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Lives Are at Stake in Keystone Debate

Not approving Keystone could lead to hundreds of deaths over the next decade, according to an updated report released by the State Department. Without the pipeline, which would bring crude from Canada’s oil sands to American Gulf coast refineries, oil is going to make its way to market by rail, and that could have a much larger human cost than previously thought. The New York Times reports:

The initial study noted that without the pipeline, companies would simply move the oil by rail, and an addendum concluded that the alternative could contribute to 700 injuries and 92 deaths over 10 years. Friday’s updated report raised those numbers more than fourfold, concluding that rail transport could lead to 2,947 injuries and 434 deaths over a decade.

Greens will still stubbornly resist giving in to the increasing number of arguments in favor of approving Keystone. Senior counsel at the National Wildlife Federation Jim Murphy had this to say in response to these new findings:

“Today’s correction by State Department further highlights the extreme dangers to people and wildlife posed by climate-disrupting tar sands oil. […] Doubt over Keystone XL has already likely caused the cancellation of major new tar sands projects, which means less tar sands coming out of the ground. It is only by keeping tar sands in the ground and quickly moving to clean, responsible sources of energy that we can avoid severe harm to America’s public health, wildlife habitat and communities.”

Not tapping Canada’s oil sands would ultimately be the greenest strategy, but however much it may pain environmentalists to hear it, that’s simply not an option. That crude is coming out of the ground, regardless of whether or not the Obama Administration okays Keystone; there’s just too much money to be made, and producers won’t sit on their hands when such large reserves are within reach.

Murphy seems to think green opposition to Keystone has in part achieved its intended goal of keeping that crude in the ground, but long-term market forces will win out. That’s precisely the logic behind a recent State Department report which found that Keystone’s construction would have a negligible effect on climate change. What doesn’t travel by that pipeline will simply ride the rails or be transported by truck, and as this new report shows, that’s a far more dangerous option.

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  • Boritz

    ” Friday’s updated report raised those numbers more than fourfold,
    concluding that rail transport could lead to 2,947 injuries and 434
    deaths over a decade.”

    If true that will lead ultimately to a PR win and maybe an actual leave-it-in-the-ground win for the Greens.

    “…long-term market forces will win out.”

    Not with legislation that sets the market aside which is what legislation does best. No need to be so obvious as outlawing transportation of the oil. Simply use regulation to right-price the effort. Impose fees that reflect the “true price” to people and the environment.

  • Corlyss

    Well, I suppose if you have to rely on tertiary benefits to move this ideological crew off square 1, this will do. If the class this crew represents didn’t detest America and middle class Americans so profoundly, it might approve the pipe for good sound reasons, I.e., jobs and growth and prosperity.

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