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Critics of Keystone pipeline focus on wrong issues

Staff Columnist

Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 22:02

TransCanada put in an application on May 4, 2012 for a Presidential Permit to construct and operate the Keystone XL Pipeline. The proposed project is an 875-mile long pipeline that would transport up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil from Alberta, Canada per day. The pipeline would cross the U.S. border in Montana, continue through South Dakota and Nebraska, then connect to existing pipelines near Steele City, Nebraska for delivery to Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast area. The final remaining step is for National Interest Determination and the Final Decision. A 30-day comment period began on Feb. 5 and will close on March 7th. During this time period, the public is encouraged to submit comments to http://www.regulation.gov.

Environmentalists who feel the cons of the pipeline greatly outweigh the pros have impeded this two-year process. It is true that gasoline from oil sands have roughly 15 percent greater emissions than gasoline in the form of conventional oil. It is also true that the exploitation of tar sands will have a negative impact on climate stability. However, both arguments are not connected to the Keystone XL Pipeline itself. The environmentally destructive mining of this crude oil from tar sands seems to be center of the debate, though misplaced on the creation of the pipeline. Whether or not America chooses to allow this pipeline to cross our borders, the tar sands will be exploited, thousands of direct jobs will go to Canada and other countries will mine the benefits of the oil.

Keystone XL Pipeline is not the first pipeline to be built in the United States. If this pipeline is being called into question, that means all the other pipelines should equally be scrutinized. Though there are alternative means of transporting oil, they are even less promising in terms of their effects on the environment and the people involved. Reports also show that road transport incurs more overall damage than pipelines. For every billion ton-miles, there are 20 incidents when road transport for oil is used. There are 2 incidents for every billion ton-miles when trains transport oil. However, when transported by pipeline, there is a shocking average of .6 incidents per billion ton-miles. To say the environmentalists have overlooked these numbers and chosen to go after the most effective method of transport is far-fetched and illogical, which leads me to believe that they are more concerned about the use of crude oil from tar sands not necessarily the transport of the crude oil.

Furthermore, the environment is not the only thing placed at risk as there are human beings working to extract and transport oil. The rate of injuries that require hospitalization are 30 times lower for pipeline workers than rail workers involved in crude oil shipments and trucking oil is 37 times more likely to cause injuries than pipelines.

Pipelines are an advanced method of transport. There has been a 70 percent decrease in spills from 1969-1977 time period to the 1998-2007 time period. The only other methods of transport that have a greater decrease in spills during the same time period are tank barges at 83 percent decrease and tank ships at 98 percent decrease, neither of which can be used as an alternative to the Keystone XL Pipeline. The alternatives, which include tanker trucks and railroads, do not show promising statistics. Tanker trucks have had a 206 percent increase in spills during this time period and railroads show an unimpressive 28.5 percent decrease in spills in the same time period.

The final step before Keystone XL Pipeline is approved or rejected is dependent on the nation’s opinion. Whether or not America chooses to approve this pipeline, the 15 percent greater emissions will still enter the atmosphere and into the air we breathe. The environment may suffer but are we going to sit by and watch a much sought after resource benefit others while we suffer in the pollution that we did not create? Rejecting the pipeline immediately becomes a lose-lose situation. At least there will be one benefit to accepting the pipeline’s construction. The transport of oil couldn’t be the issue the environmentalists are concerned about because the pipeline is the least harmful method of transport besides barges and ships; spills during the transport of oil through tanker trucks have increased 206 percent from 1969 to 2007! However, the Keystone XL Pipeline has been the scrutiny of the conservationists. While the rally of those who object the Keystone XL Pipeline is noble and their hearts are in the right place, they are misplacing their objections.  

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