TransCanada to build southern half of Keystone to avoid State Department approval
Keystone XL is becoming the project that refuses to die: TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, has said it plans to build the southern half of the pipeline while it waits to determine a new route for the northern section. The company does not need approval from the State Department, which turned down the entire pipeline in January, to build the southern half from Texas to Oklahoma. However, the Obama Administration has embraced the idea. Carrying carbon-intensive tar sands oil down from Canada to a global market, the proposed pipeline galvanized environmental and climate activists last year, resulting in several large protests and civil disobedience actions.
In response to TransCanada's announcement, White House press secretary, Jay Carney, released a statement: "Moving oil from the Midwest to the world-class, state-of-the-art refineries on the Gulf Coast will modernize our infrastructure, create jobs, and encourage American energy production. We look forward to working with TransCanada to ensure that it is built in a safe, responsible and timely manner, and we commit to take every step possible to expedite the necessary federal permits."
After delaying a decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline, the Obama Administration was forced by Republicans in a Congressional rider to make a decision in 60 days. The administration turned down the pipeline, ostensibly because they said the 60 day requirement was not enough time to make a decision, however the administration had received significant pressure from its base over concerns with the pipeline.
In August of last year, 1,253 people arrested in civil disobedience acts against the pipeline. Then in November, some 12,000 people encircled the White House in a massive protest against the pipeline.
Reasons against the Keystone pipeline were many and varied, from oil spill impacts to indigenous issues. But for most activists, the largest issue was climate change. Climatologist, James Hansen, has stated that if the full-extent of the tar sands are exploited along with the world's coal reserves "it is essentially game over" for the climate. This is because tar sands are more carbon intensive than more conventional sources of oil: the Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) estimated the greenhouse gas emissions of the tar sands was 5-15 percent higher than conventional sources, while the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that emissions were 20 percent higher. Others have given higher numbers.
Pipeline image via Shutterstock