After six years of debate and despite Obama’s veto threat, the Keystone XL bill cleared the Senate hurdle on January 29, 2015 . . .
I, and everyone else who supports the building of the pipeline, see it as a critical infrastructure project.
But all the arguing in the world can’t change the reality that oil will come from Canada. The only question now is how . . .
It’s time for environmentalists to accept the facts and see the truth ‚Äì the XL pipeline is the lesser of two evils.
The Best Supply Alternative
Many argue that the Keystone XL will be used to send Canadian oil to the United States only to be exported to China and elsewhere. In actuality, it’s a supply line to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries, which have a contract for up to a 20-year binding commercial agreement to receive oil through the XL pipeline and refine it into gasoline, aviation fuels, and diesel fuels for U.S. consumption.
Yes, U.S. refiners have been refining and exporting heavy Canadian crude, a cheaper grade than West Texas Intermediate. But given the current market condition and transportation costs, exporting is now less economically viable.
The fact is, the United States will still need to import oil to meet its domestic demand for decades to come, despite its growing oil production. Using oil from Canada will displace more expensive heavy crude oils coming from less stable countries, such as Venezuela and Mexico.
And let’s face it ‚Äì most of us would prefer sourcing oil from a friendly neighbor than, say, Saudi Arabia.
In addition to transporting crude from Canada, the pipeline will also support the growth of crude production in the United States by allowing American oil producers greater access to the large refining markets in the Midwest and Gulf Coast.
The Keystone XL project is also expected to contribute roughly $3.4 billion to the economy.
In addition to the 42,100 direct and indirect jobs it will create during its two-year construction, the XL pipeline has already supported more than 7,000 jobs through the billions spent on sourcing U.S. goods and services.
And while many argue that the boon to employment is only temporary and jobs will terminate post-construction, pipelines do require ongoing operations, service, maintenance, and repair.
“But what about those destructive environmental and health impacts?” you might ask . . .
Time to Pull the Wool OFF Your Eyes
The reality is, the pipeline won’t cross any reservation lands or lands held in a trust. TransCanada has even proposed working with tribes over the project’s lifecycle and proactively addressing any concerns, while striving to create employment opportunities for tribe communities along the route.
TransCanada has also built wind farms, solar facilities, and hydro operations in an effort to offset the emission produced during their operations. In fact, the Carbon Disclosure Project ranked TransCanada as an A-list company for making legitimate steps towards climate change mitigation in 2014.
But of course the biggest pet peeve among the anti-XL’ers is that the pipeline would carry some of the dirtiest and most polluting oil in the world.
Arguments range from the oil’s effect on the Great Plains Aquifer under southern Nebraska to the fate of the American burying beetle, one of the 14 species that could be affected by the pipeline’s construction.
Opponents also say all that extra fossil fuel will exacerbate global warming because Canadian oil sands crude creates 17% more greenhouse gas emissions than the oil produced in the United States.
Yes, Alberta’s oil sands are more viscous and contain more impurities than other types of oil, but it will get to its destination in one form or another. The bottom line is this: So long as there’s demand for oil, producers will find a way to get much of that oil to market.
The question everyone should be asking now is: What is the best choice?
Time for a Reality Check
If the Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t get approved, that means thousands of rails and tanker ships will move crude to refineries instead.
Both of these methods are much less economical and efficient. Plus they are by far more dangerous than a pipeline. Trains have the potential for accidents and derailments. And ships not only pollute our seas, but they can also spill oil into them.
Both would have a worse impact on climate change than the Keystone XL.
In essence, the Keystone XL has become a proxy for a much greater debate regarding energy and climate change ‚Äì a topic that definitely should be addressed.
But the issue of global warming will ultimately be resolved by gradually reducing our demand for all fossil fuels and scaling up workable alternative energy sources. That’s a massive task, albeit we’re making inroads.
This seemingly endless argument over the pipeline is just one small piece of that. And in my opinion, those efforts would be best focused elsewhere.