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Approve the Keystone pipeline

Courtesy of Transcanada Corp
Canadian heavy crude supplies will be developed whether or not Keystone is built.

The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.

The environmental review on the pipeline has been in the works for five years. State and federal regulators have extensively reviewed the environmental impact and given it passing grades.

In fact, if the pipeline is not approved and built, Canadian companies will simply ship the crude oil by rail, which would increase greenhouse gas emissions 28 percent to 42 percent compared to the pipeline shipments, according to the State Department report.

The report also notes that the Canadian heavy crude supplies will be developed whether or not Keystone is built. So, again, denial by the U.S. will have no impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

The pipeline would increase the supply of gasoline and other products being produced by U.S. refiners in the Gulf Coast. Any increase in supply is likely to have a downward impact on gasoline prices especially at a time when gasoline and oil consumption is moderating in the United States. Obviously the market cannot be predicted with exactitude, but opponents often overlook how lower energy prices can spur economic growth, including many of the green industries and pollution-cutting technologies that opponents of Keystone want to see happen.

There are many economic and environmental reasons to move forward with Keystone. The reasons to halt it seem mostly political.

Opponents say it will increase the level of greenhouse gases. The report by the Obama-led state department says there will be no significant greenhouse gas impact. The opponents have not been able to come up with reasonable economic and environmental arguments, instead they mostly vow to hold vigils and protest pipeline construction holding civil disobedience rallies.

There will be a heavy political push by opponents for Kerry and the Obama administration to reject the project in an election year when Democrats don’t want to weaken any support they might have from their base.

One Obama contributor, Neva Goodwin, co-director of the Global Development and Environmental Institute at Tufts University, told the Washington Post that she would be working with “an informal network of political donors that will be pushing Kerry to do the right thing.”

Ironically, she is the great-granddaughter of John Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil.

Others opponents, such as Erich Pica, president of Friends of the Earth, told the Post if Obama approved the pipeline “he reduces what little credibility he has to the rest of the world in showing that the U.S. is going to be a climate-change leader.”

That statement is telling because it suggests Obama should make the decision to “show the world” we’re environmental leaders when he should be showing Americans we’re going to have a sensible energy policy that safely increases the supply of energy from our friends and is produced by refiners in the U.S.

In any case, denying the pipeline won’t change the economic forces that are bringing the heavy Canadian crude onto the market. But denial of the project will cost U.S. workers 2,000 construction jobs during the two-year building period and the U.S. economy $3.4 billion.

And while environmentalists seem zealous to make Keystone their narrative, the Obama administration can take pride in its current environmental record. It took one of the biggest steps to reducing greenhouse gases when it administratively increased fuel mileage standards for American vehicles.

It has invested through subsidies and tax credits in green energy like solar and biofuels. It has been willing to consider reasonable ideas to open up more land for domestic oil production to the point where for the first time we’re producing more oil at home than importing from abroad.

Certainly, global warming and greenhouse gases should be a concern, but stopping the Keystone pipeline will not address either of those issues, as report after report is now showing.

It’s time for the Obama administration to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

Reprinted with permission.

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Comments (34)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 02/07/2014 - 06:24 pm.

    I’d like to read the reasoning

    behind this statement:

    “Obviously the market cannot be predicted with exactitude, but opponents often overlook how lower energy prices can spur economic growth, including many of the green industries and pollution-cutting technologies that opponents of Keystone want to see happen.”

    Lower fossil fuel prices typically undermine efforts to increase production of renewable energy sources. So, which green industries do the authors have in mind?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/07/2014 - 09:49 pm.

      Well….

      Since 1979 the Mankato Free press has been owned by Ottaway Newspapers Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Jones & Company.

      Many of its reporters are still local, but the paper’s editorial positions reflect its ownership.

      And of course the purpose of the pipeline is to transfer oil from Canada to Houston, from where it will be shipped overseas. The effect on the American energy supply economy will be minimal, but corporate profits considerable.

      I agree on the effect on alternative energy. I’ve seen plenty of graphs showing the inverse relationship between petroleum prices and investment in alternative energy.

  2. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 02/07/2014 - 10:18 pm.

    global warming?

    I can hardly believe it! Even in the midst of this terrifically long and sub-zero winter, people STILL think there is global warming! The purveyors of that nonsense have done quite a bang-up job, I guess.

    • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/08/2014 - 09:36 am.

      Global Warming

      Jim, I can only assume your post is done completely in jest as I can’t believe anyone would seriously confuse weather with climate. One, of course, is what’s happening outside your kitchen window today. The latter is long term trends across the globe.

      To contrast, using the criteria detailed in your post, will people say global warming is real when it’s July and 102° outside?

      • Submitted by jason myron on 02/08/2014 - 11:59 am.

