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]