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Obama Rejects the Keystone XL Pipeline and Protects America's National Interest

Frances Beinecke

Posted January 18, 2012

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The Obama Administration has rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for tar sands oil. This decision puts the health and safety of the American people above the interests of Big Oil. And it confirms President Obama’s commitment to combating the threats of climate change, air pollution, and oil addiction.

President Obama’s decision represents a victory of truth over misinformation. Here in the United States, oil companies trumpet false job claims and promise a secure supply of oil. But in the Canadian press, oil companies talk freely about using the pipeline to export oil to Asian markets and charge more money for the oil they do sell in the U.S.

The facts reveal this pipeline was never in America’s national interest. It would have endangered our people, our air, our water, and our lands for the benefit of oil companies. The Obama administration rejected the Keystone XL pipeline for all the right reasons.

This project would have endangered American communities. It would have cut through six states, across hundreds of miles of crop and rangeland, and over the Ogallala Aquifer—the source of fresh water for millions of Americans. Pipeline safety regulators have admitted they cannot guarantee current standards are strong enough to ensure tar sands pipelines can be built and operated safely.

Tar sands oil is highly corrosive, and pipelines that carry it have proven more prone to spills than those for conventional crude. One tar sands pipeline operated by the same company behind the Keystone XL project experienced 35 leaks in the U.S. and Canada its first year of operation and had to be temporarily shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Building and operating this risky project would have created few Americans jobs. Supporters like to say the pipeline could generate “tens of thousands” of jobs. But representatives of TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, said in sworn testimony the project will only generate “hundreds” of permanent jobs. The State Department thinks the number of permanent jobs is closer to 20.

The State Department also estimated the pipeline would create between 5,000 and 6,000 temporary construction jobs. That’s a typical amount for a major construction project, but it is not a national jobs plan.

Claims that the pipeline would have delivered a secure supply of oil to America were also wildly overblown. The Keystone XL pipeline would have been an export pipeline. By rerouting tar sands oil out of the Midwest and into the “Foreign Trade Zone” in Port Arthur, Texas, companies could ship it anywhere in the world. Indeed, companies get incentives to export from there.

In Congressional testimony, TransCanada refused to support a condition that the oil in Keystone XL would be used in the United States. Meanwhile, by diverting Canadian oil that would otherwise go to the Midwest, TransCanada has admitted the pipeline would increase the price Americans pay for Canadian oil by $3.9 billion.

This project wouldn’t have delivered lower gas prices or good jobs, but it would have helped accelerate climate change. Extracting tar sands oil produces three times as much global warming pollution as conventional crude.

Last year, America experienced 14 disastrous weather events that created over a billion dollars in damages each—and all-time record. Scientists have already linked extreme weather to climate change and say more devastating events are headed our way. We can no longer ignore the enormous cost of burning dirty fuels like tar sands oil.

By rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama is helping move America down a cleaner, safer path.

He is also listening to the public outcry over this project.  From farmers and ranchers in Nebraska to more than 10,000 people who gathered at the White House this fall, Americans have registered their opposition to Keystone XL. Today’s decision shows President Obama heard our voices over the din of industry’s PR campaign.

The oil industry’s allies in Congress will no doubt continue to lobby for this project. But NRDC will continue to fight back, because we know the White House has made the right decision for America today and we know that no version of the Keystone XL pipeline will serve our national interest.



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Taryn HopeyJan 18 2012 06:01 PM

It is not over for us.... So now its a Global issue to stop Canada from destroying mothernature in their country... They have plans into 2030 with the Tar Sands wether U.S. is involve or not. Their indigenous people are eating contaminated fish for their water in the rivers are being polluted and, there are more people dying of cancer from this. Please see this video:

TEDxVictoria - Garth Lenz: Provincial Distance in a Tar Nation
January 09, 2012
17 min....

and please view this:
Oil in Eden: The Battle to Protect Canada's Pacific Coast
16;46 min.
regarding Canada shipping oil in the Pacific ocean and, the ecology that it will affect.
Thank you for your support and please let everyone you know about this issue.

edward berggrenJan 18 2012 06:13 PM

From one of those conservationists that actually does something every day to better our natural environment and who also represents a good number of others I hope you are looking forward to walking to work.
For a country that holds the free market ideal so dearly to its heart your views seem more red than red white and blue.

DENCOJan 19 2012 11:50 AM

Dear Francis Beinecke, I applaud yesterday’s victory on the Keystone project. I know your organization was helpful in this victory. I do not understand how you can paint this administration in such a positive light. You talk about misinformation from “big oil” and yet you do not speak the facts. The facts are the administration DID NOT REJECT the keystone pipeline. If it was “rejected” the administration would not be opening the door to a new permit. He could have rejected the pipeline in September 2008 when the application was received based on the environmental destruction in Canada and the high CO2 energy source. Two years from now you will probably be standing with another 10,000 people encircling the white house protesting the pipeline again. There will be rigs moving into the Artic to begin drilling and ozone standards have been rejected. Our nation is far from having a sustainable responsible energy policy.

Josh MogermanJan 19 2012 02:30 PM


Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I'd remind you we get well over a million barrels of oil from Canada every day. That won't change. It will likely increase via the existing pipeline system.

I'd also remind you that the oil from Keystone XL was not intended for your gas tank or mine. That oil was slated for refineries in tax-free international business zones to be processed into fuel for international markets. This is an export pipeline that would make little impact on the oil consumed in the United States---unless you happen to live in the middle of the country, like me, where it will immediately increase gas prices.

Despite the rhetoric, those are the twin aims of the pipeline: send carbon-heavy tar sands oil to international markets and increase oil prices for Midwestern refineries by eliminating a pipeline bottleneck. It is certainly understandable why Big Oil would push for those things, but I don't think they are in the national interest.

Bobbi MongeauJan 19 2012 03:38 PM

Boehner was whinin' about it already ... money outta his pocket ... turnin' it on Prez O that he is not creating more jobs ... at what price? Boehner's threat is "this is NOT the LAST we'll hear about this!!!" He's already pocketed $ and was wanting more from this travesty of rapin' the land. Sure, why not set us up to leak more oil into the soil. Boehner whines as the oil and gas industry has given nearly $12m in direct contributions to members of Congress in the last two years! Am surprised we didn't see tears ... again! 1,711 mile pipeline? Klink (Colonel?) who monitored the construction of the first Keystone pipeline where he oversaw construction at the pump stations ... there has been problems on that line, already spilling more than a dozen times ... and saw to it that it was covered up. Now, at the insistence of his kids, there are wanting him to "tell the truth!"

Tom HannaganJan 20 2012 11:42 AM

So, it's tar sands crude that is the issue. Not whether it's moved by pipeline or other less efficient means. Why not focus on tar sands pollution rather than the trivialities of leaks and even jobs?

myron H BlumenfeldJan 20 2012 01:41 PM

Thank God for the NRDC. I am so proud of your work and I am proud to be able to support you

Mary FinneranJan 21 2012 03:52 PM

It's time for the big name enviros, including the NRDC to wake up. Obama will likely permit a pipeline within a month of being re-elected. There is nothing in his rhetoric that stops this from happening in the future. This man from Ohio says it much better than I can: 2012/01/19/ the-great- pipeline- scam/

Please stop the ravishing of our planet for real. Thank you.

anthonyJan 24 2012 10:24 AM

The truth is that new jobs are needed more than ever and this project could really boost the economy not only in the US but also in Canada. I think Obama just passed up this chance and other countries such as China will most certainly avail themselves of the opportunity to benefit from the Canadian natural resources instead of us. According to the latest reports the energy sector in Canada has recently been on the rise and it may contribute a great deal to the economic recovery in the country in upcoming years.

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