Keystone Pipeline: detrimental or a necessary evil?

The Keystone Pipeline has been such a polarizing topic in the media since it was initially proposed in 2008. In 2021, it made the headlines yet again as President Joe Biden signed an executive order to cancel the pipeline program, which supplied America with 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day and employed thousands of blue-collar workers. This pipeline has been argued over for over a decade, but is North America better with or without it?

Back in 2015, the Obama Administration vetoed the grant required to construct and maintain the Keystone XL project. In 2017, former President Trump signed an executive order to revive the project and transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States. The Keystone XL pipeline doesn’t span that entire distance, however. This pipe is merely an expansion to the existing oil pipe infrastructure Canada and America had set in place years before.

Today in 2021, as one of his firsts acts as Commander in Chief, President Biden signed an executive order to cancel the Keystone XL program altogether, putting 11,000 workers out of jobs, or so many Facebook posts claim. Although a job is a job, most of the jobs given for the pipeline were only for four to eight months at a time, and the number of full-time employees of the pipeline at the time of its cancellation was more near the number 1,000 while temporary jobs at the time at an estimated 3,900.

So what did both Presidents Trump and Biden see in the positives and negatives of the Keystone Pipeline? According to KeystoneXL.com, the project was projected to stimulate the American economy with $8 billion and create over 10,000 jobs in the United States and 2,400 in Canada. The Keystone project’s fourth phase was also cutting the distance of the pipe down. Instead of traveling through Canada east and then down, this phase cut through American land

and made the transport of the crude oil more cost-effective and making the pipe become more national than international.

Many U.S, officials have also said that even if the pipe doesn’t get built, that does not mean that oil companies won’t stop and will transport the oil another way such as a railway system that will require even more oil and more time to operate.

The primary reason why so many are opposed to the pipeline’s existence is its negative impact on the environment. What is that impact?

“The pipeline would allow the flow of much needed crude oil from Canada and Montana to refineries in Oklahoma and Texas, while at the same time continuing our dependence on fossil fuels and their environmental impact,” Dr. Michael Davis, professor of geology, said.

While some people speculate that climate change isn’t real, the spilling of 383,000 gallons of oil onto North Dakota Wetlands in 2019 seems like something everyone can agree is horrible for the planet. Although this was only the eighth largest oil spill on American soil since 2010, the Keystone XL project, which was said to be the most planned out and state-of-the-art pipeline system of its time, spilled 21 times, 14 of which we’re in its first operative year alone.

“Continued use of oil, especially the oil that would flow through this pipeline, has an even higher impact on carbon dioxide emissions than traditional oil,” Davis said.

So why is this type of oil more harmful to the environment than traditional oil? Canada extracts bitumen, crude rock oil that also holds water as well as oil. Only about 11 percent of bitumen is easily extracted from the surface. The rest of the crude oil is either dug up or pumped out of the ground with high pressure water. Pulling these mineral deposits unearth three times more greenhouse gasses that traditional means of oil extraction.

Not only are the oil sands of Canada affecting the air, but also the water. When they extract the oil from the sands, the water trapped inside is now a byproduct and it has to go somewhere. Canada’s solution was to create massive man-made lakes for storage. Over the years of this practice, runoff of these lakes has contaminated fresh groundwater and wells and killed thousands of waterfowl that sought this water as clean.

Internationally, Canada has been in support from the beginning. In September of 2007, The National Energy Board of Canada approved the construction of the pipeline as well as its connection to existing Canadian oil pipelines. Although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is against climate change, he remained hesitant for President Biden to cancel the pipeline since it would eliminate Canadian jobs and affect Canada’s $110 billion oil industry. Canada is the leading supplier of petroleum to the United States and that’s something the two countries are hesitant to give up.

The United States uses more oil than all other countries. In fact, as of 2019, Americans average 20 million barrels of petroleum per day. The oil industry is deeply ingrained into the American economy and the American people are afraid to get rid of it.

“There are some who may say that to stop using fossil fuels is expensive and will cost jobs, but the cost of recovering from natural disasters such as devastating storms, floods, and wildfires is even more substantial. Alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal, all are growing employment sectors that would offset the job losses,” Davis said.

The pipes are cancelled and the workers have come home, unemployed, adding to the unfathomable number of unemployed workers during this pandemic. Many of the solutions to America’s oil crisis are available. Solar fields, wind turbines and geothermal electricity will have a positive effect on not only America’s pocketbook, but also planet Earth. If we are one of the

world’s leading countries, then leading by a clean energy example would be the path to move forward.

Michael Stamps

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