Five years after TransCanada Corp. first filed for approval for its Keystone XL pipeline, the country might soon know the answer.
The U.S. State Department last week released its 11-volume final supplemental environmental impact statement on the project. The report did not include a recommendation on whether the pipe should be approved, but it sought to answer many of the questions posed about the plan.
Possibly one of the most important answers in the report addressed the question President Barack Obama raised in June when he said carbon emissions will be “absolutely critical” in his decision on whether to approve the project.
The State Department’s answer as to whether Keystone will lead to increased carbon emissions: Yes, but the alternative likely would be worse.
Over the past week and a half, the answer has been used by both proponents and critics to support their side of the argument.
The report found that Canada’s oil sands generate about 17 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than traditional crude oil.
The Sierra Club and its Beyond Oil campaign have opposed oil in general and Keystone specifically.
“We’re in the business of trying to accelerate the pace at which America gets off oil,” campaign director Michael Marx told The Oklahoman. “We’re basically doing everything possible to make it economically more feasible to transfer to clean energy. That means when we see the third-largest oil reserve in the world in Canada, and we see how environmentally destructive it is there ... that oil is No. 1 on our hit list.”
While the State Department found that Canadian oil development likely will lead to increased emissions, it also stated that oil sands development is likely to continue with or without Keystone XL. If the pipeline is not built, the oil likely will move by rail, ship or both, which would produce 28 percent more emissions than the pipeline, the report stated.
The finding supports the stance of many in the oil and natural gas industry.
“The oil will find a market,” said Jeff Hume, vice chairman of strategic growth at Oklahoma City-based Continental Resources Inc. “I think we would be better served by allowing that to come via pipeline. It takes less energy to move oil down a pipeline than to move it by rail or ship.”
The proposed line would include an access point for Bakken oil in North Dakota to enter the pipeline. Continental is the largest producer in the Bakken.