Arguments Against Keystone Pipeline Fall Flat

by Brian McGraw on January 20, 2012

in Blog, Features

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Professional environmentalists are cheering President Obama’s rejection of construction permits for the KeystoneXL Pipeline. They are the only ones cheering, aside from a few NIMBY groups and The New York Times Obama’s always-loyal damage control cohorts. Even The Washington Post voted against Obama in this struggle. The pipeline was a small, but important part of our energy infrastructure and none of the arguments put forth against construction of the KeystoneXL Pipeline are convincing.

1. An initial argument claims that the KeystoneXL Pipeline will somehow not provide energy security for the United States.

Because consumers from around the country (and the world) use oil, pipelines are necessary to transfer mind-bogglingly large amounts of it around the country each day. Imagine a scenario where we randomly begin shutting down oil and natural gas pipelines around the United States. The obvious result of decreasing our capacity would be decreased security, as we are less capable of moving oil around our country to deal with shocks, disasters, etc. Now think about what adding a pipeline does: it increases our capacity to transport oil around the country. Ultimately, this must increase to some extent our energy security.

One reason that environmentalists claim no ‘energy security’ benefits is because they believe (or claim to believe) that all of the oil is destined for export.  This is unlikely. As you may well know, the U.S. imports a good chunk of its oil from Canada/Mexico already, but also imports roughly 40% of our petroleum from countries outside the Western Hemisphere, including Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Venezuela, Russia, etc. These non Canadian/Mexican imports must be transported across the Atlantic Ocean, and as Michael Levi notes, its unlikely that it will not ultimately be cheaper to decrease some of our imports from across the Atlantic Ocean, and increase our Canadian oil imports.

Finally, the pipeline would be a good idea even if all the oil is exported, as refiners in the Gulf will profit from the value they add as the oil is refined into gasoline, diesel, etc.

2. Environmentalists claim that gasoline prices will increase for Americans if the pipeline is approved.

This claim is ironic, as the ultimate goal of some of the more seasoned environmental veterans is to make energy (including gasoline) more expensive. Apparently this isn’t selling point for environmentalism has yet to resonate with Americans. So it’s clear that this is a bait-and-switch in terms of appealing to the average American who, at this point, does not want gasoline prices to go up.

Regardless, the effect that the pipeline has on the price of gasoline in the United States shouldn’t change the merits of the project. Some have argued that gasoline is a bit under-priced in the Midwest at the moment because there is a glut of supply and not a ton of outlets for the oil. If supplies tighten in the Midwest, they will loosen elsewhere, including hopefully refineries on the Gulf Coast. And if they happen to result in higher prices in the Midwest and lower prices globally, this is also not something we should attempt to stop. Americans generally understand that trade restrictions make us all worse off, and that free trade is beneficial. Blocking the pipeline is a form of economic protectionism, its just slightly more hidden in the form of a regulation rather than a tariff.

3. The environmentalists claim that job projections are vastly inflated.

Industries lobbying for certain policies or projects exaggerate their beneficial effects, news at 11. It’s obvious that increased economic activity will add jobs, quibbling over the numbers is pointless. I will also point out that the same groups don’t have issues with accepting obviously inflated jobs numbers when the jobs involve installing windmills, solar panels, or cleaning up power plants.

4. The pipeline is “game over” for the climate. This line came from our country’s esteemed scientist James Hansen, and was delivered by assuming (1) that the oil would sit in the ground without the pipeline, and (2) that the entirety of the oil sands will be developed. Neither premise is likely. The oil can quite likely find an additional route to Asia (there’s too much money for the Canadian government in this to leave it all in the ground). Ironically, the 2nd-best route chosen by TransCanada will almost certainly be less efficient than the original planned route, and could ultimately increase carbon emissions especially if they begin shipping it directly to China. Moreover, to get the carbon dioxide emissions Hansen described (2ooppm) would take until the year 3316. Even if that number is off by a significant amount, we don’t plan even 100 years into the future (for good reason, we have no idea the effects of new technologies, etc.).

Finally, even if you agree that it is in the world’s best interest to begin drastically scaling back carbon dioxide emissions (and that the international will-power exists to do this or that its a good idea to proceed without international agreement), the oil sands are still going to be developed. The oil sands are only 5-10% more carbon intensive than a standard baseline for oil production, and would proceed even with a moderate price on carbon. Cheap carbon reductions are more likely to come, initially, from electricity production rather than oil production. Carbon free alternatives to carbon-intensive electricity production are much closer to working on a scale that would be necessary when compared with substitutes for oil, which are mostly non-existent except for the ever-fledgling biofuels industry.


Ultimately, the President kowtowed to a small special interest group that will play a pivotal role in his re-election, despite the conflict with other labor groups who supported construction of the pipeline. Somehow, environmentalists are happy, despite the high probability that this pipeline will still soon be built, perhaps even with President Obama’s blessings in 2013.

The Republicans may have screwed up by forcing Obama to decide on the pipeline (and giving him an excuse that he could sell to the public), though this issue will remain a large symbol in the 2012 campaign(s). Indeed, many centrist Democrats have already distanced themselves from the President’s decision.

