Building the Keystone XL pipeline could lead to as much as four times more greenhouse gas emissions than the State Department has estimated for the controversial project, according to a new study published in Nature Climate Change that relies on different calculations about oil consumption.
The study’s authors based their calculation on the premise that increased supplies of petroleum through the pipeline would push down global oil prices marginally, and that would lead to an increase in consumption and thus pollution.
But wait, the State Department concluded in its final environmental impact statement that Canada’s oil sands crude will be developed and affect global consumption no matter how it’s transported:
[A]pproval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.
Based upon that analysis, the State Department determined that the pipeline would have minimal impact on the environment.
What’s more, the AP reports that some economists are skeptical of the study’s findings:
An increase of 121 million tons of carbon dioxide is dwarfed by the 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide the world pumped into the air in 2013. That’s why University of Sussex economist Richard Tol dismissed the calculated Keystone effect as merely a drop in the bucket. If somebody is concerned about climate change, he wrote in an email, the pipeline “should be the furthest from your mind.”
Independent energy economist Judith Dwarkin in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, dismissed the study, faulting the idea that added oil production will lower the price and boost demand. Usually, she said, it’s consumption that spurs price and then oil production.
Since we know this oil will be developed, the Keystone XL pipeline should be a part of the transport mix. It will create jobs, boost local economies, improve America’s energy security, and do it with minimal impact on the environment.
This study didn’t offer any reason to not approve it.
EDITORS NOTE: In its August 18, 2014 edition Forbes reports, “Warren Buffett and Carl Ican, two of the nation’s richest investors have benefited from insufficient pipeline capacity. Millions of barrels of oil are being moved around America by train, and and Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owned railroad company Burlington/Northern and railcarmaker Union Tank Car. Ican owns railcar producers American Railcar Industries and ACF Industries, together with a huge fleet of oil-carrying railcars.
The featured image is a mining truck carrying oil sands in Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. Photographer: Jimmy Jeong/Bloomberg.