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Keystone Pipeline Will Impact Climate Change, State Department Reports

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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An oil sands refinery in Alberta. © David Biello

How much can one oil pipeline affect global climate change? That’s one of the fundamental questions probed by a new, final environmental impact assessment released January 31 by the U.S. State Department. At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 730,000 barrels a day of oil from western Canada, mostly from Alberta’s tar sands, but also 100,000 barrels per day of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. Much of that oil is already being produced and is being transported by other means, such as railroads.

The impact of a single pipeline in North America could hypothetically be trivial given that climate change is a global problem. Earth’s atmosphere does not distinguish between an individual molecule of carbon dioxide wafting up from the U.S. Midwest versus one spewed in the Middle East. And the State Department stands by its earlier assessment that Canada’s tar sands will be mined and melted whether or not Keystone XL ever gets built.

In fact, the State Department finds in the new assessment that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline is the most environmentally friendly option compared to other transportation alternatives, such as railroads and tanker ships. Despite the significant (and unique, due to the oil’s characteristics) risk of spills, a pipeline like Keystone XL is a safer, cheaper and more environmentally benign way of transporting oil, the assessment concludes.

But the State Department also received more than 1.5 million letters commenting on its initial draft of this environmental impact statement released in 2012, most concerned that the Department did not “adequately address the greenhouse gas and climate change effects of the extraction, processing and use of the crude oil” that Keystone XL would carry.

So the State Department has dug more deeply into the issue of greenhouse gases (pdf) as well and announced today that the Keystone XL pipeline would increase greenhouse gas emissions. Oil from Alberta’s tar sands is one of the most polluting kinds of oil, the report notes, thanks to the energy cost of producing it in the first place as well as the pet coke and other byproducts that end up getting burned as well. The State Department also noted that just running the pipeline for a year once built would result in the same greenhouse gas pollution as roughly 300,000 cars over the same time span, and that the oil carried by the pipeline could add as much as 27 million metric tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere each year, most of that from its ultimate use as fuel.

That is just a finding, and the whole report is just evidence for decision makers to weigh. “It’s not a decision,” emphasized Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department at a press briefing on January 31, noting that the 30-day comment period begins February 5. Now Secretary of State John Kerry will weigh this updated environmental impact assessment, along with climate and environmental priorities, Psaki added, and there is no timeline for a final decision.

Ultimately, that final decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline rests with President Barack Obama, and it will form a significant part of his climate change legacy. As Obama said during his speech on climate change last June: “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

The key word there may be “significantly.” Even 27 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year may seem small in a world that spews more than 34 billion metric tons of CO2 per year. And, if the State Department is right that the tar sands will be exploited anyway, then the CO2 emissions will happen anyway too, with or without Keystone XL. But as the President said in his 2014 State of the Union speech: “when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.” It remains to be seen what, exactly, Obama meant by that.

Additional reporting by Dina Fine Maron.

David Biello About the Author: David Biello is the associate editor for environment and energy at Scientific American. Follow on Twitter @dbiello.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. jtdwyer 7:17 pm 01/31/2014

    [the State Dept. report indicates]
    “… a pipeline like Keystone XL is a safer, cheaper and more environmentally benign way of transporting oil, the assessment concludes.”
    I wonder how much oil can leak out of a very large pipeline rupture compared to even a derailed train of tanker cars? I can understand that the probability of train accidents may be greater than pipeline failures, but if the consequences are greater then a pipeline may not actually be ‘safer’.

    Link to this
  2. 2. m 8:15 pm 01/31/2014

    JT (1)

    The arguments are academic for me either way, it does not matter. The goods are required.

    What I want to see is the counter plan, where is the plan to plant 200 million trees to compensate for any accident and also the day to day running of the plant.

    We all know we need resources, but lets at least be reasonable and say we can offset the disadvantages with some common sense Co2 sinks.

    I see no mention of any pollution policy associated with its extraction and I would have thought this would be mentioned considering it took the time to state > 1.5 million people were extremely unhappy about this component.

    Link to this
  3. 3. rkipling 12:27 am 02/1/2014

    For those unfamiliar with refineries operating in cold weather, the picture with this article shows clouds of condensed water vapor.

    The Canadian oil is going to be sold somewhere. Transporting via pipeline is the most environmentally friendly method. Ask yourself whether buying oil from Canada or the Middle East is better.


