Write President Obama to say NO to Keystone XL Pipeline!

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Keystone XL  Update: The EPA has registered concern about the State Dept.’s Supplementary Environmental Impact Statement, together with over a million citizens.  President Obama has the last word on this carbon intensive project.

You can help.

Your comments to President Obama are essential.

Write President Obama:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact (preferred)
Or:  The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500


Obama should say no to Keystone XL, because doing so would help to limit development of the Canadian tar sands, and because we really wouldn’t get any significant benefit from saying yes; no real oil security, few permanent jobs, and most of the money goes to Canada and to Texas refiners in tax-free zones. Rejecting the Keystone XL permit makes a statement that it is time to stop investing in technologies that lock us into continued fossil fuel use, and it is time to make a strong commitment to energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The U.S. State Department released a 2,000-page analysis finding no compelling environmental reason to block the Keystone XL pipeline, the first direct link between one of the largest oil reserves on Earth and the world’s most advanced refining center on the Gulf of Mexico.  The State Department assessment has a number of serious flaws, that include downplaying the direct and indirect climate impact of the Keystone XL.

For more details on the specifics and key talking points click “Read More” to see full details.


•  The Keystone XL in itself will contribute to global warming and even more so if its construction stimulates the expansion of Canada’s tar sands industry; we can no longer afford to promote carbon intensive projects that raise the level of greenhouse gases.

The report states that tar sands oil is 17 % more CO2 intensive than conventional oil (calculated from the time when it is extracted to when it is burned).  The document states that the CO2 contribution from the Keystone XL oil alone is less than 1% of global amounts from human sources and as a result it concludes that the Keystone XL Project would not substantially contribute to climate change.

However, consider:

Scientists tell us that our emissions must remain under 565 Gigatons of total carbon by the middle of this century in order to keep global surface temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius and to avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change.   (But many researchers think a 1 degree Celsius increase will cause feedback mechanisms to activate, resulting in far more disruption than we anticipate).

The number we should be concerned with when evaluating the impact of the Keystone XL is not the % of global greenhouse emissions from the project, but the pipeline’s contribution toward 565 Gigatons of carbon. This limit is cumulative. Each incremental contribution of carbon toward this limit must be considered too much. At our current rate of pumping carbon into the atmosphere, we will reach this limit in 16 years if tar sands development continues as planned.  We need to change our energy focus fast and start reducing our overall emissions, or we will blow through our carbon budget into the realm of very dangerous climate change.

CO2 emissions from carbon intensive Keystone XL tar sands oil at the rate of 830,000 barrels a day, would be 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, the annual equivalent of 51 coal-fired power plants operating continuously or having 38 million more cars on the road for 50 years, according to calculations by Oil Change International. Another way to look at it is that many of  the modest hard won reductions in CO2 resulting from President Obama’s pact with auto companies to raise efficiency standards would be neutralized by emissions from the oil in this pipeline.  These facts matter. The project represents a move in the wrong direction.  The first step in addressing climate change is to stop making the problem worse – and that means rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and the higher carbon emissions associated with it.
Oil Change International and major environmental groups have put out a new report showing even greater climate impact from the Keystone XL pipeline than claimed in the recent State Department Environmental Impact Statement.
If the Keystone XL is approved, it would be a signal to other leading producers of CO2 that the U.S. is not as serious about reducing CO2 as President Obama claims we must be. In order to stop runaway climate change, we need to limit the production of fossil fuel, especially the carbon intensive tar sands, in any way we can, not facilitate it.

Rejecting the Keystone XL proposal would send a clear signal to tar sands producers, other large nations (including Canada), and financial markets that the current high carbon emissions from tar sands development has become a liability.

•  Canadian economists and investors agree that the Keystone XL would be a major conduit for tar sands oil from Canada.   Keystone is the key to tar sands development in the immediate future.

The Report claims that with or without the Keystone XL, tar sands oil will be exported from Canada through other pipelines or by rail or truck (and thus climate would be impacted to the same degree one way or the other).

However, consider:

If built, the Keystone XL would carry the largest volume of tar sands oil of all the recently proposed pipelines; it is the closest to construction, and is widely seen as critical to ensuring the profitability of future tar sands projects. As a first test of whether such expansion can more forward, approval of the Keystone XL would stimulate a significant amount of tar sands expansion that otherwise would not occur. It also has the potential to accelerate — or slow –investments in Canada’s tar sands. Goldman Sachs, TD Economics, Standard and Poor, Wood, MacKenzie and others have published financial analyses indicating the importance of Keystone XL to tar sands pricing and production.  Investment banks are reporting that continued pipeline delays could start to impact investor confidence in tar sands production growth expectations beyond 2015.

Rail transport, touted by the SEIS report as an alternate to the pipeline would likely be more expensive, leaving the Keystone XL as a critical link between Alberta tar sands and heavy crude refineries.  The report fails to describe a scenario in which rail capacity is unable to carry up to 9 million barrels per day of tar sands oil (predicted maximum production).  Infrastructure is needed for tar sands expansion, and it is clear to most observers that the permit decision for Keystone XL plays a critical role in the future of Canadian tar sands production and the greenhouse gas emissions associated with it.

