To call the Keystone XL oil pipeline a controversial topic is an understatement. For Americans, the construction of the KXL delivers the possibility of independence from fossil fuel imports delivered by OPEC countries. For Canadians, it allows the prospect of huge domestic profits for a country sitting on top of the third largest oil reserve in the world. This past week, the NY Times ran an Op-Ed piece with new statements from Joe Oliver, the Canadian minister of natural resources, who finds it outrageous that any North American would reject the potential of the KXL. But do the pros really outweigh the cons?
Mr. Oliver is oversimplifying the argument. While he states that oil taken from California is “dirtier” than Canadian tar sands, he fails to realize that this is not a contest for who can refine the cleanest barrel of petroleum. Trailing only coal, diesel and gasoline produce the most carbon dioxide emissions per unit of energy burned. Alberta’s reserves are not the solution to a much bigger problem. If KXL is approved, it will stall society’s necessary jump from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. Instead of funding pipeline construction, capital investments could be applied toward research for the widespread integration of clean resources with the ability to power homes, businesses, and most importantly, transportation.
The Keystone XL project would not create long-term job opportunities. Of course, advancement of the pipeline would necessitate work for its development, but not lasting employment for North Americans. Alternatively, attention should focus on the booming growth of the sustainable energy sector – the global solar market grew 43 percent from 2011-2012 and is expected to increase an additional 35 percent in 2013.
Oliver also overlooks the nearly endless environmental consequences of continuing with KXL. Its construction has the potential to destroy pristine forests in Alberta, a location that contains not just profitable tar sands but the world’s third largest watershed that plays home to diverse ecosystems. Furthermore, the effort of pipeline assembly alone would generate mass amounts of CO2 emissions for the purpose of harvesting fuel to turn around and export it again; or, in short, let’s make CO2 to gather CO2 that can be sold via CO2-emitting transportation. Quite the scary cycle, if you ask me.
Change starts on a localized level with people who are passionate about providing Earth with a sustainable future. The combination of scientific research and advocacy of consequences give communities the necessary resources to gain support from President Obama and important government officials. By working together, North America is capable of stopping the Keystone XL pipeline.