The latest Keystone XL pipeline report offers no easy out for President Obama. Stuck between environmentalists on one side and pipeline proponents on the other; the U.S. State Department environmental impact statement offers little comfort to Obama as it concludes the pipeline would not significantly increase the production of greenhouse gases.
The Keystone XL pipeline has been a political hot potato since its initial proposal, but it also offers the possibility of 42,000 jobs. That fact has spurred some politicians, republicans and democrats, into urging Obama to approve the pipeline. Sen. Mitch McConnell is quoted as saying;
“Mr. President, no more stalling, no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you’ve been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs.”
He is not the only one to believe the process is taking too long. In a recent visit to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C. Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, said;
“The time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it’s not the right one. We can’t continue in this state of limbo.”
The state of limbo he was referring to is the length of time that has passed since the pipeline was initially proposed, nearly five years.
The proposed pipeline will carry around 830,000 barrels of diluted bitumen a day from the oil sands located in Alberta, Canada, to oil refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. One hundred per cent of the pipeline capacity has already been spoken for by companies on both sides of the border.
Last June Obama made a speech in which he noted he would not approve Keystone if it exacerbated the carbon pollution problem. The latest Keystone XL report found that oil produced from the oil sands produces 17 percent more greenhouse gases than average oil extraction methods. Although the construction of the pipeline would not increase oil sands production so there would not, in effect, be an increase to greenhouse gas emissions. As the report falls into the parameters laid out by Obama last June it appears he has no easy way out on the debate.
The State Department’s 11 volume environmental impact statement was one of the remaining key obstacles for the proposed pipeline. There will now be a 90 day review period for other agencies to comment after which it will go before Secretary of State, John Kerry. If he approves it then the decision will be put to President Obama.
The report mirrors a previous State Department report handed down in March of 2013, a report that was heavily criticized by the Environmental Protection Agency. It is unlikely to please environmentalists but proponents will no doubt push harder now for a rapid conclusion.
As for the oil sands, the Keystone XL pipeline is just one of numerous pipelines that will transfer bitumen from the site. Other pipelines will transport the product to the east and west coasts of Canada and rail cars will continue to ship the product in increasing numbers.
Another important step toward the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline has been taken and as environmentalists will be quick to point out there is no easy out for President Obama on this sensitive issue.
by Scott Wilson