Keystone XL alternatives would bring higher carbon emissions

In a report released on Friday, the State Department determined that the northern part of the Keystone XL pipeline would have little impact on the environment. The finding was expected and not at all dissimilar from previous draft and final environmental reports.

The media can’t help but ignore the findings of the report. There is bipartisan support for Keystone XL in Congress and polling shows the public backs its construction. President Barack Obama, however, is ambivalent to the pipeline, which may be a generous way to describe some of his public statements about it.

President Obama has slammed Republicans for their support of Keystone XL and downplayed the number of jobs it would create. Perhaps the most important angle he’s discussed is the pipeline’s impact on climate change.

“[A]llowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” President Obama said in June 2013 in a speech at Georgetown University. “The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”

If he is truly concerned about the impact on the environment, President Obama should approve pipeline. Why? Because the alternative scenarios for Keystone XL would result in higher carbon emissions, according to his administration’s own findings. Here’s the relevant table from Chapter 5 of the State Department’s report.

Keystone XL alternatives

As you can see, Keystone XL as currently proposed (as well as the 2011 route rejected by President Obama) would produce less metric tons of CO2 equivalents than taking no action on the pipeline and sending the oil down to the Gulf Coast via rail and/or tankers.

The oil in Canada’s Bakken field will be extracted regardless of whether Keystone XL is built or not, which even the State Department acknowledged in its report. As the Washington Post’s editorial board explained in January 2012, “[s]topping the pipeline, then, wouldn’t do anything to reduce global warming, but it would almost certainly require more oil to be transported across oceans in tankers.”

President Obama’s diddling on the pipeline makes absolutely no sense. Because of the delays, the United States continues to miss out on economic development that would occur as a direct and indirect result of its construction. At best, the White House is kowtowing to radical environmentalists by stalling on a decision. At worst, it’s a dereliction of duty.

H/T: Lachlan Markay

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