Is Keystone good, bad, or both?
Oh oil, we love you, we hate you, we fiend for you, then we reject you, only to try to smuggle you from Canada. The Keystone Pipeline project, which is already partially complete, could one day create a transnational pipeline from northern Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico, but the list of issues, from environmental, to oil dependency, to costs, and profits could make it impossible to ever complete the project.
According to the Institute for 21st Century Energy, a part of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Keystone XL project, which is a phase of expansion of the current Keystone pipeline, would cost a staggering $7 billion dollars. That is only part of the story though, the institute also projects that the pipeline, which would funnel 700,000 barrels of crude oil from Canada to various places in the U.S., would generate 20,000 manufacturing and construction jobs plus $20 billion in benefits to the U.S. economy.
So what’s not to like?
Robert Redford has a couple things to say about that. The well-known actor and environmental advocate is concerned about a particularly controversial extraction process called tar sands extraction. This kind of oil doesn’t come shooting out of the ground raining “black gold,” rather, it has to be mined and extracted.
And what of the 20,000 new jobs that are generated in the U.S. from the new crude oil and those communities?
Some studies have shown that workers and even nearby residents exposed to the chemicals involved in crude oil can have serious effects. According to sciencecorps.org:
“even brief exposure to crude oil can irritate and damage skin, cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, confusion, difficulty breathing and other health problems. Inhaling crude oil mist can cause chemical pneumonitis, a serious lung disease.”
But not everyone agrees that tar sands are as bad as they are portrayed. Technology continues to change the extraction process, looking at ways to diminish the large strip mining process that can level forests and be costly. “In-situ” harvesting for example, uses steam to allow for easier extraction, and is less invasive.
America needs jobs, needs to veer from Middle Eastern oil, and needs to start aggressively combating man-made climate change. Constructing the pipeline does not mean we have to accept the damaging affects of tar sands.
Instead, assuming that $20 billion will be added to our economy, we can invest more money in advancing technology that would allow cleaner extraction, we can guarantee substantial health care coverage for local communities affected by crude oil, and decrease the need for oil by investing at least as much in clean energy as we due crude oil.
Photo Credit: Tar Sands Blockade/Flikr