Oil Canada! We Stand on Gilded Knee

Over the past few months, the Keystone Pipeline has dominated energy dependency news through the battle between transnational company TransCanada Corporation, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, and the Obama administration.

But the 2,147 mile path the pipeline will leave across the Midwest seems miniscule compared to the political battle erupting over its construction.  If completed it will have a diameter that is 30-inches wide and will carry upwards of 590,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

According to BusinessWeek, the average retail price of regular gasoline in the U.S. was $3.84 a gallon as of March 20, up about 17 percent since January. With gas prices rising at the pump, and unemployment rates high in the Midwest, many argue that the pipeline could bring down gas prices, at the very least.

Unfortunately, sources call out that claim as false.  According to a study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the pipeline will actually increase the gas prices paid for by Americans by up to $4 billion a year.  It will increase prices in the Midwest.

“Rather than providing the US with more Canadian oil, Keystone XL will simply shift oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, where much of it can be exported to international buyers – decreasing US energy supply and increasing the cost of oil in the American Midwest.”


Paying to kill the environment

In an article for the Huffington Post, Frances Beinecke, President of the Natural Resources Defense Council, warned of the environmental impacts. Including the link between fuel efficiency and tar sands usage, price decrease, and the false hope of improving fuel efficiency standards with the pipeline.

The pipeline is a proposed transport system for crude oil spanning eight US states and three Canadian provinces. Four phases make up the construction of the pipeline. The longest branch begins in Alberta, Canada and ends in Wood River, Illinois, was completed in July, 2010.

While supporters in the United States claim benefits for Americans, some believe the winner would ultimately be Canada.  The maple leaf country would potentially be able to open more markets for oil exports.

But the final, disputed phases face obstacles over environmental and geopolitical controversies.

The pipeline was initially developed in a partnership between TransCanada and US company ConocoPhilips. TransCanada is now the sole owner after buying out ConocoPhilips for $550 million. The final phases of the extension, known as the Keystone XL, were proposed in 2008.

US Congressmen Wasman and Rush have targeted the Koch Brothers as beneficiaries of the right-wing financiers. House Republicans tried to advance a bill that would have expedited review of the pipeline to force the President to make a decision in early November.

The political tug-of-war over the benefits, transparency, and impacts of the pipeline leaves Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tight-lipped over his country’s’ plans to diversify its oil exports.

Since the specific part of the pipeline controversy doesn’t cross an international border, it doesn’t require permission from the U.S. Department of State as the entire project did. Construction could technically proceed.

But, Environmentalists have majors reasons to oppose Keystone XL extensions. To name a few:

-The destruction of a boreal forest the size of Florida
-The destruction of the Sandhills, Nebraska ecosystem, covering over a quarter of the state
-The effect on the crucial Ogallala Aquifer in the event of an oil spill. This aquifer spans eight states, provides drinking water for two million people, and supplies 83 percent of Nebraska’s irrigation water. All proposed routes still pass through areas above the Ogallala, where the water supply is vulnerable to the impacts of an oil spill.
-Clean energy. Since when are oil sands “green energy?”


The Wildcard

President Obama. After anti-pipeline activists flooded social media outlets, the airwaves, and eventually, the area around the White House, President Obama announced that “the decision on the pipeline permit would be delayed until 2013.”

After re-evaluation and a political showdown with Republicans in late November, Obama stepped away from the decision. In January he denied a permit for Keystone XL to bring in oil sands from Canada, citing environmental concerns.

The Now, Obama has reviewed a  new, moderate route to circumvent polarized arguments from both sides of the aisle. On March 22nd, Obama announced his administration’s decision to expedite the construction of  the Cushing, Oklahoma branch of Keystone XL.

Naturally, both sides of the aisle are incensed. Activists currently await new developments from the President, who has remained silent on the issue at the recent week’s North American Summit. Construction on the project could start in June.

Sarah Betancourt I am a recent alumna of Emerson College currently working as a communications guru at a local union. I am interested in international relations, social movements, science, and politics. You can find me reading or gallivanting around Boston, shooting photos at rallies and political events. Sometimes, there is cake involved. That is not a lie.

View all posts by Sarah Betancourt

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