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Will Obama Approve Keystone? Does It Matter Anymore?


The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would increase production in Canada’s oil sands by 36 percent, according to a new report released jointly by four prominent green groups on Thursday. The pipeline, which would bring oil extracted from Alberta’s tar sands down to American refineries along the Gulf coast, is currently in limbo, awaiting White House approval.

President Obama seemingly hinted at a way he would approve the pipeline, saying in his much-hyped climate speech in June that he would permit Keystone “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” A draft report of a State Department study released in March found that the tar sands oil would be coming out of the ground regardless of the pipeline’s construction—a finding corroborated by an energy consulting group’s report earlier this month. Those findings seemingly paved the way for White House permission, because if the pipeline itself has no bearing on production, it wouldn’t affect the resulting emissions. This new study, published by the Sierra Club, the NRDC, Oil Change International and Energy America, attempts to turn that logic against the White House by showing that Keystone will boost production and increase emissions.

You’ll excuse us if we’re a bit skeptical of the study, whose title is “FAIL” and whose publishers clearly have an axe to grind. The final version of the State Department’s report is expected later this year; it will likely have a more balanced take on the situation. But it’s possible that Obama’s Keystone problem might take care of itself; as one oil executive told the National Journal, the pipeline might not be needed at all anymore:

“It’s not critical any longer,” said Harold Hamm, founder and CEO of Continental Resources, an independent oil company that had the earliest—and still largest—footprint in the Bakken at 11 percent. “They just waited too long. The industry is very innovative, and it finds other ways of doing it and other routes.” […]

“There are other ways. There are other people who want to build pipes and don’t have to go across the border, and it doesn’t have to involve bitumen from Canada,” Hamm said.

So the oil industry is figuring out ways to bring that oil to market, by truck, rail, or potentially a different pipeline altogether. But having said that, the economic and political benefits of helping one of America’s key allies boost North America’s energy security are still apparent. This new green report may have complicated the calculus a bit, but it can’t be considered a game changer. The more important review should be released in the coming months, and President Obama’s decision should follow shortly thereafter.

[Pipeline image courtesy of Shutterstock]

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  • bpuharic

    WRM still hasn’t said what’s in it for us.

    Canadian oil shipped to US ports for sale overseas…by most estimates this will create about 100 jobs in the US.

    Shrug the shoulders….so what? Just another Obama bashing

    • Tim Godfrey

      It used to be that allowing transport of goods was a central tenet of mutually beneficial free trade. Our economy would quickly grind to halt if every wannabe Tony Soprano was allowed to block flow of goods because they did not get a cut.

      More importantly, this silliness over pipelines means that oil goes by rail – a proposition that is more expensive and more dangerous.

      • bpuharic

        Again, what’s in it for us? Where’s the ‘mutually beneficial’?

        • Tim Godfrey

          Free trade is mutually beneficial when you look at the economy as a whole. You cannot expect the benefits to show up in every transaction.

          For example, the oil that blew up that town in Quebec came from North Dakota. i.e. Canadians allow the US to export its oil. There are a million other ways Americans benefit from free transport of goods within Canada and around the world.

          Cherry picking a pipelines goes against the spirit of the free trade agreements which the US has signed.

          • bpuharic

            The oil shipped to Canada was for consumption there. As you yourself pointed out there are risks associated with oil transport

            AGAIN…what’s in it for us beyond assuming risk and letting right wingers thump their chest about destroying the environment?

          • Tom

            What’s in it for us to not let it go through, aside from shifting risk and letting leftists preen?

          • bpuharic

            Yeah what could possibly go wrong with a 1000 mile oil pipeline?

            Right wing thinking: people get killed? NO big deal

            People make money! BIG DEAL!

          • Tim Godfrey

            If the pipelines are not built the oil will move on trains and trucks which is much more dangerous so if safe transport is a concern you should support pipelines.

            Also – 1000s of miles of pipelines already exists and more are being built every day. The only reason the whitehouse has any say in Keystone is because it crosses and international border. The suggestion that this pipeline is more dangerous than the pipelines being quietly built today is laughable.

          • bpuharic

            Did you notice I didn’t say anything about danger

            What is it about being right wing that they remove the ‘reading’ part of your brain?

          • Tim Godfrey

            Try reading what you wrote.

            You are the one whining about risk. Risk or danger – same thing.

            Does not change the argument. If you are worried about risk you should support pipelines because trains and trucks are risky.

          • bpuharic

            Since more than half of the oil refined will be exported and not used for the domestic market

            Again…what’s in it for us?

            Can’t answer the question can you?

          • Tom

            Whose money will be spent? Not ours. Whose risk will be lessened? Ours. Who’ll get jobs? Some of us, for a little while. And some of us, for quite a bit.
            Oh, and closer relations with our northern neighbor. Which, while already close, can always be closer.
            That’s what’s in it for us.

          • Tom

            What could possibly go wrong with a thousand mile oil pipeline that can’t go wrong with thousands of miles of railroads and waterways?
            Answer: Precious little.

          • bpuharic

            Again, what’s in it for us?

            You guys seem to be unable to answer a very direct question

            Guess Rush (PBUH) hasn’t addressed it yet.

        • USNK2

          not that bpuharic deserves a rational response, but the benefit of the Keystone Pipeline is to replace imports of heavy Venezualan crude with imports of Canadian crude that can be processed in the Texas refineries that are designed to refine heavy crude oil.
          Canada is far more reliable than Venezuela, in case you also need to know that.

          • bpuharic

            I’m sure we’d all be surprised if you HAD a rational response. Rush (PBUH) listeners generally don’t.