The State Department report was written as if we were living in a ‘business as usual’ world. The reality is that the business as usual mentality must be a thing of the past if we are truly acting to stop climate change.







• The pipeline approval process should be put on hold until the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) evaluates the risks of tar sands pipelines and ensures that adequate safety regulations for them are in place.

Current pipeline regulations were issued long before tar sands oil production ramped up and do not cover the unique aspects of tar sands. Tar sands oil poses more acute risks than conventional fuels shipped through pipelines because the oil is a volatile mix of raw bitumen – an asphalt-like substance – diluted with gas condensates. Diluted bitumen is a toxic, viscous, corrosive substance with the consistency of gritty peanut butter that is moved at much higher pressures and temperatures than conventional oil. Strong evidence indicates tar sands oil threatens pipeline integrity.

A coalition of landowners, former and current government officials, environmental, renewable energy and sportsmen’s groups filed a petition on 3/26/2013 with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s PHMSA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asking the agencies to develop stronger safety standards for tar sands oil pipelines.  A National Academy of Science report on tar sands pipeline safety is due in the summer.



•  The Keystone XL pipeline will not be a significant source of permanent jobs.

The Report estimates that 35 permanent jobs will result from the operation of the Keystone XL once constructed. Temporary jobs for 1-2 years will number 3900 construction jobs.

This small number of permanent jobs must be balanced with the number of jobs that may be lost if, as is likely, there are serious oil spills, compromising farmland and drinking water.  In addition, a Cornell University study concludes the pipeline would kill more jobs than it would create, by reducing investment in the clean energy economy.




•  Keystone XL is a tar sands pipeline through the United States, not to it. Industry has made it clear that the Keystone XL is part of a plan to find markets for tar sands oil outside of the United States — while America’s communities, land and water bear the risk.  Keystone XL is not in the national interest of the United States.

The Report finds that Gulf Coast refineries now export more petroleum products than they supply to domestic markets and that the “increased volume of refined products is being exported by refiners as they respond to lower domestic gasoline demand and continued higher demand and prices in overseas markets.” In the last quarter of 2011, 73% of gasoline produced in Port Arthur and Houston area refineries was exported, as was 40% of diesel production (from tax free zones on the Gulf Coast).  Additionally, the report notes that the Keystone XL pipeline would pass 1,073 surface water bodies, and within 1 mile of 2,753 wells including 39 that are public water supplies, thus posing environmental and public health risk from spills.

However, consider:

Americans will not likely be the ultimate consumers of this oil. Construction of the Keystone XL and its boost to the development of Canadian tar sands would only increase the amount of oil on the global market that is available to burn.   But, the environmental and the public health risks resulting from spills and oil releases to aquifers in the pipeline right of way will be borne by Americans. A tar sands oil spill from a Canadian pipeline in Kalamazoo, Michigan four years ago has proven that such spills have long term effects that are not easily mitigated.

The security of this nation and its economic success does not rest on export pipeline projects but on accelerating a transition away from dirty polluting fuels and towards a prosperous clean energy future. Oil coming from a friendly neighbor does not translate into increased energy security if it is mostly for export.  Trends in the U.S. point to energy independence from other than North American oil based on increases in production of U.S. oil and conservation by 2020.  If the US were to increase its investment in renewable energy to even half of what it spends on oil and gas exploration and production, the US could achieve its goal of US energy independence sooner and our energy would be cleaner.

The only real way to enhance national security vis-à-vis oil is to break the stranglehold of oil over the transportation system, by dramatically reducing demand and developing alternative transportation energy sources.

Rejection of new fossil fuel infrastructure must be the default; approval only in extraordinary circumstances and only if it is in the best interests of the U.S. Building new infrastructure that locks the global system into producing and consuming a major new source of extra dirty oil takes us in the wrong direction.  Keystone XL Project clearly is NOT in America’s best interest.



We have a choice to make. One path leads us to more pollution, more climate disruption, more instability and uncertainty as fossil fuels dwindle, and less prosperity and well being as we deal with all these issues. Another choice promises us energy stability, a cleaner environment and greater prosperity basically forever.


Quick Summary Issues with SEIS: http://www.nrdc.org/media/2013/130301b.asp

Overview—Response SEIS: http://science.time.com/2013/03/01/state-dept-build-the-keystone-pipeline-or-not-the-oil-sands-crude-will-flow/

Tar Sands Facts:  http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/keystonexlmyths.pdf

Keystone as symbol: http://www.vancouverobserver.com/blogs/climatesnapshot/keystone-xl-pipeline-not-needed-us-state-dept-report

NRDC Summary;  Resource list:  http://www.nrdc.org/energy/keystone-pipeline/

Summary Arguments on SEIS/Calculations:  http://www.skepticalscience.com/print.php?n=1906