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Keystone XL Pipeline and the Presidential Election


The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline could become a point of contention during the presidential debate in Denver this Wednesday. Mitt Romney has pledged that he would approve the pipeline on Day 1 of his administration, opening the spigot for 900,000 barrels of the world’s dirtiest oil to flow down through the country’s breadbasket to the Gulf every day.

President Obama has not ruled out approving the pipeline. Last year, he ordered a Supplemental Environmental Impact Study to be done on the risks presented by the pipeline, and the State department is again evaluating a route proposed by TransCanada, the pipeline’s owner and operator.

Keystone XL and climate change: If we want to stay below a 2 degrees C temperature rise (we are already at .8 degrees C) we can burn 565 gigatons of carbon by mid century. The tar sands of Canada, which the KXL pipeline would unlock, hold about 240 gigatons of carbon--almost half the budget. We are already feeling the effects of climate change. June broke over 3,100 temperature records. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere – the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 2.73 x 10-98, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.

Opposition to Keystone XL in Canada and the US: There are only two buyers for tar sands oil--the US and Canada. KXL’s supporters claim that if the US doesn’t take the oil, China and other countries will. But the “Northern Gateway” pipeline, which would stretch from Alberta to Canada’s west coast, is not likely to be built anytime soon. The elected leadership of British Columbia, native communities along its path, and years of litigation stand in its way. With no pipeline to the west, the only route to get the oil out is south through the US. The pipeline is also a flashpoint in the US, resulting in the largest civil disobedience on the environment in a several generations, the 2-week sit-ins at the White House in August of 2011.

Keystone XL and gas prices: There are two reasons KXL wouldn’t reduce gas prices. The first is attributable to a surplus of oil in the Midwest. The pipeline would reduce that stress on refineries there and drive prices up--TransCanada itself admits that the pipeline would likely raise gas prices by 15 cents per gallon in the Midwest. The second reason is that the oil is earmarked for export. Some of the refineries in the Gulf have already entered into contracts to export the oil after it has been refined. The communities there would get the pollution, but not the oil.


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