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Keystone XL Would Increase Carbon Pollution More Than State Dept. Thinks

...and your gasoline prices will still go up.

A new study from researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (based in the U.S., not Sweden) says the U.S. State Department could be off by a factor of four in its estimate of greenhouse gas emissions that the Keystone XL pipeline would facilitate. The State Department says Keystone XL could lead to 1 to 27 million more tons of carbon dioxide belched into the atmosphere each year. Researchers Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus say the additional carbon pollution could be almost nil, but they could also be as great as 110 million tons per year.

But check out the reason: Peterson and Lazarus say the State Department failed to include in its model the economic impact of Keystone XL, which will increase supply, lower global oil prices, and thus increase oil consumption. A working version of the Peterson-Lazarus paper from December 2013 suggests the new oil Keystone XL will bring to the market (510,000 barrels per day, 62% of the pipeline's capacity) would lower the global price of oil by $1.50 per barrel, from $101.10 to $98.60.

Attentive readers are saying to themselves, "Wait a minute! Heidelberger told us Keystone XL would raise our gasoline prices. These eggheads are saying Keystone XL will lower global oil prices. Heidelberger's an idiot! Build the pipeline!"

But here, you have to think locally, not globally. Not all segments of the market are created equally (as anyone traveling across the country last week and getting a motel room in Minnesota one night and the Black Hills the next can attest). As I've reported for years, the whole business case for Keystone XL hinges on clearing the relative glut of oil in middle America and connecting Canada's oil to the global export market. Keystone XL would erase the discount we Midwesterners get and divide it up among the Chinese and other global players.

Now if you want to give China your credit card reward points or the money you save on your capital gains tax rate, then hey, Keystone XL is for you. But if you're putting American interests first and/or if you would like to take one more action to mitigate carbon-induced climate change, you tell TransCanada to keep its pipeline out of South Dakota and leave more of that tar sands oil in the ground.


  1. lesliengland 2014.08.11

    dear repubs: between now and 2100 climate will change more than 100 times faster than the rate at which species can adapt, according to a newly published study by Indiana University researchers. lawing, polly (2011)

  2. JeniW 2014.08.11

    Leslie, the I doubt that the current Republicans care. By the time the year 2100 comes around, they will all be long dead, just like the rest of us who are alive now.

  3. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.08.11

    If they want to put more carbon in the air to increase warming in the Arctic, we'll all get more of this:

    Thawing permafrost is releasing methane below the surface and it's exploding, leaving gaping craters in the surface. What a lovely multiplying effect!
    (The methane theory is not proven at this time. Read the article and watch the video to get more information.)

  4. Ryan Gaddy 2014.08.11

    Perfect article Cory!!!!!!

  5. mike from iowa 2014.08.11

    So basically we have to shut down the border so those trouble making furriners and their opinions are kept out,lest people start to believe that our gubmint doesn't have our best interests at heart. (unless that interest is raping the land and environment and making scads of untaxed income)

  6. mike from iowa 2014.08.11

    Just received an email from Sinator Chuck Grassley,says he hopes to see me tomorrow in Sheldon,iowa for a meet and greet. Love to be able to chaw his leg off for a couple hours straight,but he has a policy of not wanting to engage people who aren't going to fall for his korporate line of bullshit.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.11

    Leslie, Deb... dang! Siberia burping methane? Maybe we do need to build Keystone XL and burn all the fossil fuels we can... to power a crash spaceship-building program to evacuate the planet and go terraform Mars... or maybe just build giant climate controlled domes over our cities. But how to feed everyone...?

  8. lesliengland 2014.08.11

    2-7 meter sea level increase would occur in a decade when greenland thaws, which is happening right now, rapidly. oh, cory, yeah and then there is methane, 20x s more potent than co2 as a warming agent.

    glad to see in rcj don kopp is on top of things keeping the repubs informed about the global warming hoax.

