College Green Magazine: Saved for Now – Environmentalists vs. Keystone XL Pipeline

American environmentalists celebrated a victory last Tuesday, Nov. 18, when the controversial Keystone XL pipeline was struck down in the United States Senate, with a narrowly-missed 59-41 majority in favor of the “biggest carbon bomb on the planet.”

But environmental activists shouldn’t get too comfortable –– Republicans take over the Senate in less than two months, come Jan. 2015.

Louisiana’s Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu is perhaps the nation’s strongest, most vocal supporter of TransCanada’s $8 billion proposed pipeline. Before the Senate vote last week, she confidently asserted a 60-vote support for the approval of Keystone XL.

Tuesday’s final tabulation, one vote short of the number needed to pass, reflects the power of every individual vote. If the Keystone XL proposal had passed, or will pass when the tables turn in the Senate majority early next year, President Obama can still use his executive power to veto the proposal altogether.

Rumors circulating from White House correspondents say that the president strongly opposes such a vast oil-transport endeavor, claiming that the Calgary-based project “doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices.”

Obama’s response to Keystone may as well define his commitment to fight global climate change, as addressed upon his re-election in 2012. International along with these national pressures to combat climate issues peak just a year before the United Nations climate accords summit in Paris 2015.

Keystone’s northern leg, a 1,179-mile stretch of this oil-filled funnel, would transport 830,000 barrels of Alberta tar-sand oil across the U.S. border down to the Gulf Coast, snaking its way through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska. From there, the northern section would meet with the southern portion of the pipeline, already approved and completed earlier this year.

This particular oil derived from Alberta’s infamous tar sands contains a more viscous, or sticky consistency, kind of non-renewable resource. Long-term, this viscous oil can produce 17 percent more carbon dioxide emissions over the course of its entire life cycle, through the processes of extraction, transportation, refining, and burning.

But falling oil prices in the United States may present a problem for our oil-shipping neighbors. According to the International Energy Agency, one out of every four new Canadian oil proposals are at risk if U.S. oil prices continue to fall below $80 a barrel for an extended period of time. Even though this narrowly-missed proposal for a North American oil chute has been cut to Canada, environmental activists should be warned –– neither TransCanada nor Sen. Landrieu have given up the fight.

In a statement, TransCanada warns the White House and environmentalists that the company has “no plans to back down.”

Keep a close watch as the calendar flips and Congress starkly opposes Obama’s administration –– Keystone XL may still sever America’s Midwest, eventually.

This story also appears on College Green Magazine

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