Nebraska’s KXL Approval Puts a Damper on Opponents’ Parade

In a brief letter to President Obama and Sec. Clinton today, Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman recounted the review process by which the Keystone XL project was subjected before he declared his final approval of the pipeline route through the state.

Notably, it wasn’t the governor who provided any more color on what his decision may or may not implicate – the letter simply asserts that after the state’s thorough review, he agreed with the Nebraska Dept. of Environmental Quality’s final evaluation. Instead, it was Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, who sent out a warning signal to the president, saying that approving the pipeline would negate the carbon benefits of the Administration’s vehicle tailpipe emissions rules. She told reporters:

“I don’t think there’s any way to say that it wouldn’t undo some of the good that we’ve done in America by reducing carbon pollution.” (E&E News, 1/22/13)

Just as plenty of pipeline opponents declared victory over KXL following President Obama’s inaugural speech, Sen. Boxer concludes that, despite the fact that the president didn’t even mention the project, the pipeline in some way equates to a threat to climate change and a significant rise in greenhouse gas emissions – without substantiation, of course.

What these opponents aren’t grasping is that the pipeline will not exist at the expense of the environment. In fact, the State Department concluded in its supplemental environmental impact statement that KXL would not result in a “substantive contribution to the U.S. or global emissions.” According to TransCanada, KXL could replace 200 ocean tankers of crude oil per year, effectively reducing GHG emissions related to oil transport by as much as 19 million tons, or the equivalent of taking almost 4 million cars off the road.

But what’s even more off-base about Sen. Boxer’s statements is that the type of oil to flow through a completed KXL – oil sands crude – would have no more or less effect on the emissions that would come out of a vehicle tailpipe. According to IHS CERA, “combustion emissions do not vary for a given fuel among sources of crude oil.” In other words, a car’s emissions have nothing to do with the type of crude oil that is refined to make gasoline.

President Obama’s prominent mention of climate change on Monday may have emboldened KXL opponents, but Nebraska’s approval –and the actual climate facts– means that the project remains a safe, environmentally sound way for the President to boost the economy and create jobs.

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