The Administration’s reasoning for rejecting the permit is mostly bogus. They might have a legal excuse, but there are hundred’s of thousands of miles of pipelines around the U.S., and they cause no serious problems. If Obama is upset that Republicans have pushed him towards an “arbitrary” deadline, he must acknowledge that Republicans are upset that the President began this debacle by playing politics with our nation’s energy needs.

The pipeline is being routed away from what was claimed to be an environmentally sensitive area (which, many experts including the State Department, don’t really believe) to a safer area, yet we have to spend months and months studying the new route? It is overwhelmingly likely that there will be absolutely nothing wrong with the new route, and this is just a standard tactic to delay a politically tough decision.

We will see what happens in the months to come.







brooke January 22, 2012 at 8:18 pm

Who pays you to keep this site running? Big Oil? What a load of crap!
The KeyStone Pipeline would not be beneficial for U.S. jobs and economy. That is the Big Lie. Furthermore, it is NOT needed nor will it be used for our energy needs and it is likely to lead to environmental disasters. However, Boehner and other GOP politicians have heavily invested in it with their own money, and the Koch Brothers are HUGE investors in the project. They won’t even agree to the necessary environmental impact studies!

Interestingly, the demand for gasoline in the U.S. has dropped drastically since the recession. The U.S. now EXPORTS more gasoline than it imports and it is on its way to being the biggest Gasoline Exporter in the world! The oil from the Tar Sands is NOT destined for the U.S…it is destined to be exported overseas…mainly to China. Do the research.

According to the Cornell University Global Labor Institute study (the ONLY study on the project done by an independent (i.e. non government or industry sponsored) group:

» The actual US jobs figures from the proposed Keystone Project is dramatically lower than claimed. The project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary direct construction jobs for two years, according to TransCanada’s own data.

» A large portion of the steel pipe will not even be produced in the United States.

» KXL will divert Tar Sands oil that is currently supplying Midwest refineries, so it can be sold at higher prices to the Gulf Coast and export markets. As a result, consumers in the Midwest could be paying 10 to 20 cents more per gallon for gasoline and diesel fuel. These additional costs (estimated to total $2–4 billion) will suppress other spending and will therefore cost jobs.

» Pipeline spills incur costs and therefore kill jobs.

WHY isn’t Canada building their own refineries in the tar sands area? Do you know why there is a plan to pump oil loaded sludge sand from Canada to Texas in the first place? It is because Texas is an unregulated state with deep water ports accessing both Atlantic and Pacific oceans…excellent for EXPORTATION. Did you know that the largest Oil Refineries in Texas, where the Tar Sands Oil would be destined to go, are all half-owned by Saudi Arabia?

Trust the oil companies. They’ll “grow” jobs and make us safe from Arab/Russian/South American oil. Do any of you remember the Exxon Valdez? 25 to 32 millions gallons of oil spilled. Well, that was a long time ago. How about last year’s BP spill in the gulf of Mexico? 2.6 million gallons a DAY for 3 months. And it’s still leaking.

I’m sure you haven’t heard the Enbridge story. Another Canadian company (the major competitor of Trans Canada Corp.) spilled 880,000 gallons of TAR SAND OIL — the same stuff Trans Canada Corp. wants to pump. The spill occurred in the Kalamazoo River, in July of 2010. The clean up is still ongoing and will continue into 2012. Forty miles of the river is still closed. 2,300 claims have been settled so far. 137 homes sited along contaminated river banks have been purchased by Enbridge. In 2010 they spent $550 million on clean up. How much this year? And the next? This past October they proposed a new “clean up plan”. Let’s trust the oil companies, right?

Trans Canada Corp. assures us that the Keystone XL pipeline will be very safe. Already court rulings have made the Trans Canada Corp. withdraw proposed revisions to their original plans which would have allowed them to use thinner steel pipe and to pump the incredibly thick tar sand oil at higher pressures than normal. They asserted that a set of 57 conditions will assure the pipe line’s safe operation. It turns out that most of the 57 conditions restate current MINIMUM standards. So, let’s trust the oil companies.

Apart from environmentally sensitive areas it would traverse, the pipe line would cross Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer which is one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world. It provides drinking water for two million people and supports $20 billion a year in agriculture. The line would cross a seismic zone through that aquifer which had a 4.3 magnitude earthquake in 2002. So, let’s trust the oil companies. We really have no reason not to believe them. Right?

Ironically, back when Jimmy Carter was president, there was a law that required the automotive industry to produce automotive vehicles that had a minimum gas mileage of 75 MPG no later than the year 2000. The automotive companies had these cars in production, and then Reagan became president and the law was repealed! Big Oil was pleased.

Through further suppression of energy-saving technology due to fierce lobbying done by Big Oil, the American public has been denied products that are cleaner, healthier for the American people and the environment, and more affordable to everybody.

Don’t buy into the Keystone Pipeline hype…or as I call it, the 1,700 mile LIE.

Learn the truth about the Keystone Pipeline and job creation:

After that, go to youtube and check out the reports and ongoing damage of the Enbridge Pipeline Spill in Michigan in 2010.

Finally, TransCanada has already experienced problems with its first Keystone Pipeline! It has leaked 14 times in its first year of operation just in the U.S. sections. Learn more about that here:

What is more precious to human life…oil…or fresh, clean, WATER?

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