Problems With the Keystone XL Pipeline

Exporting dirty fuel to the word market, transporting corrosive tar sands oil, and potentially contaminating sensitive habitats are just a few problems with the Keystone XL pipeline that citizens, environmentalists and U.S. politicians are debating.

Keystone XL Pipeline Protesters

Many protestors around the United States are voicing concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline.

Photo courtesy TarSandsAction/Milan Ilnyckyj

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Oil from tar sands is particularly corrosive and, therefore, problematic to transport safely by pipeline. A proposed oil pipeline that would transect six U.S. states in order to transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast has cleaved its way into the center of U.S. political debate about the wisest course for future energy policy.

If approved, the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline would carry about 1 million barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas, crossing sensitive bioregions such as Nebraska’s Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer. Although TransCanada, the company heading up the project, touts the pipeline’s potential to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and to create jobs, opponents warn a massive influx of crude would push the United States to export dirty fuel to the world market, do nothing to increase U.S. energy security, and sustain fewer than 40 permanent jobs, all while threatening the environment. Whether to approve Keystone XL falls to President Obama, who, at press time, has yet to make a decision. To read the project’s Environmental Impact Statement, which provides detailed discussion of problems with the Keystone XL pipeline along with public comments, visit the U.S. Department of State Keystone XL Pipeline Project.

Kale Roberts is an assistant editor of MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine. His interests include renewable energy, real food and sustainable rural development. You can find him on .