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KEYSTONE PIPELINE:


What is the true cost? Jenny Powers


Photo: South Dakota Tar Sands Pipelines


A Battle is raging in the nation’s Heartland— a fight over our country’s breadbasket, a fight over a long-cherished way of life, and fight over our energy future. At the center of the controversy is a proposal for a giant oil pipeline that would cut right through the heart of the Great Plains to transport dirty corrosive tar sands oil from Canada to a Texas port.


It’s called the Keystone XL, and it’s up to our President to decide whether to approve its construction. Before making that decision, we hope he considers the larger implications of this action and asks himself the hard questions the oil industry wants him to avoid.


Do you want America to create cars that can go twice as far on a gallon of gas, employ 150,000 workers, and cut our oil use by more than 3 million barrels a day?


Or do you want America to remain addicted to fossil fuels and to accelerate the climate change which will worsen storms, increase disease, and flood coastlines? Do you want the U.S. to become the middleman to enrich foreign oil companies?


America isn’t accustomed to being in the passenger seat, and there is no reason we should start handing over the controls to Canadian oil companies now—which is exactly what the Keystone XL pipeline would entail. It isn’t designed to benefit America; it is designed to benefit tar sands operators.


Oil companies acknowledge they plan to use the pipeline to export their landlocked product. And if you want to export to Asia and British Columbia—ahem, a Canadian province that hasn’t let you build a pipeline to its ports because of safety concerns, then you pursue a pipeline to the next closest deepwater port: Port Arthur, Texas. Once the tar sands oil hits the transportation network in Port Arthur, it can go anywhere in the world.


Meantime, being the middleman opens us to some significant risks here on American soil. The pipeline would cut through 1,700 miles of farms, ranches, and towns. It would run on top of the Ogallala Aquifer— the source of drinking water for 2 million people—and through nearly 2,000 rivers, streams, and water bodies. It isn’t a question of if the pipeline will rupture in one of these places; it is a question of when.


In July, a pipeline operated by Exxon ruptured, spilling 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River. Last July,


40 | OriginMagazine.com


the Enbridge pipeline ruptured in Michigan, sending 840,000 gallons of tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River watershed. The EPA says it will take years to clean up the spill.


With both of these spills, pipeline operators denied they carried tar sands oil. Those denials later proved false. It is interesting to ponder why executives feel the need for smoke and mirrors when it comes to their product.


As perilous as these spills have been, the even greater danger of trafficking 900,000 barrels of tar sands oil every day is climate change. Instead of shifting us away from fossil fuels, the pipeline encourages us to substitute one type of oil for another. Sure, the new oil comes from a friendlier nation, but it is dirtier—much dirtier. Producing and burning tar sands oil generates three times as much carbon pollution as conventional crude.


If we say that the Keystone XL pipeline is in our national interest, then we are saying fossil fuel addiction is in our national interest. We are saying that climate change is in our national interest. We know


neither is true.


Allowing a pipeline to carry dirty fuel through our backyards opens us and indeed the entire world to more intense climate change. It forces us to accept all liability while receiving no benefit. And it puts TransCanada and tar sands operators in the position of calling the shots, while we play the fool. That won’t generate a brighter future for our country.


We don’t need the Keystone XL pipeline. But we do need the jobs and clean air benefits that will come from building better cars that reduce carbon pollution and make our nation a leader—not a middleman—in the international clean energy market.


If you agree, tell President Obama to say NO to the Keystone XL.


The Natural Resources Defense Council NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing.


VISIT US AT WWW.NRDC.ORG.


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