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Rhea Suh is president of the nonprofit group Natural Resources Defense
Council ( nrdc.org).
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APRIL 2015 The Costco Connection 21
THE TAR SANDS pipeline is a bad idea for our
country, and for our
country’s future. It would
pipe some of the dirtiest
oil on the planet through
the heart of the American
That would put our Great Plains ranchers,
farmers and communities at risk for the kind of
disasters we’ve seen in places like Arkansas,
where a 2013 tar sands pipeline blowout dumped
more than 150,000 gallons of toxic crude on the
town of Mayflower, polluting a lake and forcing
22 families out of their homes.
The pipeline would cross more than 1,000
rivers, lakes and streams in Montana, South
Dakota and Nebraska—where most construction would take place—putting waterways at risk
for the kind of tar sands pipeline blowout that
polluted 38 miles of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River
And the pipeline would pass within a mile of
more than 3,000 underground wells, exposing
vital drinking and irrigation water supplies to
potential disasters like the pipeline blowout that
poured 50,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone
River in January 2015.
Rare accidents? Hardly. Nearly 6,000 pipe-
line blowouts or similar incidents have spilled a
cumulative 100 million gallons of oil and other
hazardous liquids across the country in just the
past two decades. Most has yet to be cleaned up.
Tar sands crude is some of the world’s dirtiest. From the time it’s produced until it’s burned
as fuel, it generates 17 percent more carbon pollution than conventional crude oil.
Small wonder the Canadians don’t want
another dirty tar sands pipeline across their own
country. Who could blame them? But why
expose our people to its risks?
Most of this oil would be refined on the Gulf
Coast for export, not for use by Americans.
Jobs? The company that wants to build the
pipeline says it would employ a couple thousand
specialists for the two years it would take to dig
the ditch and drop the pipe. Then those jobs
would be gone, leaving behind just 35 permanent American jobs—about half what it takes to
staff your local McDonald’s.
This is not a plan to help our country. It’s
about big profits for big oil, and big pollution for
the rest of us.
We don’t need a pipeline that anchors our
future to the fossil fuels of the past. Let’s invest in
efficiency and do more with less waste. Let’s
build the best electric and hybrid cars in the
world. And let’s help power them with clean,
renewable electricity we produce right here in
our own country from the wind and sun. C
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Michael Whatley is executive vice president of the Consumer Energy
Alliance ( consumerenergyalliance.org).
THE REASONS are endless for building the pipeline to transport oil from
Alberta, Canada, to Texas
and the Gulf Coast. It
would add 42,000 direct
and indirect jobs during
construction. It would
contribute over $20 billion to the U.S. economy.
The 830,000 barrels of oil per day the pipeline
would deliver would help reduce gas prices,
advance national security, increase energy self-sufficiency and decrease the U.S. trade deficit.
Numerous environmental protections are to
be built into the proposed 1,179-mile-long pipeline. It would be the safest pipeline ever built in
the United States, and it might lower, not
increase, greenhouse gas emissions, according to
various environmental studies.
The State Department’s analysis of the project’s potential environmental consequences
showed that the pipeline would have a “
negligible impact” on carbon emissions because the oil
sands in Canada would be developed regardless
of whether the cross-border pipeline is built.
If the pipeline is built, according to this
analysis, greenhouse gas emissions would total
some 1. 44 million metric tons per year. This
would account for about 0.022 percent of the
total U.S. carbon emissions reported in 2012,
which was 6. 5 billion metric tons, the lowest
amount in 20 years.
Also, if the pipeline is not built, the
Canadian oil sands will still be developed and
the oil exported—to the U.S. by rail and to Asia
on tankers—while the U.S. continues to import
additional oil from politically unstable places
such as Venezuela and the Middle East.
Importing oil from overseas would lead to
higher carbon emissions than transporting it via
the pipeline. In fact, the pipeline would produce
about one-third the greenhouse gas per barrel of
oil shipped by sea from the Middle East. Sending
the Canadian oil to Texas via pipeline would
produce about one-quarter the greenhouse
gases per barrel of shipping it by sea to China.
Oil sands extraction is often condemned as
significantly more carbon-intensive than other
types of oil production. But, as Fatih Birol, chief
economist at the International Energy Agency,
said, “The difference in getting oil from oil
sands when compared to conventional oil ... it is
such a small contribution that it will be defi-
nitely wrong to highlight this as a major source
of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.”
Constructing the Keystone XL pipeline
would be a win-win for American consumers,
both economically and environmentally. C