Xplaining the Keystone XL pipeline battle

Job creator?  One stop shop to push us over the climate edge?   With all Americans in mind?  Single fossil fuel interest?

Many differing perspectives surround the Keystone XL Pipeline project, but one thing is clear: it is taking on more significance than the pipeline itself.  We are at a crossroads in our energy infrastructure and the “to build or not to build” question of Keystone is at the heart of it. Keystone is the physical and symbolic battleground for constructing our energy future.

But what exactly does this project entail?  Why does President Obama need to approve the project?  Below you will find the basics of the project, so that whether you will join 350.org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus at the #ForwardOnClimate rally at DC on February 17th or are taking part in discussions at your work, home or elsewhere, you know the key points for Keystone.

The Timeline:

  • In September 2008, TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP filed an application for a Presidential Permit with the U.S. Department of State (DOS) to build and operate the Keystone XL Project.  TransCanada had to file an application as all facilities which cross international borders require Presidential approval
  • As part of the permit review process, the DOS determined that it should prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) consistent with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)
    • Quick history lesson: Written in 1969, NEPA was landmark legislation to ensure that all government branches give proper consideration to the environment prior to undertaking any major federal action that could have significant impact
  • Used environmental consulting firm Cardno ENTRIX to lead environmental impact statement for nearly 3 years
    • The paradigm of this impact statement wasn’t selectively a sustainability paradigm: “national interest” involves consideration of energy security, environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy, and compliance with relevant federal regulations

Mapping the Pipeline

The Pipeline:

  • Proposed pipeline would primarily transport crude oil extracted from oil sands area in Alberta, Canada to the Houston and the Gulf of Mexico refineries that can handle tar sands oil
  • Run approximately 1,700 miles, being the longest oil pipeline outside of Russia and China
  • Approximately $7 billion project
  • Oil sands -also referred to as tar sands- are a combo of clay, sand, water, and bitumen (which is a material similar to asphalt)
    • Bitumen is extracted from the ground by mining or by injecting steam to heat bitumen so it liquefies and can be pumped to surface

Environmental Concern:

  • Greatest concern = spill in an environmentally sensitive area such as a wetland, streams, rivers, shallow groundwater, or areas with populations of sensitive wildlife and plants
  • Carbon intensity: 3- 21 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually

Let’s move #forwardonclimate!

The Bottomline:

*Warning: Personal Opinion!*  The Environmental Impact Statement very much downplays any threats to local flora and fauna, local jobs, local land, local people.  It’s pretty inconsequential to me that TransCanada is proud of their network of pipelines that are the “best” in the world.  I think the whole point is that we should be nixing our addiction to oil.  We need to move beyond this finite resource.  The EIS argues that we’ll be buying oil anyway.  The EIS argues that Canada will be selling the oil anyway. Why is this the case?  In truth, I know why this statement is the standard, the assumption – but it should be the exception.  The EIS also includes an “alternatives” analysis: these alternatives are just other versions of accomplishing the task of transporting oil from point A to point B.  There are a couple alternatives I can think of that were not mentioned.  New smart grid?  Regulations that discourage sprawl rather than encourage it?  A carbon policy that internalizes the externalities that fossil fuel industries get to ride on?

This is exactly why I’m going to the rally this Sunday.  It’s time we fully support a clean infrastructure.  #noKXL for me means not continuing on this same dirty energy path!

Can’t make it to the rally?   Solidarity events are happening around the country!

More Resources to Explore:

  • http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jan/16/peak-oil-theories-groundless-bp
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/13/us/protesters-gather-at-keystone-xl-site-in-texas.html?ref=earth
  • http://money.cnn.com/2013/01/22/news/economy/keystone-pipeline/
  • http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/k/keystone_pipeline/index.html


Comments are closed.