconventional fossil fuels including tar sands are left in the ground, it is conceivable to stabilize earth's climate."
The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) stated the following in its publication "Tar Sands and Indigenous Rights," available at www.ienearth.org (accessed Sep. 16, 2011):
"Indigenous peoples (known as First Nations) in Canada are taking the lead to stop the largest industrial project on Mother Earth: the Tar Sands Gigaproject. Northern Alberta is ground zero with over 20 corporations operating in the tar sands sacrifice zone, with expanded developments being planned. The cultural heritage, land, ecosystems and human health of First Nation communities... are being sacrificed for oil money in what has been termed a 'slow industrial genocide'. Infrastructure projects linked to the tar sands expansion such as... the Keystone XL pipeline, threaten First Nation communities in British Columbia, Canada and American Indian communities throughout the United States.
Today, the tar sands have become a topic of national and international discussion as stories of cancer epidemics in the community of Fort Chipewyan, massive wildlife losses related to toxic contamination, environmental degradation and increased vocal resistance from impacted communities have shattered the ‘everything is fine' myth propagated by the Canadian and Alberta governments... Already the Athabasca delta has been completely altered from a pristine boreal forest, clean rivers and lakes to a devastated ecosystem of deforestation, open pit mines and watershed where fish regularly exhibit tumors and birds landing on contaminated tailings ponds die instantly...
[We] demand the national and international financial and banking institutions immediately Divest from the tar sands expansion and operations."
Bernie Sanders, US Senator (I-VT), stated the following in his Aug. 17, 2011 article, "Why We Should Block the Keystone Tar Sands Pipeline," available at www.redgreenandblue.org:
"I am disturbed by a proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which could carry as much as 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil across America from Canada every day. It is not just the safety concerns, and those are clear from the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, and more recent pipeline spills in Montana and Michigan. It is the fact that we have better choices for our families, our environment, and our economy.
Building this pipeline will keep America addicted to oil, and while it might be a good deal for Koch Industries, which supplies and refines large volumes of Canadian tar sands oil, it is a bad deal for America. This pipeline would lock in a larger market for higher-priced tar sands oil, which emits up to 82 percent more carbon pollution than conventional oil according to the EPA...
[W]hy in the world would we ever consider approving a new Big Oil pipeline to carry dirty fuel and keep America addicted to oil, when we could save money, create jobs, and reduce our dependence on foreign oil by moving to stronger fuel economy standards? I hope the President, who understands the problem of global warming, is asking himself the same question, and I hope his Administration rejects the new Big Oil tar sands pipeline, and instead continues to push for strong fuel economy standards and clean energy alternatives."
The New York Times published its Aug. 21, 2011 editorial "Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers," available at www.nytimes.com, stating:
"This page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, which would carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada's Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. We have two main concerns: the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does...
It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir...
Canada's government is committed to the tar sands business... The United States can't do much about that, but it can stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
The State Department will decide whether to approve or reject the pipeline by the end of the year. It has already delivered two flawed reports on the pipeline's environmental impact. It should acknowledge the environmental risk of the pipeline and the larger damage caused by tar sands production and block the Keystone XL."
Michael E. Kraft, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public and Environmental Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, stated in his Sep. 18, 2011 article, "Pipeline Could Lead to Economic Disaster," available at www.news-journalonline.com:
"While importing oil from Canada is arguably better than getting it from the Middle East, there are two major problems with this option...
[S]uch pipelines have a heightened risk of oil spills due to the corrosive nature of tar-sands oil. The pipeline also would cross the shallow Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world and vital for the region's $20 billion agricultural operations...
Ultimately, President Obama must make a decision, probably by late this year, on whether or not to permit the pipeline project to go forward. He should oppose it."