    In fact, the CO2 from burning fossil fuel cannot be easily offset with common sense CO2 sinks. Saying go plant 200 million trees is not a sequestration plan. I get that you feel strongly about environmental issues. You have as much right to express your opinion as anyone. From reading some of your other comments on other topics, it is clear that science isn’t your thing, and that’s fine too. If you don’t have the experience to do a mass balance to estimate how many trees need to be planted, it’s better if you don’t guess. Most of us will know you are guessing.

    Also, the number of people unhappy about the project is not relevant to the environmental impact.

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  4. 4. oldfarmermac 7:43 am 02/1/2014

    I appreciate the gravity of the climate issue but at the same time I also appreciate that we are in a damned if we do, damned if we don’t situation.

    The problem with straight forward solutions such as banning the use of the tar sands oil or imposing a crushing level of new taxes on fossil fuels is that the cures offered up are even worse than the disease because they not only can’t be implemented, they would not work even if they were tried.

    They can’t be implemented because doing so is basically impossible from the political point of view. Just about every country in the world is already having serious problems making ends meet in the short term and banning or draconian taxation would very quickly lead to an economic collapse. Things are stretched very thin as they are and any sudden new strain on an economy is apt to send it into a recession or worse.

    When that happens, there is inevitably a strong backlash that results in repeal or discontinuation of the offending policy and most likely some other useful policies as well.People do not take kindly to being put out of work to put this point as mildly as possible.

    Right now for instance there is a serious possibility that there will be a political backlash against shuttering some coal mining operations and coal fired power plants. This backlash may result in a number of environmentally responsible congressmen and senators losing their seats.If that comes to pass there may be little or no progress on environmental issues depending on the new balance of power in Washington.

    Nothing could be more desirable than to know that our long term future and long term future of the biosphere is safely assured but we have to survive the short term first!

    I’m afraid that we have already passed the point of no return any way, and that runaway warming is inevitable no matter what we do but we should still do whatever we can to make lessen the impact of the coming crash.

    Reality is fixing to hit us with a haymaker to the jaw in the form of runaway warming and a baseball bat it the solar plexus in the form of fast depleting non renewable natural resources.

    The odds are already high that the world will soon be embroiled in a wide scale hot war due to competition for good farmland, clean water, fossil fuels, and various mineral resources.

    We could make it here is the rich western countries for now without the tar sands but the rest of the world is in dire straights already and the old conventional oil fields that supply the vast bulk of our oil are depleting fast.

    There’s just no way that renewables are going to scale up fast enough to shoulder the load.We simply must have every every drop of oil we can get in order to keep the status quo from turning morphing into economic chaos.

    That way there be dragons including war and the abandonment of most or all environmental programs, actual or anticipated .

    People in small groups eat the seed corn and burn the furniture as their last resort before they freeze and starve. People organized into states go to war.Short term survival is the ultimate trump card in the game of life.

    I will not argue that tar sands oil is not twice as dirty as conventional oil but I doubt it is twice as dirty as coal to liquids which is our last other technically viable option to keep our civilization running in the short to medium term when oil becomes too scarce and too expensive to keep the wheels of civilization turning.

    World wide production of real honest actual crude oil and condensate has been flat since 2005 even though industry spending on the search for new sources and bringing them into production has shot into orbit.Every drop of the apparent increase in oil production since 2005 has been brought about by smoke and mirror accounting tricks-by calling other things oil that in more honest times were called by other names.

    Anybody who doubts this should go to the site where the data proving it has just been posted in chart form.It’s a real call to arms but of course the alarm will be overlooked and ignored.

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  5. 5. Fanandala 7:44 am 02/1/2014

    I am afraid I do not quite understand what the debate is about. 27 megatons of CO2 are going to be produced. In the US or elsewhere. Whether the US produces that CO2 from Canadian, or Venezuelan oil makes really no difference to the environment.

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  6. 6. GordDavison 8:55 am 02/1/2014

    You cannot prevent carbon emissions by stopping a pipeline or any other transport method. The only way to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to reduce the demand for energy from fossil fuels. That is done by working towards making alternate energy sources more competitive than energy from oil.

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  7. 7. jtdwyer 9:58 am 02/1/2014

    Many commentators seem to be convinced that the co2 production incurred by using this low grade oil is unavoidable.
    Maybe that’s so, but I only asked whether the pipeline is the safest method of transport as the gov’t report indicated. While I agree that rail transportation would be likely to produce a higher incidence of spills – wouldn’t a very high capacity pipeline be subject to releasing more oil when a spill occurs? As I understand, the low grade oil being transported here would be particularly difficult to remove from the environment.
    BTW – I’m not a liberal: I distrust and dislike all politicians regardless of any affiliations they might have. Moreover, I think that anyone who trusts politicians to represent their interests is a fool.

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  8. 8. N a g n o s t i c 3:20 pm 02/1/2014

    Regarding spills via pipeline vs train – pipelines have flow meters and automatic shut-off valves. The desirability of pipeline transport over rail is beyond dispute, economically and environmentally. Keystone approval has been delayed by politics, not safety concerns.

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  9. 9. jtdwyer 7:50 pm 02/1/2014

    “Previous work[32] has shown that a ‘worst-case exposure scenario’ can be limited to a specific set of conditions. Based on the advanced detection methods and pipeline shut-off SOP developed by TransCanada, the risk of a substantive or large release over a short period of time contaminating groundwater with benzene is unlikely.[33] Detection, shutoff, and remediation procedures would limit the dissolution and transport of benzene. Therefore the exposure of benzene would be limited to leaks that are below the limit of detection and go unnoticed for extended periods of time.[32] Leak detection is monitored through a SCADA system that assesses pressure and volume flow every 5 seconds. A pinhole leak that releases small quantities that cannot be detected by the SCADA system (10,000 barrels.”

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  10. 10. jtdwyer 8:00 pm 02/1/2014

    I seem to have lost much of the quoted text – correction:
    Re. Keystone XL, see
    “Previous work[32] has shown that a ‘worst-case exposure scenario’ can be limited to a specific set of conditions. Based on the advanced detection methods and pipeline shut-off SOP developed by TransCanada, the risk of a substantive or large release over a short period of time contaminating groundwater with benzene is unlikely.[33] Detection, shutoff, and remediation procedures would limit the dissolution and transport of benzene. Therefore the exposure of benzene would be limited to leaks that are below the limit of detection and go unnoticed for extended periods of time.[32] Leak detection is monitored through a SCADA system that assesses pressure and volume flow every 5 seconds. A pinhole leak that releases small quantities that cannot be detected by the SCADA system (10,000 barrels.”
    Please see “Ref.” links above…

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  11. 11. jtdwyer 8:04 pm 02/1/2014

    Sorry – there seems to be some comment text entry error, as much of the text included in the comment entry box has been excluded for some unknown reason.
    Please refer to the Wikipedia link above for the correct conclusion the the above quotation.

    Also see
    “Although the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has standard baseline incident frequencies to estimate the number of spills, TransCanada altered these assumptions based on improved pipeline design, operation, and safety.[33] Whether these adjustments are justified is debatable as these assumptions resulted in a nearly 10-fold decrease in spill estimates.[32] Given that the pipeline crosses 247 miles of the Ogallala Aquifer,[34] or 14.5% of the entire pipeline length, and the 50-year life of the entire pipeline is expected to have between 11 – 91 spills,[32] approximately 1.6 – 13.2 spills can be expected to occur over the aquifer. An estimate of 13.2 spills over the aquifer, each lasting 14 days, results in 184 days of potential exposure over the 50 year lifetime of the pipeline. In the reduced scope ‘worst case exposure scenario,’ the volume of a pinhole leak at 1.5% of max flow-rate for 14 days has been estimated at 189,000 barrels or 7.9 million gallons of oil.[32] According to PHMSA’s incident database,[35] only 0.5% of all spills in the last 10 years were >10,000 barrels.”
    Also see “Ref.” links above…

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  12. 12. tuned 10:36 am 02/2/2014

    There you have it.
    Running the pipeline ALONE adds 300K worth or equiv. vehicle pollution per yr.
    Also it is NOT only a global problem. Just ask Beijing about local pollution.

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  13. 13. Jfreed27 5:48 pm 02/2/2014

    Death Spiral Ditty

    Asks Keystone Sludge of Canada,
    “May we borrow America?
    And wrest the farm of your Ma and Pa?**

    And dump our extra Carbon excreta?
    And level forests vast as Florida?”***

    Tell them, “No, no, no! We’d rather go with Nature’s wind and sola’!
    Hear the gleeful chorus of “Drill. Baby, Drill!”?
    Is climate still a joke on the Hill?

    As God’s precious gifts vanish, from cherries to krill,
    And Hurricane Sandy , Mitt’s bitter pill,

    Our planet’s in hock, so our tanks we may fill.

    ** 78-year-old Eleanor Fairchild was recently arrested for trespassing on her own 300 acre ranch in Winnsboro, Texas. The great-grandmother was protesting the Keystone XL bulldozers roaring through her property — a project which forced Fairchild to give up her property rights in the name of Big Oil.

