The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

The Case for Keystone XL, Oil Sands

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted February 8, 2013

Quick facts about the Keystone XL pipeline project and Canada’s oil sands resources:

• Construction of the Keystone XL would generate 20,000 jobs during that phase, according to builder TransCanada.

• Oil sands development associated with the Keystone XL could support 117,000 new U.S. jobs by 2035, according to the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI).

• New oil sands development could support more than 500,000 additional U.S. jobs by 2035 (CERI).

• $20 billion could be injected into the U.S. economy by the full Keystone XL project, which would pay more than $5 billion in taxes to local counties over its life.

• The full Keystone XL pipeline will be able to transport 830,000 barrels of North American oil per day – from Canada’s oil sands region as well as the Bakken fields in the U.S.

These are critical points in the debate over the pipeline and whether the United States will strengthen its energy partnership with Canada, our No. 1 supplier of imported oil. This infrastructure and full development of oil sands crude could let us see 100 percent of our liquid fuel needs met by North American sources by 2024.

The Keystone XL is in its fifth year of review by U.S. officials. Some perspective, courtesy the House Energy and Commerce Committee:

Along the way the pipeline has cleared three separate environmental reviews by the U.S. State Department. Last month the project passed muster with the state of Nebraska’s Department of Environmental Quality, after the pipeline’s route was adjusted to avoid sensitive areas. TransCanada has agreed to adhere to 57 special safety conditions related to the Keystone XL’s design, construction and operation, developed with the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The fact is pipelines are widely acknowledged to be the safest and most efficient way to move energy products overland for long distances.

As for oil sands, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) reports this 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 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. Bottom line: the Keystone XL-or-the-climate argument sometimes heard is a false choice.

This is a project long overdue. It has enjoyed strong support from the U.S. public, including last month’s Rasmussen survey showing 59 percent in favor. The pipeline clearly is in the national interest, and  the reasons for delaying it any longer have evaporated. Worth repeating is a paragraph from a recent Houston Chronicle editorial:

President Obama has run out of reasons to block expansion of the Keystone XL Pipeline. … This is an idea whose time has come. Among themselves, this country, Canada and Mexico have abundant resources that could bring a manufacturing renaissance to the entire continent while insulating us from dependence on energy from unstable areas and unfriendly regimes. The president has called for an energy using "all of the above." An expanded Keystone Pipeline will help deliver on that promise.

Approve the full Keystone XL pipeline.


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.