OSFC Rapid Response on Obama’s Keystone XL Announcement Not To Approve Keystone XL Unless Determined First It Will Not Lead to net Increase of GHG Emissions
Update (3:49 P.M., ET, 6/25/2013): As expected, President Obama did mention the Keystone XL pipeline during his speech today, saying that a finding would be required to ensure the pipeline would be in the nation’s best interest. As the Washington Post reports,
Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest,” Obama said. “And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” “The net effects of climate impact will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project will go forward,” he added. “It is relevant.”
The Washington Post continues, the State Department has already made this finding:
Back in March, the State Department released a draft environmental impact statement finding that Keystone wouldn’t have a significant impact on overall emissions. The argument here was that, if the pipeline gets blocked, oil-sands producers will just find other routes to ship their product, such as rail lines. So the emissions will happen regardless. (Other groups, including the EPA, have disputed this analysis.)
So Obama might have left himself some space to approve the pipeline.
—Original post, June 25, 2013—
Ahead of President Obama’s announcement of his climate agenda today, the Huffington Post reports that the President will ask the State Department “not to approve the construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline unless it can first determine that it will not lead to a net increase in greenhouse gas emissions, a senior administration official told The Huffington Post. The policy pronouncement will come during the president’s highly publicized speech on climate change at Georgetown University on Tuesday. It will add another chapter to what has been the most politically difficult energy-related issue confronting this White House.”
Well, the State Department has already found that Keystone XL will have no impact on the climate because Canada will still develop its oil sands. In fact, if Keystone XL isn’t built, global greenhouse gas emissions are likely to increase because more oil sands crude would be refined in countries like China where current emissions standards allow three times more sulfur dioxide than in the United States. Canada accounts for only 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from oil sands are a small fraction of that.
Oil Sands Fact Check has been making this point for quite some time. Here are a few facts President Obama needs to know.
- As we’ve said before, in its 2011 Keystone XL assessment, the State Department was very clear that regardless of Keystone XL’s fate, Canada will still develop its oil sands, and therefore rejecting the pipeline will have no impact on the climate: “from a global perspective, the project is not likely to result in incremental GHG emissions.” In its 2013 assessment of the project, the State Department reiterated this point: “…the incremental life-cycle emissions associated with the proposed Project are estimated in the range of 0.07 to 0.83 MMTCO2e annually.” This number, according to the State Department’s calculation is not considered to be a significant incremental increase.
- The Washington Post’s March 4 editorial, Environmentalists are fighting the wrong battles, stated that the State Department’s 2,000 page analysis “dismantled the case that nixing the Canadian pipeline must be a priority for anyone concerned about climate change.”
- Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson admits in his Feb. 25 piece Obama has the power to act on global warming, that President Obama’s “seriousness about addressing climate change is not his pending decision on the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline.” Like so many others, he explains, “the oil is likely to be extracted eventually, regardless of the pipeline decision.”
- New York Times op-ed contributor Joe Nocera wrote in his February 18 piece, How Not to Fix Climate Change, that approval of the Keystone XL pipeline “should be a no-brainer for the president, for all the reasons I stated earlier, and one more: the strategy of activists like McKibben, Brune and Hansen, who have made the Keystone pipeline their line in the sand, is utterly boneheaded.”
- “One of the world’s top climate scientists has calculated that emissions from Alberta’s oil sands are unlikely to make a big difference to global warming… ‘I was surprised by the results of our analysis,’ said Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate modeller, who has been a lead author on two reports from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. ‘I thought it was larger than it was.’… ‘The conventional and unconventional oil is not the problem with global warming,’ Dr. Weaver said.” (Globe and Mail, February 2012)
- “And despite fears by climate change activists that increased oil sand production has profoundly negative consequences to global warming, Alberta’s massive reserve base contributes relatively little to the problem at a global scale, [Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at Council on Foreign Relations] says. Though increasing oil sands production, which many expect will triple by 2030, will grow Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions to a huge extent if business-as-usual practices continue, the added carbon dioxide emissions are marginal in the U.S. and global contexts. Studies show CO2 output from oil sands production is equivalent to 0.5 percent of U.S. aggregate emissions from energy use and less than 0.1 percent of total global emissions.” (Scientific American, March 2009)
- “…regarding the Keystone pipeline, the administration should face down critics of the project, ensure that environmental standards are met and then approve it. As Nature has suggested before (see Nature 477, 249; 2011), the pipeline is not going to determine whether the Canadian tar sands are developed or not. Only a broader — and much more important — shift in energy policy will do that. Nor is oil produced from the Canadian tar sands as dirty from a climate perspective as many believe…” (Nature editorial, January, 2013)
Americans overwhelmingly support building the pipeline
As API’s Cindy Schild put it today, if the President truly wants to lead, one “way to lead is to follow what your Americans, what your constituents are saying” – and Americas overwhelmingly support Keystone XL. As a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive reveals, 85 percent of Americans agree that Keystone XL would help strengthen America’s economic security; 81 percent of say that Keystone XL would help strengthen America’s energy security. Then there are dozens of newspaper editorial boards from communities across the country that have called on President Obama to approve the pipeline. Even some of the most unlikely sources – Washington Post editorial board, Nature magazine, USA Today, and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson – have written to urge the pipeline’s approval. Union and trade groups including the AFL-CIO, the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the International Union of Operating Engineers also support the construction of Keystone XL.
It’s time President Obama approve Keystone XL.