New Study Shows Keystone XL Pipeline Will Cause Four Times More Carbon Pollution Than State Department Estimate

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Non-union workers for Plains Southcap hard at work on an oil pipeline: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson –

The controversial Keystone XL pipeline being constructed from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast could produce four times more global warming causing carbon pollution than the U.S. State Department estimated earlier this year, according to a new study out from scientists at the Stockholm Environment Institute published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The U.S. government estimates of the pipeline’s impact didn’t take into account lower oil prices from the increase in supply. The scientists say the increase in supply could drop prices $3 a barrel, which would actually lead to higher consumption that would create more pollution.

While the State Department estimated that the Keystone XL pipeline would increase world carbon dioxide emissions by 30 million tons, the scientific researchers estimate it would increase world greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 121 million tons of carbon dioxide a year.

It is not clear why any media company should care what outfits like The American Petroleum Institute think, since they are simply lobbyists and advocates for more oil consumption and fund anti-global warming propaganda, but the Associated Press found it necessary to balance its story by quoting them calling the study “irrelevant.” They say this is ostensibly because whether the pipeline is built or not, “the tar sands will be developed and oil will be shipped by railroad if not by pipeline,” according to spokeswoman Sabrina Fang.

This is a story we’ve done extensive reporting on before, which has mostly been ignored by mainstream media outlets and many activists.

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Deciding on whether to move forward with finishing the pipeline has been a tough decision for President Barack Obama. He has received extensive pressure by his pro-environment constituency to kill it, but many business and labor groups which also support the president financially and at the ballot box have urged him to approve it. The president is often quoted for what he said in a state-of-the-union address, that his administration would allow the pipeline to be built “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

Peter Erickson, lead author on the study, indicated the research implies that the pipeline could basically wipe out reductions from some other potential pollution-cutting policies under discussion.

Lower prices may sound good, Wesleyan University environmental economist Gary Yohe told the AP. He praised the work, but indicated “there’s no free lunch.”

“Lower fuel prices are bad if they don’t include all of the social costs,” Yohe said. “Consumers are happy, but the planet is not necessarily.”

The ball is now in the president’s court. Stand by to see on which side he comes down.

© 2014, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.

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  1 comment for “New Study Shows Keystone XL Pipeline Will Cause Four Times More Carbon Pollution Than State Department Estimate

  1. August 11, 2014 at 7:36 am

    What do you think?

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