Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Divisive oil: Keystone XL oil pipeline route

US President Barack Obama faces an unenviable ultimatum: actively encourage the contemporary ideologies surrounding climate change, or preserve and expand the oil industry and US employment opportunities. The expansion of the oil industry results in further dependency on a non-renewable and fossil intensive energy source – catalysing the greenhouse effect. The topical issue of climate and energy is pressing for politicians and their agendas; the development of the 1,700 mile Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to Texas Gulf Coast could redefine Obama’s green agenda. The project is estimated to cost $7 billion if permitted to materialise, and as a trans-national project much of the funding would be foreign investment. However, the cost is not limited to monetary means – sustainability measures must be acknowledged. 

(CBC Radio Canada News 2013: the southern leg of XL pipeline, Texas)

Although Obama has famously actively supported the reduction of emissions of cars and power plants, his decision on the XL pipeline will serve to outline the prioritising of the climate change agenda whilst President. Although fossil fuels are reliable for high energy output, their life span is finite - an unreliable source in sustainability terms. Eighteen well respected scientists have offered their opinion on the expansion to the President: do not accept. Obama’s inaugural explicitly accepted the challenges posed by global warming by recognising the need to expand solar and wind power; however, he denied sole reliability upon these, suggesting further expansion of coal, natural gas and oil industries. The heat-intensive oils and extraction uses more heat than traditional oil sources. 

The Calgary-based TransCanada pipeline was first proposed in 2008. It has been delayed for 5 years, with applications blocked twice. However, with over half the US senate approving the pipeline, which would travel though Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, it seems inevitable that the President will favour the security of American jobs over his environmental pledge. If disapproved, the oil will be transported and used by China, the world’s largest carbon emission country.  (CBC Radio Canada News 2013 and BBC News 2013)
Obama’s decision is pending - to be continued...

By Ellen Kane, Action 21 volunteer