Wednesday, February 19, 2014

US Energy Independence Will Not Come From a Pipeline

In light of the recent State Department report regarding the environmental impact of TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline, it is no wonder environmentalists are bracing themselves for another Obama betrayal.  From the outset, those paying attention recognized it as a farce-- it was prepared by Environmental Resource Management, a TransCanada contractor with board members actively lobbying for the pipeline.  It is likely that Obama will hold off on making a decision to approve or reject construction of the pipeline until after the midterm elections, and even more likely that Big Oil will try to pull the wool over our eyes with the assertion that pumping 830,000 barrels a day through America's heartland will somehow alleviate our energy woes.  

Keystone XL supporters are quick to promise jobs and energy security for the American people, but truth be told the pipeline will only yield an estimated 50 permanent jobs in the USA.  Energy security will go to the highest bidder on the global market, with Chinese government-backed firms owning majority stakes in at least five of the Alberta tar sands projects already underway, with more in the works.  Houston oil refineries back Keystone XL because it suits their bottom line- they are already equipped to deal with the heavier crude that comes from tar sands since they have been importing similar from Venezuela and Mexico.  Of no consequence to their bottom line:  the 2 barrels of toxic waste generated for every 1 barrel of tar sands oil.  The toxic waste is held in "ponds" throughout the tar sands, and are visible from outer space.  Communities downstream are suffering unprecedented rates of cancer.  Deadly effects such as these can be expected near the Houston refineries and in the case of any leaks or spills from the pipeline.  TransCanada has already performed 125 excavations on 250 miles of the already completed southern leg of the pipeline to repair suspected sags and dents.  Nothing to see here, folks.  

Even if you care little about the environmental risks and paltry economic benefits, it is important to note that gas prices are projected to rise for Midwest consumers.  A spike in gas prices in America's breadbasket will impact consumer budgets nationwide.  According to TransCanada's own admission, the Keystone XL pipeline will increase the price of heavy crude oil by $2-$4 billion annually in the Midwest because refineries in the Midwest, currently supplied by the tar sands via railway, would be bypassed by the pipeline.  

If Obama turns his back on his supporters and green lights the Keystone XL pipeline, the United States is no further down the road to a sustainable energy policy than we were in 2008.  American consumers shouldn't look to Big Oil for solutions any more than an addict should look to his dealer seeking sobriety.