The Keystone XL Pipeline: Nobody Won

XL Pipeline

Left, Right, Left, Right…

It’s been a long battle. More than five years of bickering by both sides. A Republican-led Congress took office almost two months ago, and they, along with many Democrats, made the XL Pipeline one of their top priorities. Meanwhile, almost no other issues have been discussed, virtually no other legislation has passed. It’s no secret that the approval rating of Congress has hovered around 12 to 15 percent for sometime, and rightfully so.


Blame It on the Greens, Blame It on Obama

Green groups have been anti-XL from the start. They took issue with, and a stance against, the XL Pipeline and never relented. They cited environmental issues, including potential spills and the fact that the pipeline would pass through active seismic areas and pristine nature preserves. Some environmental concerns are legitimate, some not so much. The Greens also reminded us that there are already transcontinental pipelines in use, and the XL Pipeline would actually cause an overcapacity of pipelines from Canada — oil pipelines to the U.S. may have run nearly half-empty.

The greens picketed, they started petitions and they voiced their facts and opinions. On the other side, supporters of the pipeline cited mostly job creation. When all was said and done, the battle ended in a veto. Shame on the greens and shame on Obama — it’s all their fault — or at least that’s the picture being painted.


The XL pipeline – better than transporting via railroads?

I added this section after reading comments, so I did some research. It seems like there’s this notion that Warren Buffet (railroad tycoon) and railroad executives were partially behind the XL Pipeline veto. I thought it was at least plausible, but I found no evidence. In fact, I found that over the last few years up to present day, railroad execs have stated on earnings calls and publicly that the KXL would not have affected their crude transport business via rail – not domestically or transcontinentally. It truly appears as though the pipeline would have simply increased overall oil imports rather than putting a dent in transports by rail. This seems to be a matter of a few entities creating a market for tar sand oil that’s not necessary – at least in terms of importing from Canada to the US. As for building more domestic pipelines for long haul transport, that’s another story. Some might argue that less fossil fuels are a better solution rather than more pipelines and railcars.


What about safety and environmental issues when comparing pipelines to railcars?  The fact is, even with recent railcar accidents, pipelines have a far more disastrous record.  One spill in North Dakota released almost 1,000,000 gallons of oil before a leak was detected.  If you’re interested in learning more about this subject, then go here.


What Was All the Fuss about, And Was It Worth It?

The XL Pipeline would bring tar sand oil from Hardisty, Alberta to Roxana, IL to Cushing, OK and ultimately to Houston and Port Arthor, TX. Oil from tar sands must be important, right? Not so much. The fact is, tar sand oil is difficult to extract and requires a lot of energy. The transport and refining of tar sand oil only makes economic sense when oil is at least $75 to $100 per barrel (depending upon stage of production), and that’s just above a break even price. With current oil prices hovering around $50 and the fact that over the last 5 years, crude oil prices have averaged under $90 per barrel (and rarely broke over $100 per barrel), you’d think the XL Pipeline has been a waste of time. You might be right. The fact is, if it were constructed, it probably wouldn’t be bringing much oil from Alberta, Canada anyway. So what is the XL Pipeline really about other than posturing between those on the Left and Right side of political parties?


Jobs, Jobs and More Jobs

I’m in the business of jobs and have been for 15 years. I like jobs. Jobs help the economy. Jobs are vital. Jobs are the most important thing to consider when making any decision, right? Of course not. Jobs for the sake of jobs should not be the leading policy issue. For example, increasing coal production would create more jobs in the coal industry — should we then increase coal production solely to create jobs? The asbestos industry at one time supported jobs — should we have continued to produce asbestos just to save jobs? I know, asbestos and a pipeline don’t have anything in common, and I’m not equating the dangers of asbestos to dangers of a pipeline — it’s just an example to make a point. Jobs alone should not be the leading consideration when making decisions.

Here is where I need your help. Share this post and comment below, and please share specific articles related to just how many temporary and permanent jobs would be created by the XL Pipeline. Going by TransCanada’s and the U.S. State Department’s numbers, the range seems to be 2,000 to 9,000 temporary jobs (up to 42,000 supported jobs at a peak) and 35 to 50 full-time jobs including pipeline inspectors; however, the temporary jobs would only last one to two years.  The supported jobs number seems to be widely contested and unsubstantiated, mainly due to the fact that the steel and other materials would come from factories that wouldn’t need to hire many additional workers — many need the business just to satisfy their existing workforce. Also, even with the 42,000 temporary jobs number, it’s believed that only half (per TransCanada) would be in the US. So, even if inflated, that’s still only 20,000 temporary supported jobs at a peak over one to two years.


Nobody Won

Back to the title. Whether you are on the Left or Right, a Green and/or a supporter of the XL Pipeline — nobody won — and virtually nobody would have won even if the pipeline was approved. At the end of the day, the pipeline would have had little effect, if any at all, on oil prices. No matter what side you’re on, we should all be disgusted with Congress and their inability to function properly. Really, the only ones that wanted the XL Pipeline to begin with were members of Congress, special interest groups, and a few oil & gas companies — and they’d only have hired up to 50 more full-time workers.

To the average person reading this, nothing was accomplished, and even if approved, it would have done nothing for nearly every American. Taxes, education, immigration, welfare reform — all other issues have taken a back seat to bickering from both sides — two months worth of congressional sessions. At the end of the day, it really makes me wonder — are we the people really being represented by our Congress?

Help me refine and complete this article. Please share with your network and post your comments with supporting info below.

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In 2009, Tom founded Renewable Search Group, an executive level retained search firm. RSG represents clean technology companies in the solar, wind, energy efficiency, smart building, smart grid and energy storage markets.Prior to 2000 and before Google, Tom was a hands-on techie that configured LAN/WAN data networks and built websites with a text editor. He entered the energy industry in 2000, as an engineering recruiter for utility-centric communications equipment. In 2002, he began marketing residential rooftop wind turbines, and by 2005, he was recruiting once again for the telecom and cleantech industries with leading firm.Tom lives in CT and enjoys DIY solar projects, sustainable living, bodybuilding and raising hens, which helps support his protein addiction. His 3 kids drive his desire to help support renewable energy and sustainability.

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