A review of the Keystone XL pipeline initiative from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revealed that developing Canadian oil sands could contribute to increase in carbon emission.
The Keystone XL pipeline initiative is a proposed project that involved extending the Keystone oil pipeline system of Canada and the United States. Proposed by TransCanada Corp., the pipeline would run from the Canadian border to Steele City, Nebraska.
Because plummeting oil prices have made oil transportation via rail from Canada too costly, oil companies are only willing to produce oil from tar sands if they can cut transportation cost by building the Keystone XL pipeline.
“Keystone XL pipeline will be the safest and most advanced oil pipeline operation in North America,” said TransCanada in a statement. “It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence, and an economic boost to Americans.”
The State Department is currently reviewing the proposal. However, a review from EPA has challenged the initiative.
“Until ongoing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of oil sands are more successful and widespread, developing the crude represents a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions,” the EPA said in a letter to the State Department.
The tar oil sands in Canada have a massive carbon footprint according to EPA. If the project pushes through, tapping this resource would unleash up to 27.4 million metric tons of carbon pollution—more than the amount generated from transporting and burning the same amount of conventional oil.
TransCanada, while still acknowledging the EPA review, however argued for Keystone XL pipeline.
“Building a pipeline that connects Canadian and American oil fields to U.S. refineries allows the United States to push out other sources of oil while improving the safety of how that product is transported and reducing transportation costs in the process just makes sense,” said TransCanada. “This has significant energy security, market supply, environmental and financial benefits—a goal that many people support.”
The EPA, however, has already downplayed any arguments linking environmental sustainability to Keystone XL pipeline. Accordingly, the project would merely encourage Canadian oil companies to produce oil from tar sands. This means compromising environmental safety for cheap oil.
President Barack Obama has expressed his interest over the proposed project. However, he said he would not support the accompanying bill for building the pipeline. In case of legitimization and execution prior to concrete findings regarding the economic and environmental viability of the project, the president has also expressed his intent to use his veto power.
The Obama administration has pitted administration allies in the environment movement against American oil companies. Nonetheless, vetoing the Keystone XL would reinforce Obama’s commitment and credibility in spearheading the national and global drive toward cleaner energy and global climate deal.
Nonetheless, the results of the EPA review suggest that the Keystone XL project fails Obama’s climate test.
“The Environmental Protection Agency has just affirmed what has been clear all along: the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the president’s climate test,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “These comments re-confirm that this dirty and dangerous project would significantly increase carbon pollution. That’s the standard the president has set for rejecting Keystone XL, so we fully expect him to do just that.”
The Presidential Permit review process focuses on whether the proposed project serves the national interest, which involves consideration of many factors including energy security; environmental, cultural, and economic impacts; foreign policy; and compliance with relevant federal regulations and issues. During the entire process, the State Department will consult with, at least, the eight agencies identified in Executive Order 13337. These include the Departments of Defense, Justice, Interior, Commerce, Transportation, Energy, Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency.