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Susan Casey-Lefkowitz’s Blog

Take 60 seconds to read 6 reasons why America needs to say 'No' to the risky and reckless Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Susan Casey-Lefkowitz

Posted December 18, 2011

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Legislation headed to the House this week gives President Obama 60 days to decide whether to approve construction of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, which would carry the dirtiest oil on the planet mined and drilled from under the forests of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. That’s ridiculous. The Obama administration is on the case and has said it will take another year to conduct a thorough review of the economic, national security and environmental facets of this project. It’s irresponsible for Congress to insist that review be eliminated as a gift to Big Oil. It leaves the administration no choice but to bury this boondoggle for good – and we don’t need 60 days to figure out why.

Take 60 seconds to read 6 reasons why it's time to say ‘No’ to the risky and reckless Keystone XL tar sands pipeline now.

1. The dirtiest oil on the planet.

It takes two tons of tar sands – strip-mined or drilled from the forest floor - to produce a single barrel of bitumen:, a low-grade, high-sulfur crude oil that must be extensively refined to be turned into fuel. Producing bitumen generates three times the carbon pollution of producing conventional North American crude oil. And the additional refining required to turn this crud into fuel only makes matters worse.

2. Killing more jobs than it creates. 

House Republicans claim the pipeline will create tens of thousands of jobs. It won't. The pipeline would create, at most, 6,500 temporary construction jobs, very few of which would be local hires, according to the U.S. State Department. After that, it would leave only "hundreds" of permanent jobs, according to TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build the pipeline. A Cornell University study concludes the pipeline would actually kill more jobs than it would create, by reducing investment in the clean energy economy that already employs 2.7 million Americans.

3. Making us more oil-dependent; not more secure.

The pipeline would terminate at Texas refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico. From there tar sands crude could be exported anywhere in the world. Indeed, that's part of the business plan for some of the companies that have promised to buy the oil. Military experts advise that the Keystone XL pipeline would perpetuate our deadly oil dependence and will not make us more secure.

4. Taking on a risk to benefit oil companies that Canadians themselves are not willing to take.

Even Canada has put the brakes on their new proposed tar sands pipelines (the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline to the west coast and the Trailbreaker tar sands pipeline to the east) due to the need to take more time to listen to public concerns about water and safety. Why should Americans carry a risk that Canadians themselves are not willing to take?

5. Threatening America’s breadbasket and U.S. waterways.

The pipeline would cut through the heart of the Great Plains, land of more than 250,000 ranches and farms, putting our croplands and food producers at risk of oil spills across the American heartland.  Republican leaders want an approval of the pipeline despite the fact that Nebraska has not even settled on a route to avoid the precious Ogallala Aquifer, where millions of Americans get their drinking water. Further, Keystone XL would cross more than 1,500 waterways, from the Yellowstone River in Montana to Pine Island Bayou in Texas, threatening them with  the kind of accident that dumped 42,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone River last summer and put 20 times that much tar sands oil in Michigan's Kalamazoo River in 2010, in a spill that hasn’t been cleaned up yet.

6. Laying waste to Canada’s boreal forest, home of our backyard birds.

Tar sands producers have already destroyed an area the size of Chicago creating an industrial wasteland of toxic sludge dams in the heart of Canada's boreal forest, one of the last truly wild places on Earth and a critical nesting region for America’s backyard birds. If it continues, the total sacrifice area will be as large as the State of Florida.

The pipeline is a conduit to the past. Rather than deepening our addiction to  fossil fuels, it's time we did what presidents reaching back to Richard Nixon have called on us to do and reduce our dangerous dependence on oil.

It's time to invest in wind, solar and other renewable fuels and the energy efficient cars, workplaces and homes of tomorrow.

Go to to take action.

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scott slesingerDec 18 2011 11:03 AM

i believe you understated the jobs. Already millions of dollars has been spent hiring lobbyists to convince members of Congress that the facts are not the facts and that jobs this pipeline will create are in the hundreds of thousands. Second, after the pipeline is built, there will be inevitable spills of this very difficult to clean up mixture. This we require public relations firms to be hired to go on TV and tell print reporters that 1. the spill is minimal (this may require the hiring of an "expert" to go on Fox to say the spill is actually good for the environment) ; 2. That the company will pay to clean it up 3. That new data shows the spill was bigger than we thought but it is under control; 4. God did it; 5. Oh well, that is the cost of oil. 6. Hiring attorneys to counter previous point 2.

There will also be employment by those who have to do the clean up but they are often government employees who will be taken from other duties to work on the clean up.

Michaela MörtelDec 18 2011 12:17 PM

We must do anything against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline! It is so terrible to see how we taint our world. We only have one world!
Please save our world!!!

Jeff CumminsDec 18 2011 03:13 PM

WAKE UP PEOPLE Big oil can not be beaten when it comes to fighting thier political strong hold. 90% of our congress and governers are backed by Big Oil Lobbists money that is a well known fact! They have all ready started the removal of american citisens in the gulf states along the coast to build the worlds larges refineries and no one is doing anything about it because it involves the government and big money. we as americans do not have a voice that we should in government any more. If we had the buy out would not have taken place the way it did. to many people said to give the money to our citisens and recover threw our own economy. In stead we bailed out the most corrupt businesses and raped the american tax payers. this is going to end up with a governmental problem just like the other countries we have invaded. After Sadam Hussens murder( Capture) the last big oil countrythat was not a member of OPEC. they joined and the prices of oil went through the roof giving the oil coorperations more money and bigger leverage. As americans we give billions for exploration and recieve nothing in return for our investment. Big oil continues to make billions in proffit and have become the global governing body to all countries.

