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Keystone XL: All Risk, No Benefit

Exxon's latest oil pipeline breach has provoked lots of negative press for TransCanada and its contentious Keystone XL pipeline proposal. neatly encapsulates the issue, juxtaposing a video of the 10,000-barrel mess in Arkansas with the basic reasons I've been laying out for why there is no compelling reason to take on the risk of another tar sands pipeline across South Dakota:

  • Keystone XL would not reduce foreign oil dependency. In fact, according to its own presentation to investors, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline is quite clear most if not all of the extracted tar sands oil would be sent to oversees markets (where oil fetches a higher price).
  • Keystone XL would increase domestic oil prices. Again, this comes not from environmental activists but the Keystone XL pipeline company itself. According todocuments produced by TransCanada, the company notes that because new pipeline capacity would allow Midwestern oil reserves to be drained and shipped, the Keystone XL pipeline would have the effect of increasing domestic oil prices in the United States, especially in the Midwest.
  • Keystone XL would not create nearly as many jobs as promised. In its early applications for permits, TransCanada said the Keystone XL pipeline would create about 3,500 to 4,200 temporary construction jobs. After all, once the pipeline is built there’s not much work to be done except for cleaning up spills. But when the pipeline hit political roadblocks, TransCanada increased the number of jobs the project would supposedly create to over 20,000 — a number frequently repeated by supporters of the pipeline project. But PolitiFact found these assertions were false. TransCanada is simply inflating the numbers to try and sway public opinion and political support [Sally Kohn, "New Spill Reveals How Horrible Keystone Could Be,", 2013.04.01].

The oil goes to China, our prices go up, and the job figures are lies... when will folks like John Thune and Tim Johnson get it?

Economist and oil market analyst Philip Verleger summarizes the No-Keystone-XL argument much more concisely:

"The oil crisis is going away," Verleger says. "We have plenty of oil. We have too much oil" [Tracy Samilton, "EPA's Push For More Ethanol Could Be Too Little, Too Late," NPR, 2013.04.01].

If we don't need Keystone XL's oil, we don't need it's risk. President Obama, shut TransCanada's land grab down.

p.s.: Note that Verleger makes that statement in an argument that we don't need any more government support for ethanol, either. Uh oh!

pp.s.: A new EPA report finds that 58.4% of the rivers and streams in the vast Plains region are in poor condition. Keystone XL won't improve that number.


  1. UnionCo 2013.04.03

    The draft EIS states that the XL pipeline would create only 35 permanent jobs.

  2. Testor15 2013.04.03

    What will happen when we are swimming in oil like Arkansas is?

  3. phyllis cole-dai 2013.04.03

    Look like an oil spill to you, down there in Mayflower, Arkansas?

    Nope. According to US law, that isn't oil. It's "diluted bitumen." AKA "dilbit." AKA "tar sands oil." AKA "a thick, sticky, black semi-solid form of petroleum which is transported in a diluted form." [In other words, "the dirtiest, most toxic form of oil on the planet," but shhh! don't tell anybody.]

    Since this spill isn't "oil," according to US law Exxon will be exempt from helping to pay for the Mayflower spill's clean-up through the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

    Makes perfect sense, doesn't it? Especially when American taxpayers are shelling out billions in oil ("not-oil"?) subsidies to companies like Exxon.

    Oh, by the way, "not-oil" will be flowing through the Keystone XL pipeline, too....

  4. DB 2013.04.03

    Ship it by rail and barge. We'll have more spills and Buffet will get rich, but at least the complaining will stop. The environment will get screwed in the end because the safer transport methods are overlooked. These same people probably hate nuclear energy as well. Obama is going to let this go through. He is power hungry and who wouldn't want to be in control of China's oil? I mean, it's not like controlling the tea trade was worth it either.......

  5. Jana 2013.04.03

    Ah yes...shipping by barge...face palm.

    Seriously, just let the Canadian company manipulate their politicians and run the pipeline on Canadian government seized land to Canadian refineries and then we'll buy it on the global open market.

  6. Douglas Wiken 2013.04.03

    The other option to tar sands oil in pipelines is not railroads or barges, it is no shipment of any kind.

  7. Jerry 2013.04.04

    Here is some more footage of the mess in Arkansas. There is no way to ship this crap safely. Take a look and imagine the Missouri, or the White or any of the other waterways this monster would cross. Is it worth it? Hell no.

    DB should head on up to Alberta and see the spots where this originates. Smell the air drink out of a stream and then come back, if still alive and walking, and report how wonderful and pristine the area is. Tim Johnson is retiring on a bad note, I always thought of him as a thinker and a good judge of situations, turns out I was wrong thinking that. His support is a huge stain. Regarding Thuney bird, he is a dodo, simple as that. And speaking of simple, we also have NOem to consider________________________, already did that. Here is the aerial view in restricted air space (thanks Exxon) as they are running the show there.

  8. DB 2013.04.04

    "The other option to tar sands oil in pipelines is not railroads or barges, it is no shipment of any kind."

    Some of us realize that will never be an option. The oil is there....and people want it. No one is going to send us back 300 years so we can stop consuming oil. Energy wars anyone?

    Don't worry Jerry, I could care less what it looks like in Canada. They determined the oil is worth getting and China is willing to pay an arm and a leg for it. They can do as they please. Growing up next to Manitoba, I'll take the oil over the water that is inundated with pig crap. Their environment was screwed long before oil. ND is starting to see the effects of their tiling now too. Don't even get me started on those clowns. I do get a kick out of you caring so much about Canada. Just think of all the land American oil interests have destroyed in other countries. Maybe we should get our own oil rather than destroying the middle east?

    The oil is coming and that is the simple truth. I'd rather transport it safely and have control of the refining. Having control of China's interests is just icing on the cake.

  9. larry kurtz 2013.04.04

    In fact, the grid will down multiple times this year and weaponized wildfire will be the norm.

  10. phyllis cole-dai 2013.04.04

    Folks, we have to be concerned about what's happening in Canada, if only because further development of the tar sands means "game over for the climate," in the words of scientist James Hansen, who just quit his job as NASA's chief climatologist so that he could fight against climate change more effectively. Global warming and climate change and the suffering they are already causing know no borders. These are PLANETARY ISSUES. When it comes to these things, there is no "US" and "Canada", no "us" and "them." We're all in the same boat together, and unfortunately that boat already has some major leaks, and by continuing to develop the tar sands, we're just drilling more holes toward the Big Sink....

    I'm no radical. I'm no alarmist. But I happen to be married to a scientist who studies this stuff (and happens to be pretty good at it). We need to listen to the scientists, whose models about what will happen to the planet if we don't stop using fossil fuels NOW are proving to be TOO CONSERVATIVE....

  11. Douglas Wiken 2013.04.04

    "The oil is there....and people want it. " Oh, which people want it? Or is this just another way to deceptively label corporations and the Chinese government as "people"?

  12. Douglas Wiken 2013.04.04

    County commissioners are again getting the big sell from XL subcontractor wind jammers. When are county commissioners going to get people talking to them about actual intentions of Trans Canada and gentle reminders of all the dis-information already fed to them by Trans Canada subcontractors?

  13. joelie hicks 2013.04.04

    Finally Obama did something right. But it does not make up for the monsanto rider.

  14. Jerry 2013.04.04

    Check out how the Monsanto rider got hidden into the bill joelie. This is not his doing. Now if we are gonna speak of whistle blowers and his administrations poor treatments of that, we would agree. Anytime your administration prosecutes citizens for revealing state run crooked dealings, yet leaves war criminals and banksters run free, you need to reevaluate your direction.

  15. joelie hicks 2013.04.04


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