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Keystone XL, tar sands, and energy security: What will be next?


The Obama Administration approved the Keystone XL pipeline that is slated to carry tar sands from Alberta to Texas to be refined into various forms of fuel. There were also over 1000 protestors arrested during the days the protests took place. Among them was President Obama’s chief climatologist, James Henson. The protestors were protesting that the pipeline will put our clean energy future on hold even longer, and instead of sending a message that we must harness energy from the wind and sun, it is ok to continue to get it from deep under the earth’s surface and pollute the air, water, and land that are so critical to humanity.

 The oil in which the tar sands will deliver to Texas is among the dirtiest forms of crude, and there are currently no regulations governing acidic bitumen tar sands. This is of particular concern due to the July spill in the Yellowstone River that happened from a leaking, corroding pipe. Part of the pipeline route includes the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the largest in the United States and is also pristine and sensitive. The EPA is asking for a thorough analysis of the pipeline, tar sands, and the affect of the proposed route and refineries on the environment from the agencies involved in order for the State Department to determine if the pipeline is indeed in the country’s national interest.

 There have been arguments about whether or not the pipeline will actually increase energy security, lower gas prices, and protect the United States from oil and political volatility since forces outside of the U.S. set oil prices anyhow. These are all questions that have been brought up by the Natural Resources Defense Council when executive Director Peter Lehner was criticized by Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations about being biased and missing key points about the pipeline and the project as a whole. However, an extra 1 million barrels of oil per day coming into the U.S. (which is just over what Keystone XL is predicted to deliver) will likely not make a significant dent in our oil imports, but this situation must be looked at from all angles and consider all possible options. I completely agree that a much more thorough analysis must be done before making a definite decision on the project. It is also important to consider wheather or not the pipeline money could be redirected to clean energy projects. The oil will be coming from Canada instead of the Middle East and this is another step, albeit a small one, towards a more secure future.






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