By: Hailey Finnen
Summary. The Keystone Pipeline was proposed in 2008, designed to transport Alberta tar sands oil from Canada’s boreal forests to oil refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas. The first leg of the pipeline has been operational since 2010, but the second proposed leg, the Keystone XL, has finally been canceled as of June 2021 after a tumultuous battle. Tar sands oil is different than other oil, and extracting it brings intense environmental and economic costs. The EPA says that tar sands oil emits 20% more carbon than other types. Because it is thicker, more acidic, and more corrosive than conventional crude oil, pipelines carrying tar sands oil are more likely to leak. The operational leg of the keystone pipeline system has leaked more than a dozen times since 2010, with a North Dakota incident that spewed 21,000 gallons of tar sands crude into the air. For all of these reasons, the pipeline itself and the proposed addition has been a highly controversial topic between the government, citizens, and oil companies for the last decade. The Obama administration blocked the construction initially, then later the permits were approved and provided by the Trump administration. However, in 2021, President Biden canceled the permits, and the Keystone XL addition was put to rest. The working leg of the pipeline remains in use.
Why we should care? The mining of tar sands oil is much worse for the environment than other types of oil, and big energy companies wanted to triple tar sands production by 2030, using the Keystone Pipeline as a major tool.
This article, from January 2021, goes in depth about President Biden’s plans to cancel the permits made for the Keystone XL addition that were signed by former President Trump.
Science in Action.
Dr. James Hansen a leading climate scientist. During the time of the pipeline protests, he was the head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
In the 1980’s, Hansen was among the first scientists to warn that burning fossil fuels was a leading cause of climate change. He has since joined several public protests against the pipeline. He researched to debunk the claims that were being made about the pipeline.
I agree with you that the Keystone Pipeline is already such a problem. I did not know how much worse the additions could be. I was also intrigued to learn about tar sands oil. I did not know how bad the mining of it was as well as the significantly increased carbon emissions.
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