Nothing New in NRDC’s Latest Report

Well, there’s nothing new in the anti-Keystone XL report the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released today with the help of their ally, climate activist Bill McKibben.  Just take the letter green groups sent to the State Department, combine it with the letter Representative Waxman and Senator Whitehouse sent to the State Department, (which were both attempts to undermine the State Department’s finding that Keystone XL will not significantly exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions), and you essentially have their “new” report.  But this recycling and repackaging is nothing new for NRDC – in their latest anti-Keystone video released last week, the group simply reused a two year old video from Tar Sands Action featuring actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus – they just changed a bit of the B-roll and swapped a few of the takes around.

We’ve already debunked every one of the recycled, thoroughly exposed claims made in today’s rehashed report (for the full story, click here), but since opponents won’t let up, it’s worth recapping some of their “greatest hits”:

NRDC: Keystone XL would create significant additional climate emissions

After almost five years of review, two dozen government agencies including the State Department have come to the same conclusion that Keystone XL will not significantly impact greenhouse gas emissions.  As the State Department has said repeatedly, Canada will develop its oil sands “with or without the project” and that “approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.” Several scientists and experts agree including Andrew Weaver, a University of Victoria climate modeler, whose own analysis found that Canadian oil sands are unlikely to make an impact on emissions.  He said he was “surprised by the results of our analysis” because he thought the impact would be “larger than it was.”  Michael Levi, senior fellow for energy and environment at Council on Foreign Relations put it this way:

“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.  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.”

The bottom line is that if you have the supply and you have the demand you have a market.

NRDC: Other pipeline projects face obstacles and even if pursued would be insufficient to enable the industry’s expansion plan

Keystone XL opponents can’t seem to decide if pipelines other than Keystone XL will help or hinder oil sands development.  NRDC says that these pipelines are not sufficient to transport oil sands therefore Keystone XL is needed for development.  But Waxman and Whitehouse argue that all these pipelines together spell climate disaster saying, “Keystone XL is one of several recent proposals for pipelines and pipeline expansions to bring tar sands crude into the United States. When these projects are considered on a cumulative basis, the increase in U.S. carbon pollution is even more drastic.”

No matter how hard opponents try, they are not going to be able to stop every pipeline.  Keystone XL is just one of six pipeline projects under development to transport Canadian oil sands, and after nearly five years of review, the State Department has concluded that if Keystone XL is rejected, these pipelines would play a significant role in transporting Canadian oil sands.

NRDC: Rail is not an economically feasible alternative for oil sands transport

We’ve covered this at length a number of times so for now we’d just like to point out that Jason Bordoff, director of Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, and until recently a White House energy adviser, last week explained how important rail transport will be for oil sands, regardless of what happens with Keystone XL:

“Just a few years ago, there was this perception that the boom in rail transport was a temporary phenomenon until new pipelines came on. I think there’s a recognition now that’s not the case, because of more flexibility, because of more capital intensive, because you don’t need to undergo as deep environmental reviews. Rail is going to be a significant way we move oil around North America for the foreseeable future.”

Just today, the Texas Beaumont Enterprise reported that new rail deliveries of crude oil from South Texas, West Texas and the upper Midwest to refineries in the Gulf are expected to begin as early as August to the Jefferson Transload Railport.  The reason? As the article puts it, “These are regions that don’t have much pipeline connection to move crude to where the refineries are, said Mark Viator, communications manager for Jefferson Refinery.”

NRDC: Industry and market expert opinion points to the Keystone XL pipeline as a linchpin for oil sands expansion

Here the NRDC essentially cuts and pastes the same sections from the Waxman/Whitehouse letter, also ignoring the scores of American and Canadian officials who have said on numerous occasions that Canada’s oil sands will get out regardless.  For more on that, click here, but just to highlight a few notable names now: Former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said (in what must have been a blow to opponents): “Let me put it this way: I do think that oil in Canada [oil sands crude] will get out and be used.”  Joe Oliver, Natural Resources Minister of Canada also said, “Several of the project’s opponents believe it would be a decisive body blow which would keep the oil sands in the ground. That’s simply wrong” and Geoff Hill, head of Deloitte Canada’s oil and gas practice put it this way: “There are many efforts to pursue other routes that don’t go south.  You can assume some of them will be successful.  We’re going to get the oil out.”

NRDC: Canada is not pursuing climate policy that would effectively enable it to counteract the significant growth of greenhouse gas emissions or meet its international climate target

This is absurd.  Canada is the only country that we import oil from that even has greenhouse gas regulations.  Furthermore, Canada accounts for only 2 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions and emissions from oil sands are a small fraction of that.  Yet opponents say nothing of the greenhouse gas emissions from the unstable regions of the world which would be significantly reduced if the Keystone XL pipeline is built.

Bottom line: opponents have lost the argument

Let’s be honest: the argument from NRDC and Bill McKibben – that without Keystone XL Canadian oil sands won’t be developed – has always been losing one, not only because opponents are dead wrong but because they are advocating for something Americans overwhelmingly don’t want: to keep Canadian oil sands in the ground.  The latest poll found that 67 percent of Americans believe that Keystone XL is absolutely in our national interest and want the energy security and thousands of jobs that Keystone XL would bring. This latest spectacle goes to show that opponents are not fighting this on the merits of State’s findings – they just don’t like the result.  Sorry, guys, but the American people do.

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