Keystone XL opponents say they’re fighting the project because they fear the carbon emissions that would be produced by developing Canada’s oil sands, but a new report undercuts that argument by finding that the oil sands development has resulted in only a fractional increase in them.
Bill McKibben, head of 350.org and the main face behind the anti-pipeline campaign declared in 2011 that Canada’s oil sands are “the earth’s second-largest pool of carbon, and hence the second-largest potential source of global warming gases after the oil fields of Saudi Arabia.”
However, a report by IHS finds that increased development of Canadian oil sands have not had an impact on U.S. carbon emissions. Canada’s National Post reports:
The report, based in part on a focus group meeting held last October in Washington, D.C., with Alberta’s Department of Energy and major oil sands producers, found that between 2005 and 2012, the carbon intensity of the average crude oil consumed in the U.S. “did not materially change,” decreasing by about 0.6%.
That is despite a 75% increase in U.S. imports of oil sands and other Canadian heavy crudes over the same period — to about 2.1 million barrels a day from 1.2 million barrels.
At the same time, U.S. imports of Mexican and Venezuelan heavy crude fell, while production of U.S. tight oil from North Dakota’s Bakken and the Eagle Ford shale in Texas climbed to 1.8 million barrels a day, up from virtually zero in 2005. That helped displace imports of similar crudes from Africa and elsewhere with relatively higher carbon footprints, the report says. U.S. imports from Nigeria fell 64% over the period, it said.
“A lot has changed since 2005,” said Kevin Birn, a director of IHS Energy and leader of the consultancy’s oil sands dialogue in Calgary.
“We’ve had heavy crudes push out heavy crudes that happen to be within the same GHG intensity range, and the same thing’s happened on the light oil side.”
Since we’re on the topic of the Keystone XL pipeline and greenhouse gas emissions, I’ll remind you that the State Department’s economic analysis of the pipeline found that alternative methods of moving oil sands crude—no serious observer thinks they won’t be developed–would result in higher greenhouse gas emissions than from the Keystone XL pipeline.
Remember these facts the next time pipeline protesters get arrested in the name of reducing carbon emissions.