On January 19, 2012, the Obama administration rejected TransCanada’s proposed construction of the Keystone XL; a 1,700-mile pipeline that would bring approximately 700,000 barrels of oil from Canadian tar sands to the U.S. Golf Coast. Obama’s rejection was largely inspired by the “rushed and arbitrary” deadline to make a decision. Although the pipeline is currently halted, TransCanada will have the ability to reapply for a permit if the company develops an alternative route that does not cross over the Nebraska Sandhills, an ecologically sensitive habitat.
Proponents of the Keystone XL have urged the construction of the pipeline because of the alleged positive impact it will have on U.S. energy security. The pipeline would have transported almost as much oil as the U.S. is currently importing from Saudi Arabia each year— which many have claimed would reduce vulnerability to rising prices and unpredictable supply. Although having a consistent, reliable energy source is a vital to the U.S., continuing to import oil detracts our country away from relying on renewable, domestic energy sources that will sustain over time. Also, because the Keystone XL will give the tar sands industry access to the Gulf Coast market where oil prices are higher, the pipeline would potentially increase the price of oil in the U.S.
Another benefit that proponents are stressing is the jobs that the pipeline will create. A series of independent studies have been conducted projecting that 20,000 jobs would be created due to the oil supplies that the Keystone XL will make available. While many jobs may be created as a result of this project, investment in clean, domestic energy sources also holds great potential to boost the U.S. economy. According to the Brooking Institution, more than 2.7 million people in the U.S. are working in clean energy jobs. That’s more than the entire fossil fuel industry. Also, clean vehicle manufacturers have created more than 151,000 jobs directly and hundreds of thousands indirectly— all while saving consumers billions of dollars on fuel costs.
Greater Lansing Area Clean Cities’ mission is to decrease dependence on oil by accelerating the availability of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles. Keystone XL contradicts national goals related to energy independence and the future of transportation technologies. The proposed pipeline inhibits the growing domestic alternative fuel industry by sending mixed market signals. If TransCanada reapplies for approval of Keystone XL with a new route, the federal government would be wise to remain consistent with their support of alternative fuels and advanced vehicles, rather than approving destructive projects that contradict national energy security goals.