Monday, September 17, 2012

Re-routing the Keystone XL pipeline -- implications for Montana and the Bakken

The last we heard, the Canadians were going to deal with the Obama administration's refusal to approve the Keystone XL pipeline by building one west to the Pacific instead, allowing for easier delivery to hungry Chinese and east Asian markets -- a move that would have left Montana and the Bakken fields out in the cold.

It seems that Transcanada is going to try again, by proposing a new route through Nebraska. The Obama administration had used Nebraska's failure to sign off on their portion of the route as the ostensible reason for nixing the project entirely.

As a U.S. News article points out, however, it really wouldn't matter what magical route could be found through Nebraska:

The regulation redundancies only scratch the surface of many environmentalists' concerns over the pipeline. Their beef with the project is further upstream and involves the extraction and processing of the oil sands themselves, an issue no amount of creative pipeline re-routing can address.

Exactly. While the Nebraska route and environmentally sensitive areas may be the immediate reasons given for torpedoing the project, the real problem is that the oil pipeline would carry.... well... oil.

Even if the Canadian oil sands produced oil without a process that emits greenhouse gases, environmentalists would still oppose it, because oil pipelines carry... well... oil.

I've heard some Obama partisans criticize the Obama administration for not laying all of the blame for the Keystone XL pipeline debacle squarely at the feet of the state of Nebraska, which would allow President Obama to escape responsibility.

Such arguments miss a fundamental feature of the landscape: the President is a true believer in shutting down traditional energy development. Were he to use the Nebraska problem to full rhetorical advantage, he would be boxed into approving the pipeline should a Nebraska route eventually be approved. Should he be re-elected (an eventuality that MH predicted long ago) he will use whatever reason is convenient to torch the project.

Transcanada obviously is hoping for the best, but one suspects that their best plan will be to start planning their pipeline route through the Canadian Rockies. Montana and the Bakken will just have to keep hauling much of our oil by the more environmentally destructive means of truck and train...

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