Green Groups Turn Up Heat Against Keystone

A report released Thursday by Oil Change International and other environmental groups says the pipeline is not in the national interest.

A band stands by at the Keystone XL protest at the White House on Sunday Nov. 6, 2011.
National Journal
Clare Foran
Aug. 29, 2013, 10:59 a.m.

Oil Change In­ter­na­tion­al, in part­ner­ship with the Si­erra Club,, and En­vir­on­ment Amer­ica, re­leased a re­port Thursday call­ing for Pres­id­ent Obama to re­ject the Key­stone XL pipeline.

The re­port — “Re­spond­ing to the Pres­id­ent’s Cli­mate Chal­lenge: A Fail­ing Grade for Key­stone XL” — states that con­struc­tion of the pipeline will in­crease car­bon emis­sions and speed de­vel­op­ment of Ca­na­dian oil sands. In short, it would be a sig­ni­fic­ant driver of cli­mate change.

These find­ings stand in dir­ect op­pos­i­tion to the State De­part­ment’s draft en­vir­on­ment­al ana­lys­is of the pipeline, re­leased in March, which said that Key­stone XL would not sig­ni­fic­antly af­fect oil-sands de­vel­op­ment in Canada or at­mo­spher­ic levels of car­bon di­ox­ide.

The State De­part­ment’s as­ser­tion hinges on the idea that Key­stone XL is — in a sense — ir­rel­ev­ant. That’s be­cause, ac­cord­ing to State, Ca­na­dian oil sands will be de­veloped with or without the pipeline.

En­vir­on­ment­al groups dis­agree. “Re­spond­ing to the Pres­id­ent’s Cli­mate Chal­lenge” chal­lenges this claim dir­ectly, say­ing that oil com­pan­ies won’t have the ca­pa­city to ex­tract and ship crude from the oil sands as quickly or ex­tens­ively as they could if the pipeline were in place.

In a press call Thursday morn­ing to pro­mote the re­port, Si­erra Club Ex­ec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or Mi­chael Brune said that more than a third of oil-sands growth could be de­ferred if the pipeline is re­jec­ted. “Key­stone XL is crit­ic­al to tar-sands ex­pan­sion,” he said. When asked if oil com­pan­ies would be able to move crude by rail or oth­er means if the pro­ject stalls out, Brune replied: “I would say we have seen rail growth in­crease, but it’s also clear that rail growth can’t meet [oil] pro­duc­tion fore­casts.”

Rep­res­ent­at­ives from, En­vir­on­ment Amer­ica, and Oil Change In­ter­na­tion­al also ar­gued that Key­stone XL would dra­mat­ic­ally in­crease car­bon emis­sions. One of the ma­jor points raised dur­ing the call was that oil sands crude ex­trac­tion is more car­bon in­tens­ive than con­ven­tion­al meth­ods of oil drilling.

“The State De­part­ment es­tim­ates that oil from tar sands is 22 per­cent more car­bon in­tens­ive than con­ven­tion­al oil,” Brune said. Adding to this, Steve Kret­zmann, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of Oil Change In­ter­na­tion­al, said: “Of course the pipeline will in­crease car­bon emis­sions. The only thing that’s more cer­tain than that is that it will in­crease big oil’s profits.”

State has been tasked with mak­ing a de­term­in­a­tion as to how Key­stone XL will af­fect the en­vir­on­ment as well as if the pro­ject is in the na­tion­al in­terest. The de­part­ment is not ex­pec­ted to fi­nal­ize its re­com­mend­a­tions un­til later this year or early in 2014.

The pres­id­ent, however, has fi­nal say on wheth­er the pipeline will be ap­proved. Obama has said he will re­ject Key­stone XL if it sub­stan­tially adds to at­mo­spher­ic levels of car­bon di­ox­ide. Rep­res­ent­at­ives of the vari­ous en­vir­on­ment­al groups re­spons­ible for re­leas­ing the re­port circled back to this point throughout the call, say­ing that Obama must re­ject the pipeline be­cause it will in­crease car­bon emis­sions. “Pres­id­ent Obama can move us for­ward on cli­mate and re­ject this pipeline once and for all,” Brune said.

Read the full re­port here

What We're Following See More »
In Dropout Speech, Santorum Endorses Rubio
1 days ago

As expected after earlier reports on Wednesday, Rick Santorum ended his presidential bid. But less expected: he threw his support to Marco Rubio. After noting he spoke with Rubio the day before for an hour, he said, “Someone who has a real understanding of the threat of ISIS, real understanding of the threat of fundamentalist Islam, and has experience, one of the things I wanted was someone who has experience in this area, and that’s why we decided to support Marco Rubio.” It doesn’t figure to help Rubio much in New Hampshire, but the Santorum nod could pay dividends down the road in southern states.

Rubio, Trump Question Obama’s Mosque Visit
1 days ago

President Obama’s decision to visit a mosque in Baltimore today was never going to be completely uncontroversial. And Donald Trump and Marco Rubio proved it. “Maybe he feels comfortable there,” Trump told interviewer Greta van Susteren on Fox News. “There are a lot of places he can go, and he chose a mosque.” And in New Hampshire, Rubio said of Obama, “Always pitting people against each other. Always. Look at today – he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims.”

Cruz Must Max Out on Evangelical Support through Early March
1 days ago

For Ted Cruz, a strong showing in New Hampshire would be nice, but not necessary. That’s because evangelical voters only make up 21% of the Granite State’s population. “But from the February 20 South Carolina primary through March 15, there are nine states (South Carolina, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, and North Carolina) with an estimated white-Evangelical percentage of the GOP electorate over 60 percent, and another four (Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, and Missouri) that come in over 50 percent.” But after that, he better be in the catbird’s seat, because only four smaller states remain with evangelical voter majorities.

Rubio Now Winning the ‘Endorsement Primary’
1 days ago

Since his strong third-place finish in Iowa, Marco Rubio has won endorsement by two sitting senators and two congressmen, putting him in the lead for the first time of FiveThirtyEight‘s Endorsement Tracker. “Some politicians had put early support behind Jeb Bush — he had led [their] list since August — but since January the only new endorsement he has received was from former presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.” Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that fueled by resentment, “members of the Bush and Christie campaigns have communicated about their mutual desire to halt … Rubio’s rise in the polls.”

Sanders: Obama Is a Progressive
20 hours ago

“Do I think President Obama is a progressive? Yeah, I do,” said Bernie Sanders, in response to a direct question in tonight’s debate. “I think they’ve done a great job.” But Hillary Clinton wasn’t content to sit out the latest chapter in the great debate over the definition of progressivism. “In your definition, with you being the gatekeeper of progressivism, I don’t think anyone else fits that definition,” she told Sanders.