    *** The area of boreal forests that is on the chopping block is equal to Florida; they would, be stripped in order to get at the sludge underneath. These vast forests now take up CO2, thus helping to correct for our CO2 emissions. Once these forests are gone, CO2 levels rise even faster.

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  14. 14. z34aa 7:42 pm 02/2/2014

    I’m not sure I understand what the problem is here. Stopping the pipe line won’t stop the oil being produced right? And it is going to be transported by other means, that are apparently more destructive, regardless of what is decided? So stopping the pipe line, if I’m reading everything right, would have a negative net impact when all the different impacts are calculated?

    If all that is true, and I’m not saying it is since I have an instinctive distrust of anything that comes out of the government, why would anyone want to stop or slow down it’s construction? I would be interested to know how much less pollution might have been produced if this pipe line had been constructed right away.

    I can understand people not wanting to actively do something that will cause pollution but if inaction produces worse consequences, aren’t they in the end going against their true desire? It would be great if there were an option that produced no CO2, but not acting on an option that is better than inaction simple because you are waiting for the perfect one doesn’t seem logical.

    If I got any of that wrong please correct me. I don’t like misunderstanding things.

    Link to this
  15. 15. singing flea 3:15 am 02/3/2014

    “I’m not sure I understand what the problem is here. Stopping the pipe line won’t stop the oil being produced right? ”

    The only thing that is going to slow down the destruction is to just say no and move on to less destructive practices. We need to say no to the pipeline and the rail transport of this oil on USA land. This is our country and we all should have a say in what we want for the future, and “we” is not a handful of blue bloods that choose profit over the life of the land. This is one issue that we can fight today. Tomorrow it will be another. This debate of whether it is better or worse for the environment is nothing less than a smoke screen to confuse the average Fox fool that doesn’t understand that we need to cut back on fossil fuels, not exploit the dirtiest fuel we can and call it progress. You want jobs? Start cleaning up the messes we already made. That’s enough to keep the country employed for decades. Let the ones who made the biggest messes pay for it. That would be progress.

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  16. 16. QuietQuest 7:02 am 02/3/2014

    “I can understand people not wanting to actively do something that will cause pollution but if inaction produces worse consequences, aren’t they in the end going against their true desire?”

    That’s how it appears to be to me also.

    Link to this
  17. 17. rkipling 7:20 am 02/3/2014

    David Biello,

    While I applaud the restated SciAm online comment recommendations that have been posted on a few of these articles and blogs, you and your staff may want to consider closing comments on the environment topics at least temporarily. I’m just offering something to think about which might move comments away from political content that primarily afflicts the environmental topics.

    I understand the perspective of individual writers may not be completely objective, but I’m confident the vast majority of your readers can deal with that without a problem. Even with the noticeable improvement in the civility of comments, very many remain statements of personal opinion and don’t deal with the substance of the particular article. Perhaps with a commenting hiatus, the purely political contributors will move on to other venues.

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  18. 18. bigbopper 8:56 am 02/3/2014

    Mr. Biello: the title of your article is very misleading, to put it as charitably as possible.

    What the report says, on page 5, is:

    The above estimates represent the total incremental emissions associated with production and consumption of 830,000 bpd of oil sands crude compared to the reference crudes. These estimates represent the potential increase in emissions attributable to the proposed Project if one assumed that approval or denial of the proposed Project would directly result in a change in production of 830,000 bpd of oil sands crudes in Canada (and the consequential change in production due to displacement of the reference crudes). However, as set forth in Section 1.4, Market Analysis, such a change is not likely to occur. Section 1.4 notes that approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios).

    IOW, whether or not the pipeline is built will NOT affect CO2 emissions or climate because this oil is going to be extracted and burned regardless.

    This is what all the other media outlets I’ve looked at have reported. Why then do you misrepresent the facts?

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  19. 19. JohnHemphill 9:23 am 02/3/2014

    Several commenters note that disapproving the pipeline will not solve global warming. Some point out correctly that solution is to reduce demand for fossil carbon fuels. This is best done by carbon tax (which should not be draconian initially, but should start small and gradually increase, to avoid economic shock). I have put up a petition for the Obama administration to negotiate Keystone approval with Congress in exchange for such a carbon tax. You can sign it here:

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  20. 20. David Biello in reply to David Biello 9:45 am 02/3/2014

    Because the report *also* says the pipeline will be responsible for as much as 27 million metric tons of greenhouse gases in oil sands production (and 300,000 cars worth of CO2 just to run the pipeline). When it comes to GHGs, every molecule counts no matter how folks want to spin it.

