The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Whacking Disingenuous Arguments on Keystone XL

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted June 28, 2013

Raise your hand if you’ve played “Whack-A-Mole,” the old staple of arcades and carnivals, where the object is bopping the heads of mechanical varmints with a padded mallet as they rapidly and randomly pop up through multiple holes in the game table.

The concept pretty well captures tactics Keystone XL pipeline and Canadian oil sands opponents have used to help delay the Keystone XL, a shovel-ready project that would create tens of thousands of U.S. jobs, help grow our economy and make the U.S. more energy secure. Certainly, the project’s nearly five-year odyssey through the federal approval process has given opponents lots of opportunity to spring new excuses for delay.

This week a group of advocacy groups asked the State Department to conduct an additional Keystone XL environmental impact study – despite the fact State has completed three reviews already and a fourth, a draft supplemental assessment, has been issued. All have come to the same conclusion: The Keystone XL would pose no significant risk to the environment. Nor would oil sands. The current draft says that with oil sands development associated with the pipeline, “there would be no substantive change in global (greenhouse gas) emissions” – important because that’s basically the standard President Obama said he would apply in his Keystone XL decision during climate change remarks earlier this week.

No matter. Bold Nebraska, the Center for Biological Diversity, the National Wildlife Federation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oil Change International and the Sierra Club want more study – a supplement to State’s draft supplement – claiming, mainly, that State overstated Canada’s ability to get oil sands to market without the Keystone XL.

No offense intended, but we’ll go with the recent analysis of Gary Doer, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S., who’s probably better to positioned to talk about his country’s natural resources than the oil trading experts at the Sierra Club:

“Oil will get to market. It gets to market with pipelines. It will get to market by trains. It will get there by trucks. It will get to India, it will get to China, and it will continue to have the opportunity to go to U.S. refineries, which create a lot of jobs for the United States for the manufacturing sector on the U.S. Gulf Coast.”


The request for a supplemental study to the supplemental study joins a list of other “moles” that have popped up along Keystone XL’s arduous journey:

The Keystone XL will harm the environment – State said:

The analyses of potential impacts associated with construction and normal operations of the propose project suggest that there would be no significant impacts to most resources along the proposed Project route …


Diluted bitumen (oil sands) is more corrosive than other crudes, so the Keystone XL would be at greater risk to spring a leak – A Transportation Research Board (National Academy of Sciences) report this week:

The committee does not find any causes of pipeline failure unique to the transportation of diluted bitumen. Furthermore, the committee does not find evidence of chemical or physical properties of diluted bitumen that are outside the range of other crude oils or any other aspect of its transportation by transmission pipeline that would make diluted bitumen more likely than other crude oils to cause releases.


Oil sands is oil for export – According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2011, 99.7 percent of the crude oil produced in (or imported into) the United States was also consumed here. That means less than one-half of 1 percent (0.3 percent) was exported. Shorter: The U.S. doesn’t export crude oil in any significant way.


The Keystone XL will harm Nebraska’s sensitive Sand Hills region – Again, see the State Department’s assessment above. In addition, pipeline builder TransCanada worked with the state of Nebraska to re-route the project around the Sand Hills. Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman wrote to President Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that the new route and TransCanada’s safety and contingency plans met with his approval.


The Keystone XL pipeline has been thoroughly studied, reviewed, assessed and discussed – by government agencies and U.S. citizens. Questions have been asked and answered. Myths have been debunked. The time for study has passed. It’s time to get moving on a project that’s in the U.S. national interest, one that would benefit U.S. workers and would make our country more energy secure.


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.