Argument: Keystone XL will significantly increase greenhouse gas emissions

Issue Report: Keystone XL US-Canada oil pipeline


Russell K. Girling, TransCanada Corporation. “The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will be built responsibly.” The Hill. July 13th, 2011: “The Canadian government insists that it has found ways to reduce those emissions. But a new report from Canada’s environmental ministry shows how great the impact of the tar sands will be in the coming years, even with cleaner production methods. It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution. One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020 — even as other sectors are reducing emissions. Canada still hopes to meet the overall target it agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009 — a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. If it falls short, as seems likely, tar sands extraction will bear much of the blame. Canada’s government is committed to the tar sands business. (Alberta’s energy minister, Ronald Liepert, has declared, ‘I’m not interested in Kyoto-style policies.’) The United States can’t do much about that, but it can stop the Keystone XL pipeline.”

Mark Bittman. “Profits before environment.” The New York Times. August 30th, 2011: “If Keystone is built, we’ll see rising greenhouse gas emissions right away (tar sands production creates three times as many greenhouse gases as does conventional oil), and our increased dependence on fossil fuels will further the likelihood of climate-change disaster.”

Bruce Gellerman, Living on Earth Host: “this oil, while it might be good for national security and energy independence, is also very, very polluting in terms of greenhouse gasses.”[1]

Bill McKibben, called the pipeline “a fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent.”[2]

NASA scientist Jim Hansen said the oil Keystone will deliver “is essentially game over” for the planet.[3]

Opposing arguments

  • Stopping the XL pipeline will not decrease tar sand oil, it will just be shipped to the pacific ocean instead.