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  21. 21. David Biello in reply to David Biello 9:46 am 02/3/2014

    I hear you. We’ve developed a new commenting policy, which has already begun to take effect. More soon!

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  22. 22. dbiello 9:49 am 02/3/2014

    As noted in our comment policy:

    Please use the comments section only for discussions of the article and relevant related topics. Comments that are discriminatory or offensive will be deleted, as will any comments that are anti-scientific. Do not sell or promote anything in the comments. Users who fail to observe these guidelines may be banned and have their accounts deleted.

    Let’s keep it civil people. Thanks.

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  23. 23. Sisko 10:37 am 02/3/2014

    Isn’t it true that transporting the oil via a pipeline to the US will release less CO2 than would transporting the same volume of oil to China? Isn’t it also true that it will create jobs in the US that are needed now?

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  24. 24. Shoshin 10:55 am 02/3/2014

    It’s also true that using friendly Canadian oil will displace oil purchased from nations hostile to the US. Unless, of course, you consider Canada to be a hotbed of international terrorism as does the TV cartoon “South Park”.

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  25. 25. mike_midwest 11:21 am 02/3/2014

    Build the pipeline but impose a per barrel fee that would go toward clean energy development.

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  26. 26. bobfishell 12:30 pm 02/3/2014


    You are repeating a common misconception about the oil supply. A barrel of oil costs the same whether it comes out of a well in Texas or one in Iraq. The pipeline is not being built to supply American consumers. It’s being built to link the tar sands with coastal refineries in the U.S. where it will be sold on the world market. The pipeline will do nothing for American consumers and will at most create a couple of thousand temporary jobs. The government should do what is in the best interests of the American people, and it’s difficult to see how the pipeline serves that purpose.

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  27. 27. rkipling 12:50 pm 02/3/2014


    Oil markets are a bit more complicated than that. There are different prices for oil. Apart from that, yes I understand all the rest.

    The oil will be extracted without regard to where it is sold. A lot of it already gets to American refineries by rail. It will be refined somewhere. U.S. refineries have more environmental controls than anywhere else it would go. Scenarios exist in which there could be an advantage to more refining in this country, but that is probably a marginal advantage.

    Some thousands of jobs here to do the same thing only cleaner sounds better than no extra jobs here to me. How is that not in the interests of the American people?

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  28. 28. rkipling 2:33 pm 02/3/2014


    If the points you make prove out, it will become increasingly obvious with time. I’ve never claimed I know what effect anthropomorphic increases in CO2 will have. If you put poison analogies aside, I’ve never come across a system with the sensitivity to a few hundred ppm that some claim exists with Earth’s atmosphere. That doesn’t make CAGW untrue, but it’s why I’m not all that worried. We will just have to wait and see.

    I do think more civility and structure to comments with SciAm’s new policies is more likely to advance our understanding than feeding each other to the lions though some may find it less entertaining.

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  29. 29. Don Quixote 5:40 pm 02/3/2014

    Hmmmm….not un-scientific, but “anti-scientific”. I can only imagine how that little gem of amgibuity will be interpreted and enforced and by whom. Pretty soon this site, like so many others, may be relegated to the status of a self-licking ice cream cone. I’m hoping you will still allow dissenting opinion (though by using the term “allow” I’m conceding the inevitable descent into censorship), but you are 100% setting yourself up to hear only from those who agree with you and that is completely “non-scientific”. This response is completely off-topic (Keystone Pipeline), but I am responding to your specific comment.

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  30. 30. David Biello in reply to David Biello 7:21 pm 02/3/2014

    I don’t want this to become a comments thread on our comments policy. There will be a time and place for that. Fair warning. Thanks.

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  31. 31. rkipling 8:12 pm 02/3/2014

    Don Quixote,

    I have no affiliation with this site or anyone associated with it. I frequently disagree with the slant I perceive in some articles. Even though I have seen a lot more objectivity in articles over the last few months, I suspect I would disagree with many if not most of the authors regarding the absolute belief in significant CO2 contribution to AGW. If you only read authors with whom you already agree, it is likely more difficult to learn. So, I see value in many of these articles and blogs.

    My hope is that the bitter, abusive, and sometimes paranoid comments will be removed. Comments of that type don’t provide any useful information. I read articles on this site long before I began reading or making comments. I had no previous experience with this type of online interaction. I’m embarrassed to report that initially I was drawn into some of the personal conflicts.

