The Keystone pipeline is a pipeline that will carry 900,000 barrels of a mixture of synthetic crude oil and a combination of bitumen and diluents. This pipeline already goes from Canada to Missouri, but plans are in place to extend this pipeline down to refineries in Texas and then out to the Gulf Coast. There are several debates and articles supporting and opposing this project (Palliser, 2012).
TransCanada is the company that is building the Keystone pipeline. The pipeline pumps tar sands oil out of Canada.
According to Foe.org (2014): Tar sands are found underneath Canada’s great boreal forest and consist of heavy crude oil trapped in a mixture of sand and clay. To extract oil from tar sands, companies must destroy fragile forest ecosystems and then use a very energy-intensive upgrading and refining process to turn that sludge into transportation fuel. Tar sands oil extraction and production emits three times more carbon dioxide than does the extraction and production of conventional oil.
Tar sands contain more pollutants than regular crude oil. They contain sulfur, lead, nickel, arsenic, mercury, and nitrogen. These pollutants may cause a higher rate of lung disease and cancer. The issue with this is if there are any spills, if they have a leak that lasts even 15 minutes it will spill thousands of gallons of tar sand oil.
One of the areas that this pipeline goes over is the Ogallala Aquifer. The Ogallala is the largest aquifer in the United States and our major aquifer that provides over 30% of the water for our “bread basket” area, where the majority of our crops are grown.
It also provides drinking water for over two million people. A leak in this aquifer takes away a lot of the water we need to produce these crops. The nature of aquifers also means that it would take over a thousand years for the oil to be flushed out of the aquifer to where it would be drinkable again. The cost of cleaning up this type of spill could be in the billions. The construction of this pipeline will also impact fish and wildlife.
Clearing the area will impact the habitat of many animals causing a reduction in survival and reproduction. There are also twenty-three species of fish that are covered by the Endangered Species Act that will be affected during the construction of the pipeline across streams (Palliser, 2012). The environmental impact of the oil sands is that they produce higher greenhouse gas emissions, which would be three times the amount of normal oil and gas production. It also produces a higher rate of air-pollution, and there are no current plans in place to address any environmental concerns being raised (Palliser, 2012).
The individuals who support the pipeline state that it will create more than 9,000 direct and 42,000 indirect jobs, helping the economy significantly. It will increase the tax base by ten percent or more in the rural counties that it passes through. The pipeline will connect the Gulf Coast refining centers with Canada, which has the third largest oil reserve in the U.S., and the use of pipelines to transport the oil is considered more efficient and has a better safety record than using trains or trucks (Blake, 2014). According to TransCanada (2014), “The Keystone XL Pipeline will be the safest and most advanced oil pipeline operation in North America. It will not only bring essential infrastructure to North American oil producers, but it will also provide jobs, long-term energy independence and an economic boost to Americans (para 1).
Canada has agreed to incorporate several safety conditions into the construction of the pipeline. Some of these improvements would be a higher number of remote-controlled shut-off valves, they will increase inspections on the pipeline, and use thicker steel to construct the pipes while burying them deeper in the ground. Any signs of a problem with the pipeline will be transmitted by a high-tech pipeline control center allowing for quicker detection and the ability to remotely close the valve leading to the area of concern. It was also stated that there are already four dozen oil and gas pipelines operating between the U.S. and Canada with none of them having the safety features that the Keystone pipeline would have (TransCanda, 2014).
Although I see the strengths in each argument from the opposing and supporting side of this issue, I would have to say I oppose the pipeline more than support it. I think that the environmental concerns outweigh any benefits that we would gain. We owe it to future generations to protect the environment and to come up with an alternate means to provide the energy that is needed. Just the toxic chemicals alone that could pollute the water could increase the rates for individuals to suffer from cancer, respiratory ailments, and premature death. Refining tar sands will result in more carbon emissions over its life cycle than any other petroleum product, this goes against the Clean Air Act. Instead of spending such large amounts of money to build the pipeline they should use the money to fund research and develop a cleaner, more sustainable source for energy. The oil produced from this pipeline will probably be exported out of the United States so it will most likely not benefit the United States of America in the form of lower gas prices or cheaper products.
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