The Keystone XL pipeline is getting a lot of press lately. I didn't know much about the pipeline until I went to a talk by Garth Lenz - a photojournalist who is documenting the devastating changes tar sand oil production does to the landscape. Of course, once I saw the images and heard his talk, I had to learn more.
I learned a bit about tar sands when I started graduate school and took a class called Environmental Chemistry. Back then, the price of oil was low... the cost of extracting oil from tar sands is really high, so at that time I took that class, mining the tar sands in Canada (and North Dakota) was not very economical. Fast forward 10 years and the cost of a barrel of oil is high, high enough that mining tar sands for oil production is more cost-effective. Even though tar sands were being mined decades ago, production has increase substantially over the last 10 years or so. Anyway, all that back story aside, tar sands are an environmental disaster. I get why people are for them... oil from Canada means the US can (potentially) be less dependent on foreign oil. BUT the Keystone XL pipeline, isn't meant to bring MORE oil to the US, the oil will be transported to Texas to be refined and sent overseas. Canada wants to tap the overseas market. More oil to the market in general, though, means more supply and 'maybe' lower prices. The National Defense Resource council shows how it could actually raise prices at the pump. Some of more polarizing arguments about the Keystone XL pipeilne: (Read more...)
There are already thousands of miles of pipeline in the US and oil and gas flow safely through most of them. I think the biggest issue, for me, is that there are ways to make the tar sand production cleaner (dry tailing pits, for example) that should be implemented before the mining of tar sands is allowed to expand in Canada (and the US) and before any new pipelines are allowed to be built on US land.