(by Neela Banerjee, Los Angeles Times) WASHINGTON – A long-awaited State Department review of the…Keystone XL oil pipeline released Friday concludes that he project would have minimal impact on the environment, increasing the chances it could be approved in the coming months.  [The Obama administration blocked the project last year because environmentalists charged that the original route would have jeopardized environmentally sensitive land in the Sand Hills region of Nebraska. The State Department conducted this new environmental analysis after TransCanada, the pipeline’s operator, changed the project’s route through Nebraska.]


From The Washington Post, June 22, 2012.

The State Department underscored that the study, a supplemental environmental impact statement, is a draft and that it does not offer recommendations for action on the $7-billion project, which would bring petroleum from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. …

Because the pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels per day, would cross a United States border, it needs a permit from the State Department.

A decision on the permit was expected in late 2011 but was delayed by President Obama until after the 2012 presidential election. …

The oil industry and the Canadian government welcomed the new findings. “The Keystone XL project has become one of the most closely examined infrastructure projects in our nation’s history – and it continues to pass with flying colors,” said Karen Harbert, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Institute for 21st Century Energy.


Map of the U.S. energy pipeline system show a vast abundance of crude oil pipelines crossing through states like Montana to Minnesota to Texas. [NOTE: Map above is too small to read the types of pipelines each color represents; this is to give you a general understanding of where most of our pipelines are located.]

Environmentalists charged that the study failed to look fully at the risks and instead regurgitated past conclusions. “What we have is Groundhog Day, with the State Department producing the same result that it produced before,” said Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, an environmental group leading the fight against the pipeline. …

Keystone XL’s backers, including many Republicans and some labor unions, say the project would create jobs and reduce reliance on oil from politically unfriendly, less stable countries, such as Venezuela.

The draft environmental impact statement says that the annual extraction and shipping of oil sands crude through Keystone XL would fuel 626,000 cars or power 398,000 homes for a year.

The study also says that a barrel of oil sands crude would release about 17% more greenhouse gases than one of conventional crude oil refined in the United States in 2005. 

Still, the study states that approving or denying the permit for Keystone XL would not have any effect on the development of the oil sands because companies would use rail, trucks and other pipelines to bring the Alberta (Canada) crude to the U.S. …

The study determined that a new route mapped through Nebraska would avoid the aquifer, which opponents also disputed.

The public has 45 days to comment on the draft. Then, the State Department will issue a final environmental report before Secretary of State John Kerry makes a recommendation about whether the pipeline is in the national interest (according the the AP).

Although the department will officially determine whether to issue a permit, (the LA Times says) Obama indicated in 2011 that he would make the final decision.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Los Angeles Tmes. Visit the website at latimes.com. 


1. What is the Keystone XL?

2. a) What is the role of the U.S. State Department?
b) Why must Keystone get approval from the State Department?

3. What did the State Department’s new analysis conclude about the Keystone XL pipeline?

4. Why do environmentalists say they are opposed to the new State Department study?

5. How much power would crude oil shipped through the Keystone XL produce per year?

6. Read the information under “Background” below. Do you think the Obama administration should end its prohibition of the pipeline? Explain your answer.


From an InstituteforEnergyResearch.org post on  9/29/11:

  • Three years ago [in 2008], TransCanada proposed the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline to bring more oil from Canada to the United States. After years of study, the State Department has yet to decide whether or not approve the pipeline. The Keystone XL should be a no-brainer—more jobs and greater access to oil from our closest ally.
  • Because the pipeline crosses the border from Canada, the State Department must decide whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.” This should be a simple question. Is it in the “national interest” to get oil from Canada, our largest trading partner and most reliable ally, or should we import more oil from more hostile countries? Even without considering the economic arguments, it should be that simple.
  • The economic arguments for the pipeline are also persuasive. The construction of the pipeline alone will create 20,000 jobs.  States along the route are projected to receive an additional $5.2 billion in property tax revenue.

