The Majority Of Americans Want Keystone XL To Have Less Greenhouse Gas Emissions

CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez

President Barack Obama arriving at the TransCanada Stillwater Pipe Yard in Cushing, Okla. TransCanada is the company vying for approval of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

The controversial plan to send 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil flowing through the American Midwest every day is supported by a majority of Americans, but only if the company in charge agrees to reduce harmful carbon dioxide emissions, according to a poll released Thursday.

Bloomberg National polled more than 1,000 American adults aged 18 or older from Dec. 6 to 8 to ask them their opinions on a variety of topics including TransCanada Corp.’s Keystone XL pipeline. Of those polled, 56 percent said the proposed pipeline was an opportunity to reduce the nation’s dependence on oil imports, but 58 percent said Canada should introduce a plan to reduce carbon dioxide emissions beforehand.

The poll results mimic concerns of President Obama, who in June said he would recommend the State Department not approve the project if it exacerbated the problem of carbon pollution, adding that its impact on the climate also would be “absolutely critical” to determining whether the project moved forward.


CREDIT: Bloomberg National

Extracting and refining tar sands oil is much more energy intensive than conventional oil according to the EPA, which said that greenhouse gas emissions from Canadian oil sands crude would be approximately 82 percent greater than the average crude refining. Petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands, causes even more greenhouse gas pollution. A July study by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that over its 50-year life, the tar sands oil from the Keystone XL pipeline would add 1.2 billion metric tons more carbon pollution than if it carried conventional crude — more than every car in the United States releases into the air annually.

An industry research firm attempted to debunk that claim with a study predicting that construction of the pipeline would have “no material impact” greenhouse gas emissions, but it was later discovered that the research firm that conducted the study had relied on a focus group on greenhouse emissions from oil sands, which included several oil companies and trade associations with a direct stake in the pipeline. These included the American Petroleum Institute, BP Canada, Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Chevron Canada Resources, ConocoPhillips In Situ Oil Sands Alliance, Shell Canada, Suncor Energy Inc., and even the pipeline’s owner, TransCanada.

“Our analysis clearly demonstrates that the Keystone XL pipeline would dramatically boost the development of dirty tar sands oil, significantly exacerbating the problem of climate pollution,” Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of NRDC’s international program, said. “Approve it, and our children’s future is jeopardized. Deny it, and we’ll avoid sending over a billion tons of additional carbon pollution into the air.”

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline could have serious impacts on wildlife, natural resources and visitors’ experiences in national parks, the Department of the Interior said in August. Keystone XL’s proposed route would cross five trails within the National Trail System as well as lands that may drain into two nationally-managed rivers, the DOI said, noting that a spill from the pipeline could “severely impact critical habitat for migratory birds that spend part of their life cycle on Department managed lands.”