It’s Only Our Future: Why Keystone XL Pipeline Should Not Be Built


Isabelle Geczy

If you haven’t heard about the Keystone XL Pipeline yet, then you better start listening. Our collective future is at stake.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is an oil pipeline project by Trans Canada that is slated to carry crude oil from the Tar Sands of Alberta, Canada, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. Currently, three phases of the pipeline have been approved, and the first has been constructed. However, the final and largest phase is still currently waiting for approval. Keystone XL has become a highly divisive issue in the United States, thanks in part to the already polarized state of the nation.

Conservatives claim that it is a project that will stimulate the U.S. economy by creating construction jobs and promoting energy independence, while liberals claim it will only cause mass environmental degradation and further exacerbate climate change. Partisan squabbles have their unfortunate place in our country, but Keystone XL should not be one of them. Protecting the environment around us is a bipartisan issue, and stopping Keystone XL should be too. It’s not a fair deal by a long shot; the pipeline will benefit a very small percentage of people, yet it will cause a myriad of grave environmental and economic consequences.

The Tar Sands of Alberta hold some of the dirtiest crude oil on earth. This oil lies underneath old-growth arboreal forest, which will be totally decimated to extract the oil. Deforestation aside, if all the oil extracted is burned, between 50 to 60 parts per million of carbon dioxide will be added to the atmosphere. This addition will push the parts per million of carbon dioxide over 450–the point of no return for climate change, as this is the number at which climate scientists believe the effects of global warming will become irreversible.

Furthermore, the idea that this pipeline will bring energy independence for the U.S. is actually base and unfounded. To even use the tar sands crude, the oil will need to be refined extensively to meet environmental regulations in the U.S. Instead, the oil from the Keystone XL pipeline will most likely be sent to developing nations with less regimented environmental standards, meaning that the pollution will be effectively offshored. In addition, at home in the U.S., the pipeline cuts through a great deal of farmland and more rural but settled areas. An overland disaster would create immense issues of degradation and clean-up for many Americans. As evidenced by the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, transnational oil companies have little incentive and commitment to cleanup. Overall, Keystone XL poses a distinct threat to the climate and environment, and it would be irresponsible to move forward with construction.

Keystone XL is also far from a project that will stimulate the U.S. economy. Rather, the negative economic effects of the pipeline will be felt far sooner than any economic stimulation. While the pipeline is touted as creating American jobs, it is only creating temporary pipefitting and construction jobs that will not give any true financial security to workers. According to the U.S. State Department, Keystone XL will create only 35 permanent jobs–a figure that speaks for itself. In addition, the pipeline will actually hurt American workers as well, for it is slated to go through vast swaths of farmland in the middle of the country. In states like Nebraska, farmers are facing having parts of their land seized by eminent domain laws for pipeline construction, meaning that they will lose arable land they could be profiting off of to the pipeline. Moreover, this isn’t even taking into account any of the effects that pollution or spills could cause to crops and farmland. Keystone XL is a losing proposition for the American people.

As a member of the generation that is set to inherit this earth and the climate crisis, I feel that Keystone XL is an incredibly selfish venture that will only create lasting harm. Currently, President Obama has announced that the review of the final phase of the pipeline will be stalled indefinitely. Due to his actions, the Senate in the past week has attempted to force the approval of the pipeline, without presidential approval. This selfish, shortsighted action would spell devastation for our country. For this reason, Keystone XL has become a defining issue for the climate movement, mobilizing over 60,000 people to march on Washington, D.C. in February 2013 for the largest climate rally in history. I was fortunate enough to be a part of the march, surrounded by so many different groups of people united against a singular issue. Faith-based groups, student groups, senior citizens, farmers and professors—the collective of people was absolutely staggering and spoke to the diverse nature of the American people. Together, we can defeat this project, and prove that people power is still stronger than monetary power. Together, we can ensure that our future will be a reality.