The long-awaited environmental impact statement on the Keystone XL pipeline seems to clear the way for the approval of that controversial project, according to a report by the New York Times. Why? It’s what I’ve written recently. The oil companies are intent on bringing oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to market even if the Keystone XL pipeline is denied.
The proposition put forward by President Obama is that he would approve the pipeline only if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of carbon pollution. But the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the Keystone XL project concludes that oil companies are unlikely to change the rate of extraction from the Alberta Tar Sands deposits. Hence, rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline is not going to reduce the “carbon bomb” effect.
The “carbon bomb” phrase is used by some folks – is an analogy, that extracting all the Alberta Tar Sands deposits means releasing all that carbon into the atmosphere, which they’re likening to setting off a carbon bomb.
If the oil companies indeed continue extraction at the same rate, even if Keystone XL is denied, then the carbon bomb is exploding anyway.
Almost 2 months ago, I noted some plans to ship Alberta Tar Sands oil through the Great Lakes on barges
. That’s an example of the methods oil companies plan to market and sell Alberta Tar Sands oil regardless of whether Keystone XL is approved. Crude oil also gets shipped by rail today, and we’ve lately had a string of train derailments and explosions of trains carrying crude oil. I believe the oil in that case is coming from the Bakken formation, but the Alberta Tar Sands oil is surely already being shipped by rail.
There’s an argument to be made that shipping crude oil by pipeline is less risky – fewer train derailments – than shipping by trains, which derail. Therefore, if the oil is going to be extracted and burned anyway, shipping it by pipeline will be better than shipping it by rail.
By the way, a quick review of the the Keystone XL project documents shows it won’t just be handling oil from Alberta. It’ll have an interconnect with the Bakken oil, and is also going to serve as the corridor for an electricity transmission line.
Which gives us something to ponder – boiling down approval or rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline just to whether it allows Alberta Tar Sands oil to be burned is too simplistic. The environmental impact of this choice is much more complex. For example it could serve as the corridor for much-needed power lines to carry electricity from wind turbines in the northern Plains region to use in more populated areas to the south.
At the same time the blocking of exploitation of the Alberta Tar Sands is absolutely necessary, because we as a society must stop using fossil fuels. There are plenty of fossil fuel sources to block, not just the Alberta Tar Sands.
We, collectively, urgently need to get on with the business of adopting different energy technologies.
In the 2014 State of the Union Address
this week, President Obama loudly proclaimed Climate Change is a Fact and that we must urgently act to solve climate change. But in the same speech he bragged about the increases in fossil fuel production that have occurred during his Presidency, increases that are thanks to hydraulic fracturing techniques. And, fossil fuel production and consumption increases negate all the good work the Obama Administration is doing to change the energy system in the U.S. and work on solving climate change.
NY Times: Report May Ease Way to Approval of Keystone Pipeline
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