Keystone XL Will Unleash Tar Sands Expansion Causing Widespread Impacts

As President Obama recently set a high profile marker to review the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline based on its climate impacts, new analysis reveals that rapid acceleration of tar sands expansion tripling production by 2030 from 2010 levels will have shocking impacts to the environment and climate.  The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is widely regarded as essential to further these expansion plans.  For this reason, we know that Keystone XL fails the climate test and the President should reject the pipeline.

The tar sands industry has just released new numbers with plans to grow production significantly. New analysis from the Pembina Institute quantifies the wide ranging impacts that the tripling of expansion will have on water supply, pollution generated, air quality, and levels of carbon pollution.  As just one example, there will be a 250 percent increase in carbon pollution as a result of these expansion plans because tar sands oil is significantly more greenhouse gas intensive than the conventional oil.  But despite these dangers, the oil industry plans to increase tar sands production to an all-time high of more than 9.4 million barrels per day.

Tar sands expansion impacts to air, water, and climate

The tar sands industry’s expansion plans includes projects that have already been approved by the Canadian government—which alone would more than triple tar sands production, from approximately 1.5 million barrels per day in 2010 to 5.2 million barrels a day by 2030.  This does not include more than 4 million barrels per day of new projects that tar sands companies have applied for or announced.

Tar sands expansion production plans

The growth of tar sands production, however, is limited by the availability of pipelines like Keystone. There is overwhelming evidence pointing to how Keystone XL is a driver for the expansion of tar sands and therefore also a major driver to expand global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Arguments that tar sands expansion will occur with or without Keystone XL are unfounded.  So there is little doubt that Keystone XL will directly lead to a significant increase in greenhouse gas emissions. For this reason alone, President Obama should reject the pipeline. 

But climate change impacts from the pipeline are only one of the many significant issues that makes Keystone XL not in America’s national interest.   The prospect of a spill from Keystone XL is likely and would have massive impacts to water resources affecting millions of people across America’s heartland.  And the benefits of Keystone XL are vastly overstated.  The Keystone XL pipeline is an export pipeline which will not benefit America’s energy security creating far less jobs than claimed by the oil industry.  The evidence is clear.  Keystone XL is not in America’s national interest and it is time to reject the pipeline once and for all. 

About the Authors

Danielle Droitsch

Senior Policy Analyst, Canada Project

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