Keeping Keystone XL Pipeline in Perspective
by Francis Koster Ed. D.
As we struggle to create a better future for our kids, and their kids, sometimes it helps to take a breath and put things in perspective. The current political storm over the Keystone XL oil pipeline could really use it.
A sensible Federal law requires that when a foreign company or country wants to build a pipeline which would cross our international borders, a Presidential Permit is required.[i] In the case of Keystone XL, this set the stage for politics entering the national discussion.
Tweet #1: "Our national security is at stake". No. Oil is sold to the highest bidder - regardless of country of origin. So there is no "American" oil - only oil produced in America, owned by private corporations who have to sell it to the worldwide bidder willing to pay the most. You don't increase national security by having it under your ground, or in the country next door - only by having enough money to outbid others.
Tweet #2: "The Keystone pipeline will make jobs." Yes, it will.
There are around 140,000,000 employed people in the United States, up over half a million since November 2014 alone. [ii] According to our own state department study prepared as part of the Presidential Permit process, building the pipeline will create about 1,950 jobs per year for two years.[iii],[iv],[v] Then those jobs go away. After the two years of construction, about 35-50 enduring jobs will exist for pipeline maintenance.[vi] That's it.
Tweet #4: "Supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline stand for American values". Think again - Eminent Domain is a legal process that lets a government entity or company seize private property for projects like pipelines. The owners of Keystone XL are Canadian. This is a project that would allow a foreign company to take an American citizens land for the foreign companies profit - something you don't see talked about much.[ix]
Tweet #5: "We need the pipeline in order to provide clean fuel." Well, you will not find it in this project. Not all oil is created equal, and some make a bigger mess in the process. Of all the choices, the oil from Tar Sands in Canada is among the worst in the world.
Imagine your kids' sand box. Now have dad pour a quart of used oil into it. Stir well, and chill. Now go back and remove the oil so you can put it in the pipeline.
Here is the catch - in order to get the oil out of the sand, you will have to heat it. With tar sands, this is done by creating a massive natural gas soil heating system which leaks impressively. Leaking natural gas is one of the worst climate changing problems we have. So two things happen - you burn lots of energy (and make lots of climate changing gas) to make energy (which, when you use it, makes more climate changing gas).
97% of scientists trained in this field believe climate change is real and manmade. [x] [xi] The more than 10,000 scientists worldwide working on this problem say we need to leave two-thirds of already discovered coal, oil and gas where it now rests, or hand our kids a national and global catastrophe.[XII]
This scientific finding is a huge threat to the owners of all that oil and gas property, who are behaving just like the tobacco companies did when the public health cost of smoking became a topic of discussion. They are fighting the science in order to stay in business, and in the process have created a major well funded effort which has taken a scientific issue and turned it into a political one.
Put in this perspective, a project like Keystone XL does not create "energy independence" or many jobs, but it does grant foreign companies the right to take our citizens’ property, and adds to climate change.
Tweet #6: Many better options exist to both meet our needs for energy, and reduce the harm of climate change. You can find some of them elsewhere on this website, or contact me and I will point you toward them.
[viii] The high estimate comes from Robert Bryce, a senior energy fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute research center, who reviewed all the pipeline documents, and concluded that when Canadian oil and Northern USA oil is added together in the pipeline, a total of 830,000 barrels of oil a day could be shipped. Lower estimates by opponents cite about 2/3 of that amount. In 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the United States used 18.89 million barrels a day (http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=33&t=6). Divide 830,000 by 18,890,000 = 4%