Keystone XL Pipeline moves one step closer to reality

Stephen Harper will pressure the US government to begin construction of the Keystone XL pipeline while he visits Washington in mid-February.  Harper spoke to the political obstacles that have been recently removed following a recent State Department internal report.   The development and construction of the pipeline is one of the key foreign relation policies fueling Canadian-US relations.  Chiefly, State Department’s report stated that the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would contribute less pollution than traditional means of transportation of rail and tractor trailer.

The Canadian government promised $5.3 billion dollars as part of the commitment to developing and securing Canada-U.S. trade.  “In the weeks ahead, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and cabinet colleagues will promote the economic benefits of pipeline construction amid a weak recovery in the U.S. – emphasizing that it would create tens of thousands of American jobs and billions of dollars of business activity.”[1]

What is the Keystone XL Pipeline project?

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 875-mile pipeline construction project “that would extend from Morgan, Montana, to Steele City, Nebraska. The pipeline would allow delivery of up to 830,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) in Canada and the Bakken Shale Formation in the United States to Steele City, Nebraska, for onward delivery to refineries in the Gulf Coast area.”[3]



State Department report reveals Keystone XL not a threat to the environment

The State’s department published a fifth environmental study to review the environmental impact of the Keystone Pipeline.  “State department analysts and independent experts were asked to consider, among other things, whether the 1,700-km pipeline would be a net threat to the environment.  Their conclusion: it would not.”[4]

The Globe and Mail reported that the U.S. State Department gave “a green light to Keystone XL when it predicted the pipeline would have little impact on greenhouse gas emissions from the Canadian oil sands.”[5]

The Keystone XL pipeline “would emit approximately 0.24 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalents (MMTCO2e) per year during the construction period. These emissions would be emitted directly through fuel use in construction vehicles and equipment, as well as, land clearing activities including open burning, and indirectly from electricity usage.”[6]


Source:  Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, January 2014

According to the State Department report, Keystone XL will do less harm to the environment than traditional means of crude oil transportation. “Building the pipeline is unlikely to increase the extent of oil sands development.  That means the pipeline would not be responsible for adding more carbon dioxide (CO2) to the atmosphere than will already be released over the sands lifetime.”[7]

Supporters and detractors

Even though the State Department supported the project, Keystone XL has received staunch criticisms from environmentalists in Washington.  According to the Globe and Mail, “the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments have up to 90 days to issue comments. An internal probe is looking into whether a contractor who worked on the report was in a conflict-of-interest. And then the matter goes to Mr. Obama.”  The sticking point for the Obama administration is the potential environmental backlash of the Keystone XL controversy.

Supporters believe that Keystone XL pipeline is a safer means to transport crude oil than traditional means of truck and rail.

“Republicans are almost universally on board with the pipeline, and so are lots of Democrats, including many senators and congressmen running for re-election in the fall’s midterm elections.”[8]

Prime Minister Harper sees the pipeline project as a win/win scenario for both the United States and Canada.  “The Prime Minister will make the Keystone case personally to Mr. Obama in Toluca, Mexico, on Feb. 19 as part of the North American Leaders’ Summit, sources say. The pipeline, which would carry Alberta oil sands crude to the U.S. Gulf Coast, is now a prime target for U.S. environmental activists who warn it will contribute to global warming.”

According to Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall, he believes that the “economic case for Keystone has been settled and Canada needs to concentrate on demonstrating to U.S. decision-makers that this country is an environmentally sound source of energy. He said Canadians need to promote what they’ve done to make resource extraction more sustainable, from cleaner coal technology to stricter oil and gas regulations.”[2]


How do you think the pipeline will affect Canadians?  Are you in favour of traditional means of transportation – rail and tanker trailers?  If you had Obama’s ear, would you suggest that he move forward or not?  Why or why not?  Please let me know in the comments below.


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