How do we fight that? Look in to all of our past and present canadates for president and find one that has not taken backing or lobbiest money to put them in power from big oil. This has been a underhanded closed door plan for years and now it is happening.

Lily CrispDec 18 2011 04:33 PM

I am against anything which harms the planet or its precious wildlife!

siiixDec 18 2011 07:41 PM

make it SAFE... but we NEED that oil... you all will change your mind in a VERY short time when oil is running so short that you cant buy it anymore... at this point i dont even mind that they make money for these last 2 decades , i just dont want to end up sitting in the dark

Ken FormanDec 18 2011 09:39 PM

Please help stop this from happening.

Mary Lee CiminielloDec 18 2011 10:30 PM

Please, please do not even consider the pipe line from Canada to Texas. We need to change or direction to renewable resources. We have a great big fire ball shining down on us everyday. Can't we please spent the resources harnessing that energy?

Judith JaffeDec 18 2011 11:07 PM

I agree with Ms Casey-Lefkowitz's arguments: we must say no to tar sands oil and the Keystone XL Pipeline!

Colin DugglebyDec 19 2011 04:17 AM

siiix - you wear your ignorance ignominiously and appear to be a plant, spouting stupidity in vain; you stick out like a smokestack in the landscape - your anachronistic attitude kills!

siiixDec 19 2011 10:22 AM

yeah mary i wanna see what you guys say if we completely cover the surface of the planet with solar cells and billions of windmills, i grantee you after a decade just about all birds on this planet would be dead... wanna save the planet make population control mandatory and stop poping out babies... there is no viable alternative to oil yet.. noone can afford a half million$ fuelcell cars, and electricity has to come from somewhere not to mention the amount of toxic waist a billion electric cars would create with the batteries... with that said i ride an ebike but i know my science... its not a solution for 100% of the population , we are simply to many no mater what we do

Kelsey ThomsonDec 19 2011 05:46 PM

May I suggest you read Ethical Oil by Ezra Levant, available on Amazon. It is an interesting perspective on what is considered 'dirty oil' and what is considered 'clean oil'.

I truly believe all people should at least consider the human rights implications and the carbon imprint of transporting foreign oil into North America.

siiixDec 19 2011 08:21 PM

look i dont live in the US anymore, if the US dont buy the Canadian oil there will be a lineup of countries who love to buy it.. either way Canada will sell they oil and the planet will use it... now a pipeline seems to me safer and cleaner then transporting the oil with 10000's of trucks and ships... but one way or an other that oil will be burned/used as there is no viable alternative and oil shortage in months away

Kevin HoodDec 19 2011 09:25 PM

First, let me say that I do not support the current mad rush to exploit the tar sands nor do I support the Keystone pipeline. However I have problem with your labelling of the tar sands as the 'dirtiest oil on the planet'.

The September 2010 NRDC report "GHG Emission Factors for High Carbon Intensity Crude Oils" ( shows that the total well-to-wheels carbon emissions of tar sands based oil are somewhere in the range of 15% to 25% higher than for the EPA's 2005 US estimates. The report also shows that fuels created from processes that they refer to as 'Coal to Liquids' (aka coal liquefaction) can have carbon releases 128% higher than the EPA 2005 values - unless you believe in carbon-sequestration and storage or CSS technology where the CO2 from the process is captured, compressed and stored underground where it is expected to remain forever. Personally, CSS makes me really nervous. That makes non-CSS coal-oil significantly 'dirtier' than tar sands-oil if you are only concerned with GHG emissions.

Of course, tar-sands production is ugly in many ways not measured by the GHG numbers. I'm not a coal expert but I suspect that coal extraction (usually through strip-mining) and the handling of the ash slurry once the coal is burnt probably gives the tar-sands a run for their money in the ugly-and-dirty department. Remember the ash pond collapse in Tennessee a few years back (

I have read that 95% of the remaining US fossil fuel reserves are coal. If true, then next time that we get caught by a serious oil shortage in North America, we may very well be stuck choosing between tar-sand-oil or coal-oil. The coal-oil, in my opinion, is more deserving of the title of 'dirtiest oil'.

Mike H.Dec 20 2011 08:13 AM

For a good measuring point of the number of jobs that Keystone would create, look at the number of jobs that other similar length & size pipelines have created. The REX pipeline would be very similar. I doubt that it created 100,000 jobs, for sure.

REX also had a major rupture just a day after starting operations. Ruby Pipeline was completed last summer, but just had a fire & 5 day total shutdown.

The Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (Alyeska) had 7 reportable to OPS incidents in it's first few months of operation, including one of it's pump stations burning down. The NTSB found problems with the layout of one of the control rooms of TAPS. Yet, TAPS was supposed to be state of the art.

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