        Actually, Todd…

        a cursory look at Mr. Halonen’s comment history will tell you that not only wasn’t his comment “in jest”, but that he really doesn’t look past his backyard in order to formulate his opinion that climate change isn’t real. My guess is that Mr. Halonen will continue to deny until it affects him directly, at which time he’ll place the blame squarely on Obama.

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/08/2014 - 08:16 pm.

          Unsmiley Face

          Sadly, I was trying to give Jim the benefit of the doubt. In this day and age it doesn’t take much thought to realize there’s a whole world out there beyond your little neighborhood and that, perhaps, the weather, let along the climate, may be different elsewhere.

          Nah! Who am I kidding?

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/08/2014 - 01:19 pm.

        Good point!

        Climate involves changes over decades or centuries;
        weather involves changes over hours or days.
        That’s why media weather forecasters are usually not experts in climatology.

    • Submitted by Eric Snyder on 02/08/2014 - 12:41 pm.

      A misunderstanding

      Climate change, like the behavior of many human and natural systems, doesn’t proceed in a straight line, but with ups and downs, speedups and slowdowns and sometimes reversals.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 02/08/2014 - 08:20 pm.

        Rolling Average

        That’s why serious climatologists often use ‘rolling averages’; averaging over 3-5 years to remove the noise from a trend. For instance, you’d calculate the average for years 1-3, then 2-4, then 3-5, and derive a trend line from that.

    • Submitted by Scott Stansbarger on 02/10/2014 - 07:56 am.

      Mr Halonen…

      Mr. Halonen is either speaking in jest, OR, he didn’t pass third grade science. There’s a difference between ‘climate’ and ‘weather’ and you should know the difference.

      If your statement was in jest, then my apologies for letting it go over my head.

  3. Submitted by Herbert Davis on 02/08/2014 - 07:47 am.

    A missed opportunity and the “good news”

    Stopping the KXL is only a first step and it might actually help us get going on some remediation.

    The carbon industry will not willingly move away from a paradigm so profitable and stopping the KXL will only make an important statement. If there are historians in the future they will report that a small percentage of the population did try to deal with the problem of global warming and accelerated climate change.

    The good news is that those old enough to be reading this will probably be dead by the time our grandchildren and their children have to deal with the results of our failures.

    • Submitted by Richard O on 02/10/2014 - 02:43 pm.

      “…our grandchildren and their children…”

      We are not leaving a good legacy.

      I am wondering why we fight this battle alone. Where are our Canadian brothers and sisters on this issue? Why is the holy grail of employment always defined as sacrosanct “construction jobs” ?

  4. Submitted by Jeffrey Swainhart on 02/08/2014 - 02:48 pm.

    KeystoneXL

    Approving Keystone would be a mistake. There’s a lot of money and political power pushing this thing both in the US and in Canada. And as you know, with enough money, people are able to rationalize all kinds of arguments: “bridge to the future”, “gonna get developed anyway”, hell, they’ll even call it “environmentally responsible”. All BS.

    The actual effect of the pipeline is incremental, of course, just a small percentage of the over all climate problem so “what’s the diff?” The Keystone is a place where we could at least try to put some brakes on our run away carbon usage. After all, it’s basically a pipeline from Canada to China and will actually raise gas prices here in Minnesota where we already burn tar sands gasoline.

    In a way it doesn’t matter. The juggernaut has already gone over the cliff. It’s already too late to save civilization as we know it. The anthropocene era is upon us and it’s an era of decline. Acidification of the oceans, collapse of fisheries, major extinctions, droughts, population growth, resource extraction and all the associated troubles. We’ve blown past the “safe” 350 PPM carbon dioxide to 400. The feedback loops have already started. We are done.

    We are a short sighted creature, seeming unable save ourselves from a real but not immediate threat. Our grand children will shake their heads. Our great, great, great grand children will curse our names.

  5. Submitted by richard bonde on 02/08/2014 - 10:13 am.

    Obviously, Jim, you don’t understand the global warming argument, nor the difference between weather and climate.

  6. Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 02/08/2014 - 11:32 am.

    Do NOT approve the Keystone Pipeline

    Other, better, healthier options exist!

    The term ‘global warming’ was poorly chosen, as it only confuses the average person, who then think it’s all about HEAT. It is not.

    The term ‘climate change’ is somewhat better….

    ‘Climate instability’ is actually a better term, as is suggests the reality, which includes both warming & cooling, plus more weather ‘extremes’ occurring, often in locations they never did before &/or in ways not normally seen.

    Additionally:

    Bitumen is FLAMMABLE. Hence the increasingly frequent RR derailments and subsequent explosions. The worst recently incinerated a town and killed 47 people, in Quebec, Canada.

