Keystone pipeline opens: What does it mean?

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SALEM, Ore., January 28, 2014 — At approximately 10:45 a.m. CST on January 22, 2014 the $2.3 billion southern section of the Keystone pipeline opened, according to a TransCanada press release. TransCanada is the Keystone pipeline builder.

Keystone is now safely shipping Canadian crude to Gulf Coast oil refineries. TransCanada says the 487-mile pipeline employed 4,844 American workers during its construction. More lucrative jobs are now being created on the Gulf Coast where the oil is to be refined.

This project is not to be confused with the much larger, more controversial 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline, which is still awaiting a long-overdue yea or nay approval from the Obama Administration. Keystone XL has long been the target of environmentalist protests.

The Washington Post reported on the Keystone opening January 21st. Their report dealt with legitimate environmentalist concerns. However, the story had a number of crucial omissions related to Keystone XL.

Important omissions include:

  • Keystone XL is to carry North Dakota Bakken oil
  • North Dakota Bakken crude now dangerously ships to market by rail
  • Alberta oil is already getting to U.S. Gulf Coast refineries by rail
  • A proposed Energy East Pipeline could replace Keystone XL
  • A proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline will ship Alberta oil west for sale to Asia

Keystone XL is not limited to delivering only tar sand oil from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries. It is also slated to deliver North Dakota Bakken crude that, as yet, has no pipeline delivery system. A Washington Post graphic depicting Keystone XL excludes North Dakota. Bakken has been a part of the project since its inception, as shown in the TransCanada depiction. See TransCanada’s map here.

Bakken oil is already being sent south through the Midwest by train. Railroads are far more dangerous than pipelines and produce far more greenhouse gas emissions during delivery.

A BNSF oil tanker train derailed in Casselton, N.D. last month, caught fire and exploded. Four days ago another North Dakota derailment disrupted oil deliveries. A deadly oil train derailment and explosion in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec last July killed 47 people and destroyed most of its downtown. That train was transporting North Dakota Bakken oil.

President Obama and environmentalist groups mistakenly believe that if they stop Keystone XL, it will shut down drilling in Alberta. Nothing is further from the truth. Alberta tar sand oil is already being shipped to the Gulf Coast by rail.

Because of the long delay in Keystone XL, TransCanada has proposed another much grander $12 billion pipeline to carry Alberta oil across Canada to New Brunswick. Called the Energy East Pipeline Project, it will not require U.S. government approval because it will not cross the border. Already in the approval stage, this project is becoming a source of Canadian pride, representing getting out from under the thumb of the United States.

The Alberta and British Columbia governments are in negotiations to allow shipping interior Alberta crude to British Columbia seaports destined to Asian markets. This would be made possible by another all-Canadian $6.5 billion project known as the Northern Gateway Pipeline. Proposed by Enbridge, a Canadian company, it is also in the approval stage.

Alberta and Bakken oil are going to get to market whether the Keystone XL pipeline is approved or not. The only effect of protesting and delay has been to force shipping the oil dangerously by rail, a method that produces more environmentally damaging greenhouse house gas emissions.

Canadian interests have proposed two new major alternative pipelines that can replace Keystone XL. The Energy East Pipeline, Canada’s pride, goes to the east coast. The Northern Gateway goes to the west coast. Neither sends any Canadian oil to American Gulf Coast refineries, potentially costing thousands more high-paying American jobs.

In the end, North Dakota is the odd man out, left without a pipeline for its Bakken oil. Given Obama energy policy, it is unlikely Keystone XL will ever be approved by the current Administration.

Don’t be surprised to see another pipeline proposed to take Bakken oil due north into Canada. At this point, that is the most logical choice. Then even more jobs will be lost to Canada.

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