President Obama has said he would not approve the Keystone XL pipeline if it significantly increased U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, a huge nod to environmentalists who oppose the project on global warming grounds.
A new report, however, shows that Obama’s failure to approve the pipeline may substantially increase America’s carbon footprint.
The American Action Forum (AAF) reports that if Obama had approved the pipeline back in 2012 he would have prevented the potential release of up to 7.4 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere — the equivalent of taking 1.5 million cars off the road.
Obama had his first opportunity to approve Keystone back in January 2012, but he rejected the pipeline. This meant that the oil sands extraction in remote regions of Alberta, Canada would have to be transported primarily by rail — which has a larger carbon footprint than carrying oil by pipeline.
“The market will find a way to deliver products to customers,” wrote Catrina Rorke, AAF’s energy and environment policy director. “Replacing pipeline with rail-based crude oil transport presents real, measurable risks to the climate, our natural environment, and Americans’ lives and safety.”
“There is a distinct possibility for an indefinite administrative delay to building Keystone XL — a possibility we cannot afford,” Rorke added.
According to AAF, the main source of emissions for Keystone would come from “the fuel required to operate pipeline pump stations and maintenance vehicles, as well as small methane emissions at connection points.” Rail, on the other hand, uses relatively more fuel than pipelines to operate and emits 28 to 42 percent more carbon dioxide during normal operations than Keystone would have.
Combining the increased use of rail to bring Canadian oil sands to market with the huge time delays imposed by the Obama administration and from the time it would take to build the pipeline, AAF calculated that between 2.7 and 7.4 million tons of carbon dioxide have been emitted because of the Keystone delay.
AAF also notes that the Keystone delays could impact the country more through increased oil spills and injuries and deaths from carrying crude by rail.
“Replacing the capacity of the Keystone XL pipeline with rail transport risks additional oil spills and the release of up to 23,318 additional barrels of oil — nearly a million gallons of useful fuel entering the environment instead of the economy,” AAF found.
“The delay in building the Keystone XL pipeline risks up to 1,065 additional injuries and 159 additional fatalities,” AAF continued.
Keystone XL has been delayed for more than 2,147 days — nearly six years. TransCanada originally submitted its application to build the pipeline in 2008, but has yet to see its multi-billion dollar pipeline project completed.
The pipeline would stretch 875 miles from the Canadian border into the American heartland and would have a capacity of 830,000 barrels of per day — about four percent of U.S. daily oil consumption.
Environmentalists have opposed the pipeline over concerns that it would exacerbate global warming and harm air and water quality. Activists have staged numerous rallies and protests over the past few years to see the pipeline defeated.
“Keystone XL is a climate disaster. The president set a tough climate test for the pipeline, which it clearly fails to pass. There is no wiggle room here, Mr. President,” said Michael Brune, the club’s executive director.
But the State Department found in their environmental analysis that Keystone would not significantly impact the environment or the climate. Even without the pipeline, oil sands would still be brought to market because there is demand for it, the department found.
Despite the positive report, the State Department once again announced it was indefinitely delaying Keystone decision because of a Nebraska court case invalidating part of the pipeline’s proposed route.
The decision was cheered by environmentalists, but angered pipeline supporters, including labor unions.
“This is once again politics at its worst,” said Terry O’Sullivan, general president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America. “In another gutless move, the administration is delaying a finding on whether the pipeline is in the national interest based on months-old litigation in Nebraska regarding a state level challenge to a state process — and which has nothing to with the national interest.”
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