Killing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline: the gift of hope for a clean energy future

Updated as of December 26

On December 23, the House passed a "tax holiday" extension package that contains an unrelated provision to speed up a decision on the dirty energy Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. How does this help fight climate change? By requiring a decision before the pipeline route is even determined, Republicans have inadvertently given the President no choice but to reject Keystone XL - an unexpected holiday gift that will help us fight climate change and promote clean energy.

It is clear that Republicans and Big Oil hoped to rush approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline after the Administration decided on an additional year of review, including determination of a new route that would avoid the fragile Nebraska Sandhills. But this attempt is going to backfire as the fast-tracking attempt leaves the President no choice but to say that based on available information, the project is not in the national interest and to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

In fact, the arguments for the pipeline are so wildly exaggerated these days that they amount to a scam – a scam of the worst kind that plays on people’s desire for security and need for jobs.

But Keystone XL would not bring energy security. The project would bring tar sands oil from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast where much of it would be destined for export.  Oil companies in the America are exporting ever more of our oil because this is what brings them profits. This means that those who argue that Keystone XL is necessary for U.S. energy security are wrong. Security experts say that the real path to energy security is to kill the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. And even though proponents raise the specter of tar sands going to China if Keystone XL is not built – this is also false. For example, the proposal for the Northern Gateway pipeline that would go to Canada’s west coast is also experiencing at least a year of delay in the face of widespread public concerns – and fierce opposition from British Columbia’s First Nations has many believing that pipeline will never be built. Ironically, that leaves Keystone XL as the tar sands best bet for reaching China – and it leaves Americans bearing all the risk.

Keystone XL is a job killer, not a job creator. The jobs exaggerations of tar sands proponents are well documented. The pipeline will create the normal number of construction jobs that any single project would. This is not a national jobs plan and it is cruel to raise expectations that cannot be met. Rather than dirty energy projects such as the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, America needs to focus on clean energy economic development to build the type of energy-related jobs plan that means true long-term prosperity. As Senator Leahy noted yesterday in response to the new mercury rules:

“With clear and effective Clean Air Act rules, we see tremendous benefits: cleaner air, healthier and more productive citizens, and the creation of thousands of good-paying clean jobs.  Skilled laborers are standing ready to fill the 31,000 short-term construction jobs and 9,000 long-term utility jobs that the Utility Air Toxics Rule will create.  This is about five times more jobs than the controversial Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline would employ.  And unlike the pipeline, these clean air improvements do not gamble with the public’s health and our environment.”

So, thanks Congress for the gift of a provision that will kill a risky and reckless project. People all along the pipeline route and Americans who have suffered in the past year from the violent storms, droughts, and floods that are part of our changing climate all appreciate the gift of one less dirty energy project and the gift of hope for a cleaner energy future.