Keystone XL Update

Since the beginning of the New Year, and the months leading up to it, there were significant discussions surrounding the infamous Keystone Pipeline XL. The United States Congress has already approved a bill allowing the pipeline to be built for the transportation of heavy crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to American oil refineries near the Gulf of Mexico. The heavily debated pipeline symbolizes the environmental movement and all that is bad about the extraction of oil. Many environmental groups have used the Keystone pipeline to stimulate the global climate change discussion. The pipeline places direct pressure on the White House to take a stance on American environmental and energy policy.

The debate over Keystone pipeline began in 2011. The proposed pipeline will be 1,179 miles long connecting the Alberta, Canada oil sands to Houston, Texas. There will be approximately 800,000 barrels of oil per day transported and sold on the world market. The pipeline will have minimal economic impact on America. Similarly, the pipeline will only create 42,000 temporary construction jobs and only a few dozen full-time jobs once completed. However, on a global scale, the sands extraction will have minimal effect on climate change.

Comments on the pipeline from the Obama administration were delayed until the final ruling of a recent case held in the Nebraska Supreme Court. In Thompson v. Heineman (January 9, 2015), the Nebraska Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling that the governors’ decision to allow the Keystone XL pipeline to pass through the state was unconstitutional. Specifically, the lower court ruled the Nebraska legislature’s law, which allowed the governor to rule of the pipeline route instead of the Public Service Commission was unconstitutional. President Obama’s chief reason for stalling the six-year choice is now over.

How America responds to our energy policy and climate change will be top priorities for the next president. If the business continues as usual, the United States is on track to become the world’s largest oil and gas producer. Ironically, the pipeline debated comes to the forefront of political debate when oil futures are down to the lowest since 2009 ($50 per barrel). The lower price of oil futures offers less practical return on investments for TransCanada Corporation (the company who applied for the international pipeline construction permit) because tar sand extraction is expensive. To be profitable, oil futures need to be traded at $85 per barrel. As long as the price per barrel of oil remains low, the more unlikely the pipeline will actually undergo construction.

Regardless, people want more than to stop the pipeline. It’s a symbol of the twenty-first-century environmental vision because the Keystone Pipeline services notable unfriendly environmental oil extraction processes. The main argument is to stop Canada from mining the sands and without Keystone Canada would be unable to export the oil. The pipeline represents nineteenth-century energy policy that has led us to the current debate surrounding climate change. Although there is limited environmental and economic impact, the decisions embody our energy policy future. Our energy policy must be revamped and revised to embrace a clean energy focus. We need to build on an American energy infrastructure leaving global warming behind.

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