    Shipping by rail doesn’t require federal government approval, like a pipeline does, nor are RRs very regulated. Yet. This explains the current $25B+ ‘expansion’ underway throughout N America.

    The diabolical Koch Brothers, who are paying out many millions to ‘buy’ and control the USA political system through the far right efforts, are the owners of this growing mess. They are also multi—billionaire who have made their fortunes through fossil fuels.

    Facts trump opinions.

    LKW

    ~

    Game Over for the Climate
    By JAMES HANSEN
    Published: May 9, 2012

    GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

    If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

    Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

    That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

    If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.

    The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change.

    We have known since the 1800s that carbon dioxide traps heat in the atmosphere. The right amount keeps the climate conducive to human life. But add too much, as we are doing now, and temperatures will inevitably rise too high. This is not the result of natural variability, as some argue. The earth is currently in the part of its long-term orbit cycle where temperatures would normally be cooling. But they are rising — and it’s because we are forcing them higher with fossil fuel emissions.

    The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 p.p.m. over the last 150 years. The tar sands contain enough carbon — 240 gigatons — to add 120 p.p.m. Tar shale, a close cousin of tar sands found mainly in the United States, contains at least an additional 300 gigatons of carbon. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding ways to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping carbon concentrations below 500 p.p.m. — a level that would, as earth’s history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control.

    We need to start reducing emissions significantly, not create new ways to increase them. We should impose a gradually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies, then distribute 100 percent of the collections to all Americans on a per-capita basis every month. The government would not get a penny. This market-based approach would stimulate innovation, jobs and economic growth, avoid enlarging government or having it pick winners or losers. Most Americans, except the heaviest energy users, would get more back than they paid in increased prices. Not only that, the reduction in oil use resulting from the carbon price would be nearly six times as great as the oil supply from the proposed pipeline from Canada, rendering the pipeline superfluous, according to economic models driven by a slowly rising carbon price.

    But instead of placing a rising fee on carbon emissions to make fossil fuels pay their true costs, leveling the energy playing field, the world’s governments are forcing the public to subsidize fossil fuels with hundreds of billions of dollars per year. This encourages a frantic stampede to extract every fossil fuel through mountaintop removal, longwall mining, hydraulic fracturing, tar sands and tar shale extraction, and deep ocean and Arctic drilling.

    President Obama speaks of a “planet in peril,” but he does not provide the leadership needed to change the world’s course. Our leaders must speak candidly to the public — which yearns for open, honest discussion — explaining that our continued technological leadership and economic well-being demand a reasoned change of our energy course. History has shown that the American public can rise to the challenge, but leadership is essential.

    The science of the situation is clear — it’s time for the politics to follow. This is a plan that can unify conservatives and liberals, environmentalists and business. Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real, caused mostly by humans, and requires urgent action. The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can’t wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations.

    James Hansen directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and is the author of “Storms of My Grandchildren.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/opinion/game-over-for-the-climate.html?_r=0

  7. Submitted by Douglas Owens-Pike on 02/08/2014 - 12:48 pm.

    cold winter is a result of climate change

    both the cold, wet spring of 2013 (do you recall snow in May?) and our current polar vortex are a result of the climate destabilization due to less arctic ice which is at a minimum not seen in hundreds of thousands of years. The point of climate change is disruption. We now have record breaking drought broken by record breaking flood (see St Louis R two years ago, 5 months after the lowest recorded flow rate in > 100 years of record keeping it was setting a flood record). Just find a good seat belt because we are in for a wild ride during our own life time, not just future generations. California has reservoirs down to less than 5% of capacity and < 10% of average snow pack in the mountains. This is a disaster for farmers who will not plant crops with no water and a problem for 23 million people in the Los Angeles basin alone who do not have another source of drinking water than trucks carrying it to them. This pipeline from Canada is the wrong expenditure of resources no matter how many jobs it would create. If we put the same number of people working to reduce energy consumption by weatherizing substandard housing, we would be moving in the right direction. This would have the effect of decreasing the need for heating and cooling over the life of those homes.

  8. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 02/08/2014 - 01:02 pm.

    Small town newspapers vs policy based on science

    The editorial exemplifies the lack of serious thought around climate change.

    It’s not difficult to understand that transporting crude by pipeline might generate less atmospheric carbon. But that’s not the point.

    The point is that we’re facing an increasingly likely catastrophic environmental scenario and that the usual “solutions”–as in this editorial–are precisely what we need to transcend, because they’re not adequate to the problem.

    An analogy with this editorial would be how we deal with cancer. We can wait until you get it and then hit it with chemo and radiation and surgery. Or, we can pursue a systemic plan of preventing it in the first place with diet, exercise, lifestyle changes and reducing exposure to various environmental contaminants.

