Although TransCanada proposed this tar-sands oil pipeline in 2009, President Obama is now getting pressure from politicians, TransCanada, environmental groups and gas and oil companies to either approve or dismiss the Keystone Pipeline Project. The proposed pipeline will bring tar-sands oil from Hardisty in Alberta Canada down through the Central United States to Montana, Nebraska and Texas oil refineries. According to the Keystone Pipeline Project’s website it will cost the United States $5.3 billon, but when have these projects ever stayed under budget.
The support for this project comes from the job creation for construction workers, maintenance crews, and office positions for towns where the pipeline travels through and we will be able to import less oil from foreign reserves. TransCanada plans to use thicker piping and “horizontal directional drilling” to go under instead of through and major rivers that they cross in the process. This will hopefully protect wildlife and ecosystems should the worst happen. Deep Water Horizon had sustainability plans too when they first started. They made sure that the valve was easy to shut off in case of a leak and they had a budget for clean up. British Petroleum paid over $400,000 million just to individuals in the Gulf area for their business or individual losses. This does not include money spent to clean up the spill, restore wildlife habitat, pay for quality testing of seafood or the money paid later to bring tourist back to the Gulf coast. All while they took a reputation hit from consumers.
The tar-sands oil reserve in Western Canada represent the third largest oil reserve in the world behind Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The Keystone Pipeline will carry 830,000 barrels per day to its refineries. Americans are using about 700,000 barrels of oil a day but our consumption continues to increase by about 3% every year. We keep finding more oil reserves to fill our consumption but this pattern is not sustainable. The focus of the Keystone Pipe is to help reduce American dependency on foreign oil but the real problem is that we are addicted to our consumption lifestyle. Eventually there will be no reserve large enough to fill this need.
For the Central United States where the majority of the construction will take place, TransCanada says it will bring in jobs and boost economies in the towns where the pipeline passes through. TransCanada already has several offices and has built a relationship with towns in Nebraska but during a case about landownership for the project Judge Stephanie Stacy ruled against a law that was created in 2012 allowing Governor Heineman to have final say. This puts another issue up for debate and will prolong the decision even longer. TransCanada has said that they will proceed to mine regardless of if the pipeline passes, they will just have to figure out another way to transport the tar-sands oil to be refined.
With the project still being debated, why does this matter to us? I see it as showing both good and bad signs. As I mentioned earlier, the fact that the Keystone Pipeline was even proposed shows that priorities are not on green energy or sustainable practices but finding ways to continue with how we’ve been fueling our machines for over a century. While standards for emissions on cars have improved with better gas mileage and technology it hasn’t brought our carbon emissions down. The good news is that this was not an automatic yes from anyone. Even Nebraska who has worked closely with TransCanada for years is skeptical. It shows that there is resistance to the idea that continuing to use oil might have consequences. President Obama made a point of having the EPA conduct an Environmental Impact Statement, which tests to make sure that during and after the project the quality of the environment is not harmed.
As consumers we can try to reduce our carbon emissions by driving less, recycling plastic bags and products, parking the car and go into the restaurant instead of the drive through and other reducing practices. As this the decision on this project unfolds there will be more to debate and talk about regardless of the outcome.