While the news was that George W. Bush was the keynote speaker at a conference put on by a group that wants to convert Jews to Christianity received more national and international attention, the 43rd president made made another prominent stop at a conference last week. Among the topics he covered was the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, though Mr. Bush could not see why the pipeline was ever even a question.
On Thursday, he sat down to speak to more than 2,500 oil and gas industry leaders at the DUG East conference in Pittsburgh, PA. The conference focuses on unconventional oil and gas extraction.
“I do think we’re underperforming economically. And I think the reason why is there’s not enough focus on private-sector growth. I think the goal of the country ought to be ‘how do we grow the private sector? That ought to be the laser-focus of any administration. And therefore, once that’s the goal, an issue like Keystone pipeline becomes a no-brainer. If private-sector growth is the goal, and Keystone pipeline creates 20,000 new jobs, build the damn thing.”
The comment elicited a burst of applause from the 2,500 attendees of the luncheon.
What is a no-brainer is the likelihood that the Keystone XL pipeline would be close to finished by now if the 43rd president had been elected to a third or fourth term. What would that mean?
After an initial 3,900 jobs (not the 20,000 Bush said), the pipeline would have resulted in 39 permanent jobs once built.
830,000 barrels of tar sands oil would be flowing through the American Midwest every day, and likely suffering leaks and spills if the troubled construction of the southern leg is any guide. Tar sands burns dirtier than conventional oil, causing 27 million more metric tons of carbon dioxide every year. It would cause the emission of 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year — which is more than 37.7 million cars or 51 coal plants. When tar sands oil is refined, it results in a byproduct called petcoke. Petcoke is exported for use as a coal substitute and is cheaper than coal, so tar sands does not just bring more oil-based greenhouse gas emissions, it also encourages even dirtier pollution. The pumpstations that would move the oil would emit 4.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, which is similar to the emissions of another coal plant.
If lower gas prices across the country are the goal, building the pipeline will likely make things worse. Two reports earlier this year found that refineries in the Midwest are currently experiencing a glut of supply which means lower gas prices for the region. Building a pipeline down to Texas would reduce supply and cause prices to jump 20-40 cents in the region.
The United States is now exporting more oil than it imports. So a pipeline that is supposed to boost domestic energy security by bringing more oil into the United States is less and less necessary. The real “no-brainer” is that the Keystone XL pipeline is a way to get Canadian oil out of the United States, not into it.