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The Facts About the Tar Sands Pipeline

The official State Department process to determine whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is in the “national interest” is grinding along and should wrap up later this year, but that didn’t stop the senators from trying to force the issue last week.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) put forward an amendment to the Senate Democratic budget resolution, which is non-binding, calling for approval of the pipeline. Unfortunately, this amendment was supported by 62 senators, including 17 Democrats (though 3 Democrats have since distanced themselves from their votes).

Since there has been a vivid debate on this issue, often based on misinformation, here are the key facts on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

  • THREE DOZEN JOBS: Proponents of the pipeline often claim it will create tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of jobs. This is simply not true. The most recent State Department assessment, written by contractors hired by the pipeline developer, found that constructing the pipeline would create 3,900 temporary jobs, but just 35 permanent jobs. Yes, you read that right, just 35 jobs. That’s about the same number of people who work in Hoeven’s Senate office.
  • NO BOOST TO ENERGY SECURITY: One of the other main claims is that the tar sands oil from Canada will be a big boost to U.S. energy security. There is, however, absolutely no guarantee that any — let alone all — of the oil will stay in the U.S. once it’s refined into gasoline, diesel and other products at Gulf Coast refineries. The State Department report makes this clear:
  • “There is existing demand for crude oil, particularly heavy crude oil at refiners in the Gulf Coast area, but the ultimate disposition of crude oil transported by the proposed Project, and any refined products produced from that crude oil, would be determined by future market forces.”

    The State Department’s report also made clear that at least some of the Keystone oil will be refined and then exported, in response “to lower domestic gasoline demand and continued higher demand and prices in overseas markets.” Presently, 60 percent of the gasoline produced at these Gulf Coast refineries is exported. The New York Times concluded that the Canadian tar sands oil would travel via pipeline “to refineries on the Gulf Coast. From there, most of the fuel would be sent abroad.

    If there’s no real benefit to our economy and no benefit to energy security, why should we risk our clean air and water and our climate?

    We would be remiss if we didn’t note that the 10 senators who co-sponsored the amendment took more than $8 MILLION from the fossil fuel industry. That works out to 2.5 times more in fossil fuel money for the average senator who co-sponsored it compared to the average senator who did not.

    BOTTOM LINE: The Keystone tar sands pipeline will create just a handful of jobs, won’t improve our energy security, and just isn’t worth the potential cost to our health and our climate.

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