            60 percent of the oil refined at TX refineries is exported and not used for domestic consumption.

            In case you needed to know that.

          • Tim Godfrey

            You have been given at least three reasons:

            1) Pipelines are safer than trains and Americans benefit if safer transport is used.

            2) The Canadian crude displaces crude from Venezuela which a geopolitical advantage for the US.

            3) The US benefits from free trade. Allowing the pipeline re-enforces the US commitment to free trade which ultimately benefits Americans.

            You simply ignore these reasons because they don’t fit your narrative.

          • bpuharic

            So we assume risk for minor benefit. 100 or so jobs. Oil which we will not use.

            Golly. what a benefit

          • Tim Godfrey

            Can’t you read?

            The pipeline **reduces** risk.because the oil will move by rail if the pipeline is blocked.

            You are delusional if you think that stopping the pipeline will stop the oil.

          • bpuharic

            Let me type this slowly so you can read it

            Why do we NEED this oil at all? Most of it won’t be sold in the US and the number of jobs it will create is miniscule

            Try again

          • Tim Godfrey

            The was a time when creating value added products for export was a fetish for the US left because it reduces the US trade deficit and brings revenue into the country.

            How times change. Now if a product is not actually consumed by Americans it had no value.

            Hypocritical BS by children who don’t understand economics and instead thing that policy should be based on whatever fad hollywood liberals decide to whine about.

          • bpuharic

            Where’s the value added by us? 100 or so jobs?

            The April 2013 issue of “Scientific American” has an interesting article on various energy sources, rating them by EROI…energy return on investment. five is about break even…where the opportunity cost exceeds return

            Hydroelectric comes in about 40. Conventional oil sources about 16.

            Tar sands come in a bit…just a bit…above five

            You were saying about economics….

          • Tim Godfrey

            100 or so jobs?

            What about all of the jobs at the refiners in Houston? Do you think that these people work for free?

            Yet private corporations are willing to invest billions in the oil sands.

            That shows that EROI is an absolutely meaningless ,measure of economic value and you simply confirm your ignorance of economics.

          • bpuharic

            I can tell you’re not an engineer and have no experience in the oil industry

            We’re replacing S American oil with Canadian. We haven’t built an oil refinery in the US for decades.

            But you g’wan. Impress us with your knowledge of Chem E. Tell us who Bird, Stewart and Lightfoot were

            Then tell us about why you’re an engineering expert.

            Right winger

          • Tim Godfrey

            Who was talking about engineering. I was talking economics. But I guess changing the topic is the way you avoid admitting you are wrong.

            But yes – oil from south America is loaded on ships and brought to Houston. Ever hear of Exxon Valdez?

            Spills from a pipeline are trivial compared to the damage caused by a single tanker spill yet you have no problem with this risk (can we say hypocrite?).

            The refiners in Houston would shut down if they don’t have access to an oil supply and having a reliable supply from Canada helps ensure those jobs don’t go away.

            This is a huge benefit to the US.

          • bpuharic

            I gotta say this ranks among the dumbest statements I’ve ever read on WRM

            You don’t know what engineers do, do you?

          • Jeff Jones

            If experience in an industry is a prerequisite to making a comment, then why do you keep flapping your gums about healthcare?

            You’ve long since betrayed an astounding level of ignorance about that.

          • bpuharic

            I didn’t say you had to be in the industry. I said you had to know what engineers do

            You dont

          • Jeff Jones

            The 100 or so jobs meme has been discredited. Stop using it.

          • bpuharic

            The discreditation has been discredited


          • Jeff Jones

            American oil companies will be among the entities using the pipeline, so it takes a monumentally stupid person to believe the result will be only 100 jobs, and that the US won’t benefit.

            And Obama was careful to say 50 “permanent” jobs, because even he knows thousands of limited term jobs always follow pipeline construction. But I don’t believe his numbers anyway, because he’s been proven wrong almost every time he’s said anything about economics, of which he learned nothing in his tenure as a street agitator.

          • Jeff Jones

            Do you use personalized license plates and bumper stickers? It takes the same special kind of orifice to type PBUH every time you refer to someone with no connection to the current discussion.

  • Corlyss

    Of course Dear Leader won’t approve it. Not this year because next is off-year elections; not in 2015 because Hillary wants the crazy green vote. She will have some ‘splainin’ to do since she was Boss Lady at State when State failed to disapprove the pipeline. Oh, BTW, Keystone is just another in Dear Leader’s long list of foreign policy failures, as well has being a failure of domestic policy.

    • bpuharic

      GDP is growing. Unemployment is dropping.The rich are rich beyond their wildest dreams. No soldiers have died in wars started by Obama

      Yep. Complete failure

      • zee

        “No soldiers have died in wars started by Obama”

        Only diplomats and ex-soldiers

        • bpuharic

          Yeah. 1 day. 4 dead

          Conservative tally?

          8 years and 110,000 percent higher body count

          But to the right that’s irrelevant

          It’s Obama, after all.

  • Boritz

    So the industry is finding ways around White House obstruction. Of course this is a red flag that these alternative modes of delivery are under-regulated. Time for a barrage of executive orders to block all alternatives. Otherwise the oil industry will just continue producing and transporting the product and consumers will consume it. There has to be a way to stop this or at the least make it much more expensive.

    • bpuharic

      Yeah imagine! The industry’s producing more than it has in decades and the US is producing more than half its oil consumption

      What a failure.

      To the right wing, ANY restrictions on business at all is a communist conspiracy

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