The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Keystone XL or the Climate – a False Choice

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted January 23, 2013

The governor of Nebraska’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline’s route through his state has some opponents conjuring up old arguments and false choices in an attempt to gain traction against a project that could help create hundreds of thousands of U.S. jobs, stimulate economic activity and help make America more energy secure.
For example, Sen. Barbara Boxer’s claim that the Keystone XL would negate the carbon benefits of the administration’s vehicle tailpipe emissions rules basically asserts that Americans can choose between secure energy from Canada or the climate.

A couple of points. First, this underscores that for many the main issue is the importing of Canadian oil sands crude and not the Keystone XL itself – because the State Department concluded nearly two years ago that:

“… the overall contribution to cumulative GHG impacts from proposed Project construction and operation would not constitute a substantive contribution to the U.S. or global emissions.”

Second, we don’t have to choose between Canadian energy and climate. According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP), oil sands crude has similar CO2 emissions to other heavy oils and is only 6 percent more intensive than the U.S. crude supply average on a wells-to-wheels basis – measuring CO2 emissions from production through combustion. CAPP’s chart comparing crude types:

 

Another point made in the chart (also contained in the same State Department report), is that 70 to 80 percent of emissions occur in the combustion phase. As IHS CERA noted in a 2010 study, “combustion emissions do not vary for a given fuel among sources of crude oil.” In other words, a car’s emissions have nothing to do with the type of crude oil that’s refined to make gasoline.

Final point: Construction of the Keystone XL would likely help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, delivering an annual amount of crude oil that would take a railroad tanker train 25 miles long or 200 ocean tankers to transport – reducing emissions by as much as 19 million tons, according to TransCanada, the pipeline’s builder.

As President Obama weighs approval of the full Keystone XL pipeline it’s important that the focus remain on the facts:

  • TransCanada’s commitment to the structural integrity of the pipeline, including adherence to 57 special safety conditions related to the Keystone XL’s design, construction and operation.
  • $521 billion in total economic impact of oil sands investment and operations – for which the pipeline is integral – over a 25-year period, according to a study by the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).
  • U.S. employment as a result of oil sands investment growing to about 500,000 jobs in 2035, according to CERI.
  • Upwards of 830,000 barrels of secure oil per day from neighbor and ally Canada.

These and the actual climate facts argue that the Keystone XL pipeline remains a safe, environmentally sound way for the president to create jobs, boost the economy and make America more energy secure – which is why the project is in the national interest and  should be approved.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Mark also was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela live in Occoquan, Va., where they enjoy their four grandchildren.