TransCanada Pushes on with Keystone Pipeline Despite Veto From Obama

TransCanada Pushes on with Keystone Pipeline Despite Veto From Obama

Follow Brandon on Twitter.

The Keystone project was originally the brainchild of the TransCanada corporation and is designed to transfer oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the United States for refinement and eventually export to foreign markets. More specifically, phase four of the project “Keystone XL” is a proposed pipeline that would take a shortcut route to refineries in the US that would project an increase from 590k barrels per day to 830k barrels a day coming into the US from Canada. The idea for Keystone has been under development since 2005, and in 2007 the Canadian government approved construction for phase one; followed by the United States approving it in 2008. Phases 1-3 were completed by 2015, and where things have stood for a while now is a breaking point where phase four (Keystone XL Route) has been in limbo between approval and rejection due to ongoing debate about the pros and cons in both the United States and Canada. President Obama vetoed the project and TransCanada signaled to Canadian media that they may seek an appeal through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or simply wait until 2017 when a new president is in office.

It’s quite clear that Canada’s economy as a whole stands to benefit more from phase four than the American economy as it will encourage continual growth in the Albertan economy for many years to come. However on the other hand, it’s more or less just corporate America make off with increased profits while American workers will be given thousands of very temporary jobs during the construction process, but not much in terms of sustainable jobs, or job growth afterwards. Moreover, American Conservatives are fighting a grueling battle against environmentalists to pass the legislation. The concerning part is that they’re being mislead by their representatives. Representatives, who either don’t understand the magnitude of the decision and are doing it unknowingly; or are just outright lying in an effort to back special interests.

For instance, Democrat Joe Manchin, a Senator from West Virginia has gone on record with this misleading statement in regards to Keystone XL:
“I am encouraged that the Keystone XL pipeline project will come to a vote on the Senate flood as one of the first pieces of legislation for the 114th Congress. We have everything to gain by building this pipeline, especially since it would help create thousands of jobs right here at home and limit our dependence on foreign oil.”

It went on to pass in the Senate, however Obama has already decided to veto the initial deadline for approval of phase four (Keystone XL) citing that it was too important an issue to be rushed, and that a more thourough evaluation would have to be done before a conclusion should be made on the project. Canada as well as the United States both completed an environmental impact assessment, as well as a national interest assessment, in an effort to balance the pros and cons for each respective country. One major argument is that this pipeline will help lower the reliance of railroads to transport petroleum, which have created many environmental disasters due to derailing. This is of course a major concern but tighter regulation of the industry could prevent majority of those disaster, whereas with pipelines, the leaks and environmental disasters are inevitable. Whether they’re due to human error or not. Phase one of Keystone had over a dozen accidents in its first year.

The tar sands, which have been dubbed “The dirtiest oil on Earth”, needs to be heated and have toxic additives mixed in to help pump it as crude oil down the pipeline under immense amounts of pressure. These conditions, mixed with the abrasive friction from the sand particles, will inevitably begin to erode the steel of the pipeline. Combined with the factor of toxic additives are being mixed into the concoction, an environmental catastrophe is not only a sure thing, it will be as bad of an oil spill as it could get. The toxic additives also contribute to higher amounts of green house gases being released if a spill were to take place. Now some people like to point to the C$100M bond paid to go towards any future clean ups necessary and “We’ve got it covered.” Well I would merely point to the Gulf Coast of Mexico in regards to the BP oil spill which is still a massive disaster and has cost over $100B thus far in cleanup efforts. North Americans take on the risks, and oil corporations as well as their constituencies collect all the profits.