  9. lesliengland 2014.08.11

    um...SQWAAAAAAKKKK! there is about a mediterranean sea-size chunk of frozen methane getting ready to suddenly pop into the atmosphere, as you mentioned cory.

    the arctic icecap is on track to completely melt by september 2015. (arcticdeathspiralandmethanetimebomb-movie)

    but dont worry, kochs (our new neighbors in sd calling you daily) are spending $125 million on 2014 elections added to repubs' $47 million, --up against the dems' $62 million. dailykos, carter (5. 09.14)

    popular mechanics a month before i was born (60 years ago) predicted CO2 based global warming. physicist gilbert plass

  10. Aachen 2014.08.12

    We're a rather long way off from any sort of reasonable terraforming; and, if we had the technology to do so .... wouldn't it be better to invest in stabilizing the earth's biosphere? :P

  11. mike from iowa 2014.08.12

    Global warming is real and fueled by the NRA,DSC,and international hunting groups that want to import legally taken polar bear skins which,at present,they can't do. So they bloviate hot air,super heating the arctic to drive the bears across Russia and Canada into the US of A where they can be killed with impunity and wingnuts can say fuck you, liberals.

  12. Anne Beal 2014.08.12

    So the alternative to having the oil traverse our border, the proposed pipeline across the Canadian Rockies and who knows how many active seismic zones to the port at Kitimat, is going to result in less greenhouse gases?
    Please explain how a pipeline straight west to the Pacific Ocean is going to be an improvement. Because that oil is leaving Canada one way or another.

  13. larry kurtz 2014.08.12

    Mrs. Beal, even if building in Pierre Shale was tenable, tarsands railbit is far less flammable and could even be shipped in modified gondola while more volatile Bakken crude is destined for pipelines: climate killers no matter the modal infrastructure.

  14. larry kurtz 2014.08.12

    If the KXL land grab was a wildlife corridor connecting parcels withing a greater refuge, earth haters like Mistress Beal would be having myocardial infarctions.

  15. lesliengland 2014.08.12

    Obama, the right man for the times, is not going to let it happen imo. opening that XL spigot starts us allover again from plass' 1953 prediction to the early 70s shortage, to cleaning up the air, to now...and despite the 1%'s economy, continuing in this foolhardy fashion will raise the seas 2-7 METERS within 10 years of losing Greenland's ice-cap. world-wide.

    WE are not gonna let YOU do that for Kochs et al. you do know how to google Greenland ice? denial of science is...don koppish.

  16. lesliengland 2014.08.12

    china will keep mining, Canada will keep pumping, but Obama's usa will continue to lead the world in alternatives to fossil fuels for a more wise and peaceful planet as it has since 2004, despite the house and putin ect. imo.

  17. lesliengland 2014.08.12

    oh, and I thought gas prices just went up when the rally got started. u know-spread out the welcome mat? some of those bikers are vets that fought for moyles' freedom to sell gasoline. thank guns, god and gays-is that how it goes?- in the red state of so. dak.

  18. Paul Seamans 2014.08.12

    I disagree with the thinking that tarsands oil will be developed no matter what. The proposed pipeline to the Pacific coast has a lot of opposition and is far from a sure thing, even in tarsands crazy Canada. Shipping by rail has it's limits due to capacity of the rail system and increased shipping costs. Many financial analysts feel that without the KXL pipeline that development of the tarsands will be slowed as evidenced by Total, the French oil conglomerate, announcing that they will not proceed with a planned $11 Billion tarsands field due to the uncertainty of the KXL being built.

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.13

    Aachen, I agree that terraforming Terra, no matter how badly we've fouled it, should be easier than terraforming Mars. But it would be nice to work with a clean slate and establish a second human habitat. Asteroids, you know....

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.08.13

    Anne, you folks who back Big Oil keep offering us the false dilemma of inevitability. A pipeline to the Pacific is not "the" alternative. There is also the alternative of not building any pipeline and leaving the tar sands in the ground. Folks on the Pacific Coast are fighting pipeline proposals. That's why Canada wants the free pass through our heartland. Force them to bear their own externalities, and they might just say no.

    I'm with Paul: TransCanada is pushing KXL because Big Oil wants to be able to move more tar sands oil, not just move the same amount by alternative means.

  21. Tim 2014.08.13

    Cory, agreed, but I would suggest republicans are much more of a threat to the planet than asteroids.

  22. larry kurtz 2014.08.13

    Roy Blunt owns Denny Daugaard's testicles.

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