The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Our Energy Choices Point to Building the Keystone XL

Mark Green

Mark Green
Posted September 12, 2013

For Canada, the question of whether the Keystone XL pipeline should be built can be reduced to a handful of clarity producing contrasts – as Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. Gary Doer framed for a group of reporters this week:

Does the U.S. choose oil from Venezuela or neighbor and ally Canada?

Do we transport that oil by pipeline, in an environmentally safe and cost-effective manner, or by other means?

Do we choose infrastructure construction, meaning thousands of U.S. jobs and economic stimulus, or the status quo?

Again, for Canada, these and other points make building the pipeline a “no brainer,” as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said. They are part of the reason Americans’ support for building the Keystone XL has registered in slam-dunk territory in poll after poll – including 82 percent in a Harris Interactive survey this summer.

Yet, coming up on the fifth anniversary of pipeline builder TransCanada’s request for Washington’s approval of the Keystone XL, the project remains on hold – despite four favorable environmental reviews by the State Department, the jobs that could be created and the prospect of greater U.S. energy security from a deeper relationship with our biggest source of imported oil, Canada. Doer:

“The American public get it. I think all of the polls that have been conducted have had it about a 3-to-1 issue in the United States. … I also want to point out that Canada as a democracy has participated with the United States on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we have also agreed to the light-vehicle emissions standards to reduce demand. … We’re participating with the United States on a lot of issues for cleaner air, cleaner water, but we also believe along with cleaner air and cleaner water and climate change we can have energy independence in North America, and we see Keystone as part of that long-term vision.”

Doer said Canada has a strong record of environmental concern and protection, citing Alberta’s rules calling for a 12 percent-per barrel reduction in oil sands greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. “We’re not standing still,” he said. “We are willing to continue on all areas that represent a challenge to us in reaching our (national) GHG targets.”

Doer noted that while the Keystone XL has been delayed there has been a significant surge in rail transport of Canadian crude to the U.S. – up 46 percent in 2012 over 2011 and trending at 48 percent this year. Again, a contrast. Doer pointed to the State Department’s calculation that rail transportation of oil sands would result in 8 percent more GHG emissions than the pipeline (see page 26):

In aggregate, the total annual GHG emissions (direct and indirect) attributed to this scenario are approximately 3,447,000 metric tons CO2e, which is about eight percent greater than for the proposed Project at just under 3,200,000 metric tons CO2e (see Section, Greenhouse Gases).


“The president at the end of the day has got to make a decision, which we respect: Does the oil come from Canada and North Dakota and Montana to displace Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil, does it come on rail or does it come on a pipeline? And the pipeline has lower GHGs. … We get into all these side discussions, but the bottom line is it’s pretty straightforward: It is coming down on rail now. … It has happened, it is continuing to happen and it has higher GHGs. So I would argue that the unintended consequences of stopping the pipeline by attrition is higher GHGs.”

API President and CEO Jack Gerard said continued delay affects the users of the fuels and other products made from crude oil:

“It’s an impact to consumer argument, because you’re adding cost every time there’s a battle of attrition. Elected officials need to stand up and say, who are we representing on these kinds of things? Are we representing the shrill group of noisy voices who might have a wish list, or are we truly looking at the citizenry as a whole and saying what’s in their best interest – affordable, reliable, cost-efficient energy?  I think that goes right to the heart of the national security issue.”

The contrasts mentioned by Doer, the jobs, the economic data – all argue for approval of the full Keystone XL pipeline. The American people support its construction, American workers are eager for the jobs the project would create and support. Five years. Time to decide. Time to build.


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.