News / Science & Technology

Obama Faces Decision About Controversial Pipeline

Obama Faces Decision About Controversial Oil Pipelinei
X
January 16, 2014 1:32 AM
While the United States has an extensive network of some 2,000 oil pipe lines, one project is generating considerable debate. That’s the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would carry more than 800,000 barrels of heavy tar sands oil 3,000 kilometers from Canada, through the American Midwest to refineries on the Gulf coast. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, Keystone advocates say it will bring jobs and energy security, while opponents question the environmental costs.
Rosanne Skirble
President Barack Obama must soon decide the fate of a controversial pipeline that has been stalled by environmental concerns.

The TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline is an extention to a pipeline that would carry over 800,000 barrels per day of heavy tar sands oil 3,000 kilometers from Canada through the American midwest to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline is finished except for the leg that crosses the U.S.-Canada border, which requires the president's signature.   

New route

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The pipeline was originally planned to run across a major aquifer, putting the water supply for millions at risk. Now TransCanada is back with a new route.

“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest," Obama said in a speech last June. "And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."
 
The president made those remarks at the launch of his Climate Action Plan, a move to reduce America's contribution to increased carbon emissions in the atmosphere. 
The Keystone pipeline under construction in David City, Nebraska. (Courtesy TransCanada)The Keystone pipeline under construction in David City, Nebraska. (Courtesy TransCanada)
“The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward," Obama said. "It’s relevant.” 

The pipeline would carry over 800,000 barrels of heavy tar sands oil a day. Opponents say mining tar sands uses vast amounts of energy and water and produces much more pollution than conventional oil.

Environmental concerns

Anthony Swift is an energy analyst for the Natural Resources Defense Council, which opposes the pipeline. He says oil from tar sands would generate 240 million metric tons of carbon -- the equivalent of putting five million more cars on the road.

“The whole point of Keystone XL is to get tar sands through the U.S. to the Gulf coast where it can be refined and exported internationally," Swift said. "So, you’re left with increased carbon emissions, risk to our farms and our water sources along the route for very little benefit because it really is an export pipeline.”

But others, like Sabrina Fang at the American Petroleum Institute, disagree. She points to recent polls that show the majority of Americans support the project. She says the pipeline makes good economic sense and won’t put the environment at risk.

“We don’t know why it has been complicated and politicized," she said. "But we are hoping that with this New Year, the president will look at all the facts of this project and see that it will be safe to build.  It will be safe to operate and it will create jobs.  And, his own State Department has already said that it is safe to build in four previous environmental reviews. And we don’t expect anything different from this fifth one.”
Protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and “move beyond” coal and natural gas, Feb. 17, 2013.Protestors gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, as well as act to limit carbon pollution from power plants and “move beyond” coal and natural gas, Feb. 17, 2013.
A draft environmental impact statement released by the State Department last March concluded the pipeline would not significantly harm the environment. 

However, Swift says 1.2 million people registered their opposition to those findings. 

“We know that the impacts of tar sands spills are far more significant than conventional crude spills," he said. "We found that in Mayflower, Arkansas, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, where a tar sands spill of 800,000 gallons [3 million liters] cost over a billion dollar to clean. In fact the Kalamazoo River, over three years after that spill, is still contaminated with tar sands.”

Presidential approval 

Oil industry executives are confident that safeguards will minimize such spills. Fang predicts Obama will approve it.

“I think the president, when he looks at this final review, which we expect will mirror the last four reviews saying this is safe to build, I don’t see how he can say that this is not in the nation’s interest to get this pipeline built,” she said.  

That worries Anthony Swift. 

“What's at stake here is our climate future," he said. "In a large degree, the Keystone XL is a decision on whether we continue pushing increasingly dirty energy sources or move toward clean alternatives.”

Obama will make his decision after a final State Department review.

You May Like

Pundits Split Over Long-Term US Role in Afghanistan

Security pact remains condition for American presence beyond 2014; deadline criticized More

US Eyes Islamic State Threat

Officials warn that IS could pose a threat to US homeland More

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Moscow says Russian troops crossed into Ukrainian territory by mistake More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocksi
X
George Putic
August 25, 2014 4:00 PM
How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that was eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports on how one band is bringing Yiddish tango to Los Angeles.
Video

Video Peace Returns to Ferguson as Community Tries to Heal

Thousands of people nationwide are expected to attend funeral services Monday in the U.S. Midwestern city of St. Louis, Missouri, for Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a white police officer August 9 in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson. The shooting touched off days of violent demonstrations there, resulting in more than 100 arrests. VOA's Chris Simkins reports from Ferguson where the community is trying to move on after weeks of racial tension.
Video

Video Meeting in Minsk May Hinge on Putin Story

The presidents of Russia and Ukraine are expected to meet face-to-face Tuesday in Minsk, along with European leaders, for talks on the situation in Ukraine. Political analysts say the much welcomed dialogue could help bring an end to months of deadly clashes between pro-Russia separatists and Ukrainian forces in the country's southeast. But much depends on the actions of one man, Russian President Vladimir Putin. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Russia in July enacted a law threatening fines for publicly displayed profanity in media, films, literature, music and theater. The restriction, the toughest since the Soviet era, aims to protect the Russian language and culture and has been welcomed by those who say cursing is getting out of control. But many artists reject the move as a patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video British Fighters on Frontline of ISIS Information War

Security services are racing to identify the Islamic State militant who beheaded U.S. journalist James Foley in Syria. The murderer spoke English on camera with a British accent. It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS, alongside thousands of other foreign jihadists. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from the center of the investigation in London.

AppleAndroid