Alex Pourbaix

Post image for Rep. Markey’s Keystone ‘Fix’: Would It Increase Oil Imports from Saudi Arabia?

What is fast-becoming the main talking point against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is the claim that greater access to Canadian crude oil would not enhance U.S. energy security.

According to pipeline opponents, most of the petroleum products made from Keystone crude would be exported by Gulf Coast refiners to Europe, South America, and Asia rather than sold in U.S. domestic markets. Thus, opponents contend, Canadian oil coming through the pipeline would displace little if any oil imported from unstable, undemocratic, or unfriendly countries like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, or Venezuela.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) made a media splash with this talking point at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing last month. Keystone, he said, would not “back out” any oil we import from the Middle East if it simply turns the USA into a “middle man” for exporting diesel fuel and other finished petroleum products made with Canadian crude. He noted that nothing in TransCanada company’s long-term sales contracts with Gulf Coast refiners ensures that products made from Canadian crude would be sold to U.S. consumers.

Markey challenged TransCanada exec Alex Pourbaix to support legislation prohibiting Gulf Coast refiners from exporting petroleum products refined from Keystone crude. Clever! Pourbaix could not support Markey’s proposal without jeopardizing the sales contracts on which the pipeline project’s commercial viability depends. Yet he could not reject Markey’s proposal without appearing to confirm that Keystone is a plot by TransCanada and Gulf Coast refiners to export more oil overseas. Pourbaix did reject Markey’s proposal, but without explaining why an export ban would be a mischievous ‘solution’ to a non-existent problem. [click to continue…]