    The editorial essentially proposes that we should simply treat cancer when it happens and ignore everything else.

    We need to be smarter than this.

    Not only should be ban the pipeline, we should go beyond the simple confines of this “debate” and add a bunch of other policy prescriptions on top of a pipeline ban.

    Foremost would be a ban on the importation of any tar sands crude from Canada. This could easily be done by making transportation of this crude by any means nearly impossible due to the safety regulations that we should probably have in place anyway. Unless, of course, you aren’t morally troubled by rolling the dice with other people’s lives, property and drinking water when the next truck, train or pipeline inevitably explodes or leaks.

    When the Mankato Free Press argues for the pipeline, they’re at the same time arguing that it’s ok for there to be numerous oil spills on US and private property, because there will be. And the editorial staff of the paper isn’t likely too concerned with the track record of the oil companies with regard to their spills: Refusals to cleanup, lies about safety reliability, lies about the extensiveness of spills, failing to compensate communities and property owners, and more. This is all how the oil companies operate. There’s no mystery about this.

    Thus, the Mankato Free Press can be read as saying, “Despite the miniscule number of long-term jobs, despite the fact that this pipeline will “lock-in” further damaging climate change*, despite the Canadian tar sands being one of the worst environmental disasters in human history, despite all the leaks that will happen and all the damage they will do, despite the oil company lies and sleaze…” somehow the Keystone XL pipeline is still a good idea.

    We don’t need small town newspapers guiding decision-making on climate change. We need policy that reflects the best science.

    *Claiming that the tar sands won’t add much to climate change is a straw man. Every carbon-polluting operation says this same thing in theory, but the cumulative effect is a disaster.

  9. Submitted by Gerald Abrahamson on 02/08/2014 - 02:54 pm.

    Raises costs to farmers in the Midwest by $4B to $5B per year.

    ‘In any case, denying the pipeline won’t change the economic forces that are bringing the heavy Canadian crude onto the market. But denial of the project will cost U.S. workers 2,000 construction jobs during the two-year building period and the U.S. economy $3.4 billion.’

    KXL would create a total of 50 permanent jobs in the US–at a cost of about $70-million per job (= $3.4B divided by 50). Plus, the oil is NOT for use in the US. Per TransCanada, the cost of oil in the Midwest US (the world’s breadbasket) will go up $4B to $5B per year. So the price of food goes up worldwide as well.

  10. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 02/09/2014 - 10:18 pm.

    Climate change is not the only reason to wean ourselves off oil

    The wars for oil in the Middle East have now added up to more than 1 trillion dollars, much of which was “off budget,” i.e. borrowed, a huge contribution to the deficit.

    You’ve heard about the air pollution in China? The smog is from burning coal and adding literally millions of cars to their roads. When I was there in 1990, the coal alone caused horrible particulate pollution, and I can’t imagine the effects of adding the exhaust of all those newly acquired vehicles.
    ,
    Even if wars and air pollution were not problems, oil is going to become more expensive, so it would be prudent for us to invest in alternatives, not only for energy but also for plastics which are petroleum products.

    In other words, our lives are going to change no matter what. We can do this intelligently, or we can let the Big Money Boys talk us into doing it stupidly, stubbornly insisting that there’s no need to change until we find ourselves heading for a hard landing.

  11. Submitted by Todd Hintz on 02/10/2014 - 07:50 am.

    Pipelines and Bridges

    I can’t help but think of the parallels between the Keystone pipeline and the Stillwater bridge, both of which are subsidizing an economic model that is not sustainable. Hopefully people can wake up to the dangers of this mode of development before our society and environment completely collapses.

  12. Submitted by Joe Musich on 02/10/2014 - 09:25 pm.

    Simple conservation …

    would help tremendously. people!e are talking like they deserve 70 degree temperature settings, single car drivers are on the increase,blight pollution abounds, big vehicles are again out there. I am sure if we are to balance needs with we start from a more realistic floor. We will continue to be deceived if the information is inaccurate, the discussion short sighted and a lie is lived. Science should win. Using information from this century is Pure manipulation. Stop it.

  13. Submitted by David Rasmussen on 02/14/2014 - 05:15 pm.

    Climate Change– how to solve

    A small tax on carbon mining/imports that produces a relatively direct but still small tax on all U.S. carbon emissions is how an economist might tamp down on our carbon emissions. Maybe, you use proceeds from this tax for research. Maybe, you build a high speed rail system from funds. Maybe, you buy down the budget deficit.

    The Mankato newspaper report provides evidence that the pipeline does not increase emissions. I think I believe the Mankato report.

    But, to those who want to see carbons emissions reduced, we could choose to focus on the mining and importing of carbon that leads to emissions rather than making controversies out of construction projects which have the potential to improve our collective wealth and standard of living.

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