Here's one more sign we may not need to tear up good prairie and surrender land rights to a foreign corporation with the Keystone XL pipeline: TransCanada is thinking about converting an existing natural gas pipeline to carry tar sands oil to eastern Canada:
The giant pipeline is TransCanada's original business and is one of Canada's nation-building infrastructures. For decades, it is has moved natural gas from Empress, Alta., down to the U.S. northeast and into Ontario and Quebec.
But the pipeline is running at half capacity because of the discovery of big new shale gas deposits such as the giant Marcellus in the United States that are pushing new supplies into the pipeline's historic market. The new supplies are so abundant they have depressed natural gas prices to decade-low levels, while pushing up transmission costs for producers and customers.
...If technically feasible, the conversion would be nation-building in new ways.
The pipeline could potentially carry between 300,000 barrels a day and 800,000 b/d, [TransCanada CEO Russ] Girling estimated, making it a significant channel for growing oil sands production in Alberta that risks being stranded as a result of activists opposing new pipeline plans to the United States and to Canada's West Coast [Claudia Cattaneo, "TransCanada Mulls Switching Natural Gas Mainline to Oil Service," Financial Post, 2012.04.27].
Now tell me if I'm wrong, but it seems there would be less environmental and land-rights impact from working on an existing pipeline than from laying an entirely new pipeline. Reusing existing infrastructure instead of building new means less infrastructure to maintain and less taxes for TransCanada to pay, which I would think would mean less cost to the oil companies and ultimately to us.
TransCanada has converted natural gas pipeline to oil pipeline before. The Keystone 1 pipeline running through eastern South Dakota gets its flow from a stretch of converted natural gas pipeline south of Winnipeg.
A trans-Canada TransCanada route keeps Keystone XL from fouling South Dakota's land, water, and property rights. By all means, CEO Girling, make it so!