Over the past couple years, many people have debated on whether or not the Keystone XL Pipeline extension should be built. In 2005, TransCanada introduced a pipeline that would transport crude oil from Canada to the United States. The pipeline was to run from Alberta to oil refineries down in Illinois. Soon after in 2008, TransCanada made a proposal to extend the pipeline further to Texas. This is known as the Keystone XL. It is being added to the existing system to make a more direct route and so oil is able to go through storage banks in Baker, Montana. The oil being extracted comes from northern Alberta named the oil sands. It contains sand, water, clay, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil . To extract the oil from this mixture is a very demanding process. In recent years, the pipeline has been a contentious topic in the oil industry. Even with the long strides oil companies have taken to make their methods more environmentally friendly, concerns still arise from both sides. Some see the positive perspective considering the amount of jobs that will be created and the economic contributions it will have for both Canada and the United States. Despite these factors, many believe the effects the pipeline on the environment are downplayed by corporations involved in the construction of the pipeline. It is widely known in Canada and USA that oil prices are rising as well as the demand for it. Nonetheless, when we are faced with having something as damaging as a diluted bitumen pipeline, the Keystone XL pipeline should not be authorized because it can be very threatening to our environment, the economy, and most importantly, our health.
Tar sands are one of the dirtiest fuel sources in the world. When it contaminates the air, it not only affects the wildlife in the area, but the people who are using this air. With something as large as the Keystone XL Pipeline being built, there are going to be a multitude of issues that will come with it. The pipeline extension will be 1938 kilometres from Hardisty, Alberta all the way down to Steele City, Nebraska. It is expected to transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil into the United States daily. If the Keystone XL goes active, it would be the equivalent of adding 5.6 million cars to U.S roadways daily(Friends of the Earth Organization). The members of this organization are experts on how to reduce pollution and conduct research in how to make the planet more “green”. Additionally, not only will tar sands oil contaminate our air, but it will also affect the water we use daily. Since 2010, there has been no shortage of worries that a spill could pollute the air, harm critical water supplies, and also harm migratory birds. The original route plan crosses the Sandhills, a large wetland in Nebraska, and the Ogalla Aquifer, one of the largest reserves of freshwater in the world. The Aquifer spans 8 states, supports $20 billion in agriculture, and provides 2.3 million people drinking water. Critics firmly state that a major leak would wreck the drinking water and devastate the mid-western U.S economy. Dr John Stansbury, University of Nebraska professor, conducted an independent analysis and concluded that “We can expect no fewer than 2 major spills per state during the 50 year projected lifetime of the pipeline. These spills could release over 180 thousand barrels of oil each. Another risk Friends of the Earth members said was the amount of tailing ponds created by the extraction process. To extract one barrel of oil, it takes three barrels of water and they usually extract around 2 million barrels of water in one day. Tailing ponds result from this extraction process. They contain many toxic chemicals that can possibly end up making its way to nearby ecosystems. Carrying on, the building of the pipeline will most likely increase global warming. Fossil fuels emit greenhouse gases which damage the ozone layer. The pipeline will increase the amount of oil being imported which ultimately leads to an increase of consumption in the country. Therefore, it is visible that the Keystone XL Pipeline will lead to increased global warming, pollute the air, and harm critical water supplies in the surrounding areas.
Another effect of the Keystone XL Pipeline construction is that it will be very costly to Canada and USA’s economy. Starting off, pay many new costs of the environmental damages brought by the increased use of tar-sand. Building the KXL pipeline and opening the tar sands will negatively impact economies. Burning recoverable tar sands oil will increase the earth’s temperature by 2 degrees Celsius which could permanently cut the U.S GDP by 2.5%. Also, the same fossil fuel companies pushing to the KXL pipeline have been cutting jobs. BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron reduced their workforce by 11,200 employees in the U.S alone, within a 5 year span. Rather than focusing on a project that will only generate 35 jobs after it’s been built, Canada and the United States should be focused on making homes and business more energy efficient and expanding the clean energy economy. Also, there are plenty of pipelines that need to be fixed. Construction workers can be given jobs by fixing or rebuilding the natural gas transmission system. This will create jobs and cut carbon emissions. Some companies are having doubts because the extraction of tar sands is so expensive that oil prices need to stay over $100 a barrel to make the pipeline worth it.
Most importantly, the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline extension will negatively affect our health. As said before, the pipeline will run dangerously close to drinking water. In the states of Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska alone, the pipeline will cross over 1,000 rivers, lakes, and streams, without mentioning the many wetlands. In those three states alone, farms support 110,000 jobs which produced $41.6 billion worth of food in 2012. If the water is contaminated, it could contaminate the food produced by these farms as well. For years, National Nurses United has opposed Keystone, saying that the extraction of tar sands oil has resulted in spikes of cancer, and other effects like a spike in the people in nearby communities who develop asthma. This oil also leaves behind toxic pools of chemicals which are poisoning lakes and rivers like the Athabasca river. This oil could affect people from Canada and all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. In June 2017, a Saskatchewan pipeline leaked more than 90,000 litres of oil into the river near Maidstone. The spill forced Prince Albert and many other communities to shut down their pipeline. Many other spills like this will take place if the Keystone XL Pipeline is built. These spills can pollute waterways and critical underground aquifers putting drinking water and crops at a risk.
Although I see the points that the opposing and supporting side have made, I believe the bad outweighs the good on the KXL Pipeline. I think that we owe it to this planet and future generations to come up with different means to provide us with the energy we need. The toxic chemicals that come from tar sands could pollute the water and create premature death. Instead of spending money to build the pipeline they should use the money to find cleaner sources of energy. As inhabitants of the earth, it is our responsibility to preserve and protect it. Building the Keystone XL pipeline would go against that philosophy.