Is the Keystone XL crude oil pipeline a done deal?

Last week the US State Department reported in an environmental impact statement that there would be no significant impact on water and other natural resources along the proposed route of the Keystone XL Pipeline, which will carry crude oil from Canada’s Alberta oil sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast.

In 2010 TransCanada completed the first phase of its $13 billion Keystone pipeline system aimed at linking the growing supply of Canadian crude oil with the largest refining markets in the US. In June 2010 it began commercial operation of a converted natural gas pipeline and a newly built oil pipeline, bringing crude oil directly from Canada to market hubs in the US Midwest.

Keystone Cushing (Phase II) extended the Keystone Pipeline from Steele City, Nebraska to Cushing, Oklahoma, a major crude oil marketing/refining and pipeline hub. This section went into operation in February 2011.

The proposed Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion Project (Keystone XL) is a 1,661-mile, 36-inch crude oil pipeline that would go from Hardisty, Alberta southeast through Saskatchewan, Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. It would incorporate a portion of the Keystone Pipeline (Phase II) through Nebraska and Kansas to serve markets at Cushing, Oklahoma before continuing through Oklahoma and Texas to the Port Arthur and Houston markets.

The case for the pipeline is strong: Obtaining an extra 500,000 barrels of oil a day from close ally and neighbor, Canada, and weaning the US from dependency on imported oil from unstable and adversarial foreign producers. (In addition the recoverable oil reserves of the current major suppliers of crude to Gulf Coast refineries — Mexico and Venezuela – are in decline.) But the other selling point is jobs. According to pipeline supporters, building the pipeline will create 100,000 jobs and generate $600 million in new local and state tax revenue. The Oil Lobby is strongly supporting the proposed pipeline.

The case against, also strong: Heavy oil from tar sands is dirty oil. Tar sands production’s carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher than those of conventional oil. The extraction process also requires vast amounts of energy and water, and surface-mining tar sands scars the landscape. Environmentalists and green energy advocates see the move as a step backward, increasing US dependency on one of the dirtiest kinds of fossil fuels rather than investing in the clean energy future (solar, wind, conservation) advocated by the Obama Administration’s US energy policy. In addition, some landowners and politicians in states that the pipeline will run through fear that a pipeline spill will contaminate local aquifers.

So, the Oil Lobby is for it, environmentalists against it. The Obama Administration is scheduled to make a final decision on the pipeline project by the end of the year.

Tough call or a done deal?

Tough call, no doubt. But given that the 2012 US presidential campaign will be shaped by the jobs issue, I’m also going with done deal.

~

Photo by tarsandsaction used under a Creative Commons license.
Stuart Hampton

British editorial veteran Stuart Hampton has been covering oil and gas companies for Hoover's since the Neogene-Quaternary period. Well, actually, since the early 1990s. For the best overview of the oil industry and its history he recommends Daniel Yergin's "The Prize." You can also follow Stuart on Twitter.

Read more articles by Stuart Hampton.

Comments

  1. If there is no environmental impact, then how come there have been 12 spills in the last 12 months on the already completed portion?

    These people should be ashamed of themselves for even CONSIDERING putting a HIGHLY corrosive substance through a thinwall pipe. It will corrode through in a few years and make a total mess out of some prime areas.

    These people don’t care because MONEY drives everything for them. Money is the root of all evil.

    Larry

  2. I find it hilarious that the lamestream US media and web sites like this do not cover the real world. Today your precious Dr. Chu announces that he loves the Keystone XL pipeline but none of the “progressive” sites (including the NY Times) is covering this story. Guess it is not politically correct to tell stuff like this to the faithful.

    http://www.energynow.com/video/2011/08/31/chu-says-us-energy-security-trade-off-favors-oil-sands-pipeline

    And then if you idiots bothered to read news other than from your holy (but misguided) US sources you would know that China is buying up the oil sands and funding the pipeline that will carry it from Alberta to China. But of course your education system doesn’t train you to find out what is really going on outside of the Holy States of America..

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/enbridges-push-to-the-pacific-wins-support-from-china/article2150950/

    The Canadian tar sands are gong to get burned up and all the CO2 is going to fill up YOUR atmosphere. Get used to it. Or try hari kari. Hahahahaha

  3. Stuart Hampton says:

    Not to quibble, but

    @Larry

    It is “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

    And @manotick

    As to not being trained to “find out what is really going on outside of the Holy States of America” I am not an American, I have lived and worked all over the world, and bring that perspective to my writing.

    Having said that, I do appreciate the passion that both of you bring to this topic and the deep concern you have over the environmental dangers inherent in the pipeline.

    My blog does not advocate for the pipeline, it briefly lays out what is going on, the pros and cons of the pipeline, the dilemma the Obama administration faces, and my guess at the likely outcome.

    It’s a old adage, but true — don’t shoot the messenger.

  4. Kathleen Richardson says:

    Dear Stuart: I was looking for unbiased pro and con info about the pipeline and I got it from your blog. Thank you.

  5. Stuart Hampton says:

    @Kathleen,

    Thank you for your kind comments. It is rewarding when a reader fully understands what a writer intended, and gives that feedback directly.

    Much appreciated.

  6. I am very much against the pipeline I live in nebraska and what people dont know is that nebraska sits on the largest fresh water aquifer in the U.S.A.. With this auqifer we water our crops such as corn, soybeans,wheat, and milo. We also still have a bunch of working windmills that water our cattle.This water comes straight for the ground. Also nebraska has very wild climate such as -30*F in the winder to 110*F in the summer. If this pipeline goes through its not a matter of “IF” but “WHEN” its going to break..But then again im only 16 so what do I know.

  7. Justinstl says:

    look up Edgar Cayce oil spill/great lakes prediction! I say pipeline is a very bad idea. Yes I know you may think im nuts bringing up predictions , however nearly all of Cayce’s 14,000 predictions have come true and are accurate.

  8. @Justinl,

    I am wary of prophets and seers. However, Cayce did foresee the possibility of a fuller head of shiny hair by the liberal application of Crudeoleum (a mixture of Pennsylvania Crude Oil, Vaseline, and grain alcohol) which he patented.
    see http://www.bizmology.com/2008/06/18/crude-oil-trances-and-healthy-hair/

Leave a Comment