This group brings together the best thinkers on energy and climate. Join us for smart, insightful posts and conversations about where the energy industry is and where it is going.


The Case for Keystone XL

More from around the web on the new State Department draft analysis of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, which, again, proved the economic benefits and lack of negative environmental impacts from the pipeline. First to the Washington Post:

In its 2,000 pages, the report dismantled the case that nixing the Canadian pipeline must be a priority for anyone concerned about climate change, explaining anew that accepting or rejecting the project won’t make much difference to global emissions, U.S. oil consumption or world oil markets.

And from the Bismarck Tribune:

“After 41/2 half years, and a total of four environmental reviews, the Keystone XL pipeline project is perhaps the most thoroughly studied and long-delayed project of its kind in U.S. history,” [Sen. John] Hoeven said. “The State Department’s favorable finding of ‘no significant impacts’ on the environment in this, its most recent report, underscores both the good environmental stewardship of the project and the need to begin construction without further delay.”

[Sen. Heidi] Heitkamp said, “The State Department should now announce a concrete timeline for comments to be submitted and for a ‘national interest’ determination to be made. The State Department and the president must adhere to this timeline and finally approve the construction of the pipeline.”

The Keystone XL pipeline will create jobs during construction, assist our Canadian allies, help move North Dakota crude oil to those Southern refineries and support a well-reasoned national energy policy. Again, the president should approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Good news all around which is perhaps why:

By a wide 70-23 percent margin, voters support building the pipeline that would transport oil from Canada to refineries in the United States. 

It is time to end the delay and as Larry Kudlow put it yesterday “approve this thing.”  More from that discussion below.


Mark Green's picture

Thank Mark for the Post!

Energy Central contributors share their experience and insights for the benefit of other Members (like you). Please show them your appreciation by leaving a comment, 'liking' this post, or following this Member.


Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 6, 2013 5:07 pm GMT

Mark, again you make your case by skewing news reports and cherry-picking sources, citing opinions of those who stand to profit (including links to your own opinions, which is a bit silly). The industry has grossly overstated employment figures and economic benefits, and there is no wonder why the full-court press is on - people are, well, figuring it out.

It would help the industry's argument if it wasn't consistenly shooting itself in the foot. For example, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers has inconveniently admitted that Keystone XL will be directly responsible for a 100% increase in tar sands development through 2030. From their 2012 Crude Oil Forecast:

"Production from oil sands currently comprises 59 per cent of western Canada’s total crude oil production. In this forecast, oil sands production rises from 1.6 million b/d in 2011 to almost double at 3.1 million b/d by 2020 and 4.2 million b/d by 2025 and 5.0 million b/d by the end of the forecast period in 2030. If the only projects to proceed were the ones in operation or currently under construction, oil sands production would still increase by 54 per cent to 2.5 million b/d by 2020 and then remain relatively flat for the rest of the forecast."

 This tends to nullify their position that "it's going to happen one way or the other". Yet it's clear, with billions at stake, producers are making headway with their assault. The dirty fingerprints of industry lobbying are all over State's report, which underreports tar sands pollution by 13% by completely ignoring petcoke production.

At the right of this page is a link to a video titled Permafrost: Climate Change Time Bomb. It makes clear the consequences of expanding exploitation of fossil fuels, and why Keystone XL is simply not an option.

Edward Kerr's picture
Edward Kerr on Mar 6, 2013 5:19 pm GMT


I'll not be as kind to you as Bob M has been. The idea that the KXL pipeline is anything but insult to injury in relationship to the damage that burning hydrocarbons is going to mean for humanity is absurd. Our only chance for survival is to stop burning fossil fuels ASAP and even if we could somehow magically quit today it's probably too late. So I suggest you practice bending over, real far, and prepare to kiss something goodbye.

Your support for the status quo is as delusional as it gets.

There no one so blind as he who will not see.


Edward Kerr

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Mar 6, 2013 5:56 pm GMT

Gentlemen, let’s put the Keystone into a climate/jobs perspective.  The Keystone XL will increase U.S.-Canadian carbon emissions by about 5 million MT/yr. (not the 25 MMT/yr. published by many sources that ignore land-use reclamation and grossly over estimate U.S. refining energy consumption).  Total world carbon emissions are about 32 BILLION MT/yr. today.  The Keystone XL represents an increase of total world carbon emissions under 0.02%.  China adds more than this level to their total annual carbon emissions about every couple weeks.

If the Keystone XL is not completed; in the short-term the oil will be trucked/railed to the nearest markets, including marine shipment to Asia.  These modes of transportation are much less efficient and greater polluting than the Keystone XL (rail/road petroleum diesel and marine bulkers fuel oil vs. electric power that comes significantly from Canadian hydro and natural gas).  This of course does not include the added carbon and pollution caused by the relatively inefficient and weak environmental standards of processing the syncrude in Asian refineries vs. the U.S.

