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New Keystone XL report finds carbon release could be four times more

Pipeline construction
Pipeline construction
Fair Use

President Barack Obama vowed in June 2013 that final permit approval for Keystone XL pipeline would only be considered if it did not add to the growing problem of climate change.

Subsequently, a State Department report issued last August stated that Keystone would have “no material impact” on US greenhouse gas emissions.

But urging by Democrats to include a study on human health to the equation and a Nebraska judge that ruled earlier this year against the pipeline in an eminent domain case has left the $5.3 billion Keystone simmering on the back burner.

However, a new study in the journal Nature released on Sunday may put the final kibosh on Keystone. It finds completion of the pipeline could generate as much as four times the carbon emissions predicted by the State Department, which was a report closely influenced by oil industry experts according to environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Researcher’s common sense approach calculated that increased pipeline oil supply would lower global fuel prices, thus increasing consumption and the resulting rise in pollution, which is why the author’s estimates were much higher than the State Department’s environmental impact statement issued in February by four times as much.

“The sole reason for this difference is that we account for the changes in global oil consumption resulting from increasing oil sands production levels, whereas the State Department does not,” wrote authors Peter Erickson and Michael Lazarus, scientists based in Seattle with the Stockholm Environment Institute, a nonprofit research organization.

In addition to the increase in heat-trapping carbon dioxide, extracting tar sands is the most toxic, water-wasting and destructive methods in existence, which is far more environmentally damaging than standard oil drilling procedures.

This spring a letter to President Obama urging him to reject Keystone was signed by over 100 scientists, former President Jimmy Carter [Unlink] and eight other Nobel Peace prize winners.

The letter said (in part):

“We must address climate change by de-carbonizing our energy supply,” the writers said. “A critical first step is to stop making climate change worse by tapping into disproportionately carbon-intensive energy sources like tar sands bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy-intensive strip-mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions.”

If approved, Keystone would ultimately carry 830,000 barrels of tar so thick it would need to thinned with lighter hydrocarbons to make it flow through thousands of miles of pipeline running from Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast, including the southern leg, which has already been built.

According to the World Energy Council natural bitumen is "oil having a viscosity greater than 10,000 centipoise under reservoir conditions.”

Think of cold molasses extracted from tar sand that would have to be diluted with cancer-causing chemicals to make it manageable enough to transfer over the heartland of America through leak-prone pipelines.

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