The X-factor in Keystone XL: It’s not just about Landrieu

The X-factor in Keystone XL: It’s not just about Landrieu

President Obama 2012 pipeline speech. Credit/White House Video

AUSTIN, November 14, 2014 — In purely political moves by both Democrats and Republicans, the U.S. Congress is taking up separate bills in the Senate and House for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, long opposed by environmental activists.

The transparent motive for the Senate bill is the desperate attempt by Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat supporter of the pipeline, to hold onto her seat in next month’s runoff election against Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy. This, however, may not be the reason that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided on Wednesday to let the bill reach the Senate floor.

The X-factor

An unintended consequence of environmental opposition to Keystone XL is that due to the delay, there will be more tar sand oil dug out of the ground in Alberta than opposing environmentalists ever imagined possible.

Contrary to popular American belief, the world doesn’t revolve around what we do. Canada isn’t just sitting around hoping President Obama changes his mind. Canada has taken action.

Canada's Energy East Pipeline route. Credit/TransCanada
Canada’s Energy East Pipeline route. Credit/TransCanada

Keystone XL has already morphed into five others:

  1. Energy East Pipeline (Canada)
  2. Northern Gateway Pipeline (Canada)
  3. Markets Upland Pipeline (Canada)
  4. The Trans Mountain Pipeline (Canada)
  5. Dakota Access LLC Pipeline (United States)

If Keystone XL itself is finally approved and built, there will be as many as six major pipelines transporting oil from Alberta and North Dakota, originally intended only for the Keystone XL.

As a result of Keystone inaction, Canada has four major pipelines replacing it in the works, two bigger than Keystone XL itself. Another Canadian pipeline is proposed to bring North Dakota Bakken oil, intended to be transported by Keystone XL, back up into Canada.

The lone new American proposal is to take Bakken oil across the Midwest to Illinois refineries and is estimated to boost just Iowa’s economy alone by $1.1 billion.

Canadian and Bakken oil will get to market even if environmentalists stop Keystone XL. That oil is already being dangerously transported by hundreds of trains to Gulf and other oil refineries in the United States and Canada.

Without Keystone XL, Canadian tar sand oil and Bakken oil will ultimately be transported to Gulf of Mexico oil refineries by supertankers from either the east or west coast of Canada through terminals that already exist or are being built.

What’s up with Harry Reid?

The U.S. House outmaneuvered Reid today by passing their own version of Keystone XL, with Landrieu’s runoff opponent, Congressmen Bill Cassidy, as its sponsor. Whatever political advantage there was from bringing it up in the Senate is lost.

Democrat Reid’s intention for bringing Keystone XL to a vote in the Senate may have less to do with the Louisiana runoff election than embarrassing the President and forcing him to take an unpopular stand.

Nobody on planet earth thinks Senator Landrieu has much chance of winning the runoff. The only reason there is one is because two Republicans ran against each other in the general election and split the vote.

The Senate is already lost to the Democrats. Should Senator Landrieu miraculously hold onto to her seat, it won’t make any real difference anyway.

So why bring up Keystone XL?

Reid’s move could be crafted to help free the Democratic Party to rebuild by openly severing ties with the President. It may also be that Reid blames Obama for the Democrats’ huge losses in last week’s election, particularly in the Senate. Reid may be exacting revenge on Obama for causing him to lose his Majority Leader position after protecting the President for the last six years.


Environmentalist opposition to Keystone XL has backfired. There is more pipeline capacity in the works today without Keystone XL than there would be had it been built without opposition.

If Keystone XL is finally built, there will be as many as six pipelines taking Canadian tar sand oil and North Dakota shale oil to U.S. and world markets. The intent of the Northern Gateway Pipeline is to sell Canadian crude to Asia.

The world still needs oil and will for a long time. It is naive of environmentalists and the President to think they could halt Canadian energy development by stopping a single pipeline.

President Obama, though, still seems to think he can. The White House hints that the President may veto any bill that comes to his desk. If so, that will further dim the Democrats’ prospects for a comeback in 2016.


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