The Keystone XL completion will cost $5-6 Billion.  To assume the construction jobs (strongly supported by Unions by the way) and capital asset property taxes (to be realized by local communities) are negligible is an extremely weak argument. 

James Thurer's picture
James Thurer on Mar 6, 2013 5:56 pm GMT

The person who is truly delusional is he who believes that blocking the XL pipeline would have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 6, 2013 7:17 pm GMT

John, I've mainained all along that it's an issue of perspective. You claim that Keystone XL will increase "US-Canadian carbon emissions by about 5 million MT/yr". Does this include emissions from the oil itself, which will be sold on the world market? Your link leads to another of your posts (the "rabbit hole" tactic Mark employs) which no one has the time or inclination to follow. If you want to support your points please back them up with original sources.

 "Land use reclamation" is a joke. In what timeframe can we expect the fields of weeds, photos of which TransCanada proudly publishes, to be restored as old-growth boreal forest which was bulldozed? The National Academy of Sciences, a fairly well-respected group, reports that oil sands development contributes elements toxic at low concentrations to the Athabasca River and its tributaries. How many jobs are worth turning the river into the oil industry's toilet?

You're quite correct that if Keystone XL is not completed, other modes of transportation will be used.  The point is that one-half as much will end up polluting the air, and that half will be more expensive. That's a good thing. We face a climate change tipping point of 1.5 degrees Celsius in as little as 20 years, and there's a strong scientific consensus that beyond that point permafrost melt will likely run away irreversibly. The result would be a sweltering climate of 8+ degrees Celsius that could last 100,000 years or more. Keystone XL could not create enough jobs or property taxes to justify the US facilitating a disaster of that magnitude. Continued development of fossil fuels, at this point in history, is suicidal.

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Mar 6, 2013 8:13 pm GMT

Bob, the 5 million MT/yr. increase is based on my personal ‘full lifecycle energy & carbon’ analysis and detailed mass-energy balance, which does include consumption of the petroleum fossil fuels by the end-users.  The differences between my energy/carbon balance and others is largely due to errors found in GREET model balances (used by Federal Agencies/others), assuming the residual oil not recovered/yielded from the oil sands during production is fully-aerobically digested (an extremely poor assumption compared to actual operations), and generally ignoring Canada’s environmental regulatory administration and processes.  As far as land reclamation, this has to do with the reforestation and sequestering the carbon lost by the clearing of the open pit mines.  If you want to do a comparison of existing crude production elsewhere in the world that probably has much greater climate/environmental impacts than Canada’s oil sands, I suggest you investigate Venezuela’s syncrude production.  The U.S. still imports almost 1.0 million barrels per day of syncrudes from our anti-U.S. neighbor, Venezuela.

If the Keystone and Canadian syncrude has ‘net’ negligible impacts on total world carbon emissions, does it make sense to disadvantage U.S. consumers and the economy (i.e. continue oil imports from potentially anti-U.S. countries found within OPEC) vs. more effective alternatives.  More effective alternatives to arbitrarily blocking the Keystone XL include substantially increasing energy efficiency (more aggressively than the current Administration has done to date), facilitating a much more effective transition from coal to natural gas & nuclear (without putting power grid reliabilities at risk), and eventually and cost effectively increasing the penetration of renewables into existing power grids (also without significantly compromising grid reliabilities), and do so without substantially increasing energy costs and reducing the average living standards of most the U.S. Middle Class and the less advantaged.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 6, 2013 8:34 pm GMT

John, the oil that flows from the tar sands will end up on the world market - that's the point of the pipeline - and will not provide energy security for the United States, nor significantly lower prices. The same idea was employed to sell the public on fracking; but after a temporary period of low gas prices, the industry now wants to export LNG to the far corners of the Earth. The end result will mean an increased environmental burden for most Americans with nothing to show for it. If we were to raise corporate income tax rates and income taxes on billionaires to a reasonable 70%, like they were in the 1970s, we'd have a proposal worth considering. But that's another subject.These deliberate mischaracterizations are part of the API's sales pitch, and entirely disregard real-world economics.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Mar 7, 2013 3:12 pm GMT

The main analyst group for the State Dept. report has had ongoing business dealings with TransCanada:

Get Published - Build a Following

The Energy Central Power Industry Network is based on one core idea - power industry professionals helping each other and advancing the industry by sharing and learning from each other.

If you have an experience or insight to share or have learned something from a conference or seminar, your peers and colleagues on Energy Central want to hear about it. It's also easy to share a link to an article you've liked or an industry resource that you think would be helpful.

                 Learn more about posting on Energy Central »