If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil spill risk, you should support the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Last week the State Department issued its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Environmental activists are outraged.
Before construction can begin, State must determine that the proposed 875-mile pipeline serves the “national interest” and grant a “Presidential Permit” to builder-owner-operator TransCanada Corporation. Green pressure groups have pushed President Obama to base the national interest determination on a single issue – whether Keystone XL would increase incremental greenhouse gas emissions above the no-project baseline.
Keystone foes assumed this single-factor test would give them a slam dunk. How could expanding petroleum infrastructure not increase oil production, consumption, and the associated greenhouse gas emissions?
The FSEIS, however, concludes that Keystone XL is “unlikely to significantly affect” the rate of Canadian oil sands development. Most U.S. refineries are “optimized” to process heavy crudes such as those imported from Latin America, the Mideast, and Canada. If the Presidential Permit is denied, delivery via rail lines, tankers, barges, and other pipelines will increase, and roughly the same amount of Canadian crude will reach U.S. refineries.
Rail transport of Canadian oil, for example, has increased from practically zero barrels per day in January 2011 to 180,000 bpd in November 2013. Rail loading facilities in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin currently have a capacity of 700,000 bpd, and by year’s end capacity is expected to exceed 1.1 million bpd.
Here’s the kicker. Those other modes of delivery also produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Total annual GHG emissions associated with alternative delivery scenarios are 28% to 42% greater than those for the proposed project.
What about oil spill risk, another common complaint of Keystone opponents? [click to continue…]