Another argument for the Keystone XL pipeline is energy independence, and to help cure North America’s addiction to Saudi oil. However the bottom line is this project is not truly about creating an independent source of energy for North America. It’s about drilling, refining, and exporting it to places like China. Furthermore the battle against unsustainable energy sources should be society collectively pushing towards clean, renewable energies rather than dirty fossil fuels that quite frankly won’t be around much longer at the rate the global community is using them at. Rather than continuing the cannibalistic cycle of feeding our addiction to fossil fuels, aim towards a healthier future. It may still be a small amount of jobs and economic support provided by clean energy companies so far. However the future of these industries hold the key to economic growth past the 2050’s. Because eventually Exxon Mobil will no longer have any product left to extract from mother Earth to sell to the highest bidder. Unfortunately science isn’t cool enough for our archaic society to latch onto yet, however for those that are interested in learning more. A good source of information on this topic can be found at BeyondOil.org

On January 8th, 2015 at the Senate Energy and Natural Resources markup of Keystone XL pipeline legislation. Senator Elizabeth Warren some very eye opening things to say:

“We’ve heard today about some of the problems with the legislative proposal to force the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. My question is simple. I wanna know why the pipeline is the very first item on the agenda in this new congress. Is it about jobs? The number of jobs the pipeline will create has been disputed. Estimates put it at a few thousand or less.

What if we focused on highways instead of pipelines, we urgently need to pass a permanent highway bill. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation officials say it would create 8 million jobs over the next four years if we could pass a highway bill. We could put people to work with good jobs and fix America’s crumbling roads and bridges.

Is it the pipeline about America’s energy cost? Evidently not, even its supporters admit much of the oil from the pipeline would be exported for use outside of the US. So it’s not about jobs, it’s not about energy. Why is this bill so urgent? The answer is money, money and power. The pipeline might not do much for the American people, but it does a whole lot for the Canadian oil industry.”
The Keystone XL project is a pipeline that would span 1,179 miles in length from Canada to the US Gulf Coast. It would cost approximately $5.3 billion to build and would create 42,000 direct and indirect jobs over two years including 3,900 pipeline construction jobs, however in regards to the long term employment numbers. Estimates vary from 35-50 long term jobs will arise out of this project.

If the project is built and the tar sand oil can make it to the Gulf Coast it will become a direct competitor of the Mexican Crude Benchmark. Although keep in mind that Canada’s heavy crude is some of the most expensive to produce in because of the rigorous process involved in extraction, transportation and refinement. So far Trans-Canada has invested C$2.3 billion into the Keystone XL project. Other corporations that would benefit from the pipelines creation are Suncor, Cenovus Energy, and ConocoPhillips. These corporations would face problems getting their product to market if phase four is not passed, it would lead to them having to rely more heavily on rail.

The competitor so to speak of the above companies would be Warren Buffet which would see substantial gains for themselves if rail were to become the next viable option from the pipeline being rejected. However a lot of people don’t seem to realize that there are already 70 pipelines that cross the US-CAN boarder which carry either oil or natural gas, and this specific one is only a shortcut version of a pipeline that already brings petroleum to US refineries. All this pipeline is going to do is speed up an already dangerous process in the name of market growth and ever increasing bottom lines. It’s an attempt to bleed the Earth more quickly which is a plan that only focuses on the short term benefits rather than the long term stability of energy resources.

In addition, another environmental concern beyond contaminating waterways from leaks; is that the tar sands are mostly located beneath the boreal forest in Alberta, Canada. The forest is one of the largest intact forest ecosystems on Earth. If phase fours is passed, you can expect to see that forest shrink at an increasingly rapid pace. Oil corporations have already leased half of the land, and if this legislation passes the rest of it will likely soon be up for grabs.

Beyond environmental concerns, the Keystone XL pipeline is also routed to end up running through an indigenous community which will force them to be displaced. Its proposed route would also go through Nebraska’s Sandhills (region of wetlands), as well as the Ogallala aquifer, a vital source of water that is used for drinking, agriculture, and more. If the aquifer was to be contaminated it could affect up to a 100,000 people in the surrounding area. TransCanada has asked the State Department to pause its review until a new preferred route is developed and brought forward as well organized landowners in the region have strongly opposed the pipeline and its current proposed route. The project has repeatedly been battled in Nebraska courts and although it has not defeated the pipeline they have greatly delayed the construction of it.

Follow Brandon on Twitter.