From a Bloomberg News editorial posted 9/26/11:

  • In deciding whether to allow Keystone XL to run through six American states, the only relevant question is whether it would be safe. The State Department, with help from the Environmental Protection Agency, has studied the risks. It has determined that, as long as TransCanada complies with all laws and regulations, builds Keystone XL properly and operates it safely (although some minor spills would be expected), the pipeline would have “no significant impacts” on wetlands, water supplies or wildlife along its route.
  • Keep in mind, the U.S. is crisscrossed by thousands of miles of pipelines carrying crude oil, liquid petroleum and natural gas. One of these is the Keystone 1 pipeline, which already carries crude from the oil sands. Yes, these pipes sometimes leak — spectacularly last year when almost 850,000 gallons of oil spilled from a ruptured pipe in Michigan. Far more often, when leaks occur, they are small and self-contained.
  • Pipeline opponents have implied that if the U.S. doesn’t buy Canada’s oil, then companies will be discouraged from developing the oil sands. But it’s unrealistic to assume that the oil couldn’t be sold elsewhere. Yes, today’s business plan calls for sending most of it south — some 700,000 barrels a day through Keystone XL. If the U.S. blocks that conduit, though, we can reasonably expect that another pipeline would be built to Canada’s west coast, where the oil could be sent by tanker to China and elsewhere.
  • The opposing viewspoints on global warming are: 

    • The earth’s climate is warming as a result of human actions; an extreme change in the earth’s climate is going to occur, caused by greenhouse gas emitted by the world’s use of fossile fuels (coal, oil, gas).  This temperature change will result in catastrophic problems in the environment. Humans must drastically reduce the consumption of fossile fuels immediately.  To prevent this man-made climate change, countries need to restrict energy use (reduce use of gas and oil).
      Liberals generally hold this view.  Check out two liberal organizations which defend this viewpoint: 
      Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace.
    • Human activity does not affect the earth’s temperature.  Burning fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil) does not cause climate change.  The earth’s climate changes naturally, but not so much that it will cause a change of catastrophic proportions.  An extreme change in the earth’s climate will not happen.  There are natural warming and cooling trends over time.  In the 1970′s a coming ice age was predicted, but now that scare has been replaced with the current global warming scare.  
      Conservatives generally hold this view.  A conservative organization which supports this view is: 
      NOTE: The UN climate conference (of Dec. 2007) met in Bali to discuss global warming met strong opposition from a team of over 100 prominent international scientists, who warned the UN that attempting to control the Earth’s climate was “ultimately futile.” The scientists, many of whom are current and former UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scientists, released an open letter (Dec. 13, 2007) to the UN Secretary-General questioning the scientific basis for climate fears and the UN’s so-called “solutions.” 
      Read the complete letter here.

    Global warming is an important issue to understand.  The theory that man’s use of fossil fuels (burning coal, oil and gas for energy, which produces carbon dioxide, or CO2) is causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate – global warming– is believed to be true by many scientists, climatologists, citizens, the mainstream media and Hollywood celebrities, and was made popular by former Vice President Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”  People who believe in this theory say we must reduce the amount of carbon dioxide produced by limiting/reducing the amount of fossil fuels we use, or by purchasing offsets.

    The belief that man’s activities are not causing an imminent catastrophic change in the climate is held by many other scientists (see MIT’s Professor of Meteorology Dr. Richard Lindzen’s commentary in Newsweek). This view is very unpopular in the media and widely condemned by those who believe man-made global warming is fact. See Newsweek magazine’s online presentation “The Global Warming Deniers.”  Those who do not believe man is causing the global temperature to rise don’t believe it is necessary to reduce the production of CO2 by reducing our use of fossil fuels or to purchase carbon offsets.

    • Greenhouse gases are components of the atmosphere that contribute to the greenhouse effect. Some greenhouse gases occur naturally in the atmosphere [water vapor, which is the most abundant], while others result from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas.  Greenhouse gases include water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone. (from wikipedia.org)
    • Carbon offsetting  involves paying others to remove or [contain] 100% of the carbon dioxide emitted from the atmosphere – for example by planting trees – or by funding ‘carbon projects’ that should lead to the prevention of future greenhouse gas emissions, or by buying carbon credits to remove (or ‘retire’) them through carbon trading. These practices are often used in parallel, together with energy conservation measures to minimize energy use. (from wikipedia.org)


    What do energy pipelines transport?  Find the answer at: pipeline101.com/Overview/commodities.html

    Read about crude oil pipelines at pipeline101.com/overview/crude-pl.html

    For a detailed map of all pipelines in the U.S., click here and scroll down.

    Read about Keystone pipeline at instituteforenergyresearch.org/2011/09/29/keystone-xl-more-energy-and-more-jobs

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