    Over time it became clear that mostly the same people were engaged in very personal running feuds and using the environment topics as the venue. Apart from entertaining the feuding participants, those comments accomplished exactly nothing. None of the combatants were listening to opposing views. And those views frequently consisted entirely of insults. It made finding useful comments more difficult, and I suspect discouraged legitimate comments.

    My belief is that you will find serious and constructive comments will be allowed even when a commenter disagrees with the writer or moderator. That has been my experience at least.

    P.S. I have it on good authority their managing editor doesn’t moonlight as the Evil Enchanter.

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  32. 32. rkipling 8:13 pm 02/3/2014

    Fine. The last I will say about it. Delete my last one if you like.

    Link to this
  33. 33. Dr. Strangelove 3:39 am 02/6/2014

    “At issue is the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 730,000 barrels a day of oil from western Canada, mostly from Alberta’s tar sands, but also 100,000 barrels per day of oil fracked from the Bakken Shale in North Dakota. Much of that oil is already being produced and is being transported by other means, such as railroads.”

    It’s a no-brainer. Keystone pipeline emits less CO2. Railroad trains are diesel-electric. Pipeline pumps are electric. You burn more diesel transporting by railroad. Electric pumps are powered by over 50% natural gas, nuclear and renewable energy from the grid.

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  34. 34. sjn 3:18 pm 02/6/2014

    From a scientific viewpoint then, do we or do we not accept the conclusions of the 5th IPCC report. If we do, then their conclusions are clear. Over the next 20 or so years, we must burn less than the equivalent of 1/4 – 1/3 of known fossil fuel reserves to have AT BEST A 66% CHANCE of maintaining temperature rise below 2C.
    If we keep continuing on the current path, as we have since Kyoto, WE WILL inevitably burn this much CO2 equivalent fossil fuels in about the same time period that we have wasted since the original Kyoto treaty. Then we are long past talking about a 2C limit, and we are talking about 4 C temperature rises and further (polar ice collapse, permafrost release of methane, 7 METER sea level rises etc.).
    So investing our economic and social resources in an ongoing massive expansion of high energy cost and toxic extraction of tar sands, hydro-fracking, deep sea oil extraction, is a path that can only lead to uncontrolled temperature changes as predicted by the worst case scenarios within the 5th IPCC report.
    All the excuses that “it will happen anyway” are just more excuses for business as usual that will lead us inevitably down the path of irreversible massive climate change.
    Saying no to KXL, may or may not result in slowing the extraction of high CO2 content tar sands from Canada. It will definitely send a message that the US is serious that we must start down an alternative path, of massive construction of low-carbon water/wind/solar, massive improvements in energy efficiency, non-fossil fuel transport, etc.
    Keystone is just one project among dozens, that lock us into ongoing expansion of fossil fuel extraction as opposed to the absolute necessity indicated in the 5th IPCC route of drastically reducing our extraction, processing and burning of all CO2 emitting fossil fuels
    And that is the SCIENCE, from which the political will must then follow.

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  35. 35. Wuzawuza 3:35 pm 02/6/2014

    I don’t agree that this will not affect the total amount of oil sands oil produced. For years my job was analyzing the oil sands financials. There has been a lot of worry in the industry in Canada that without this pipeline, or one through British Columbia, or one to the east coast of Canada, the cost of rail transport of the oil will hurt total net return of dollars/barrel produced. Hurt it so much, that it could slow down exploration and stop altogether projects that are marginally cost return effective – even with pipeline transport. If this, or one of the other pipelines goes through, this will green-light new projects and total oil produced in, lets say, 10 years will be higher than without a pipeline.

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  36. 36. pasteurbruce 4:55 pm 02/6/2014

    How about reducing CO2 emissions at the source? A new and vastly improved RF Thermal EOR technology can cut 70% of greenhouse emissions from extraction. And it can do it without toxic chemicals or huge volumes of water.

    But nobody wants to change their current methods of production. They’d rather just forge ahead with what they know.

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  37. 37. ajkaczaniuk 1:40 pm 02/9/2014

    Numerous posters here have questioned the State Department Assessment conclusion that transporting the tar sands oil via the Keystone XL pipeline “ is a safer, cheaper and more environmentally benign way of transporting oil.”. But a review of available data supports this conclusion. According to the American Association of Railroads, oil transport by rail has increased from 9,500 tanker carloads in 2008 to 400,000 tanker carloads in 2013 ( and continues to increase. One consequence of this increase is that there were more than 10 major railroad oil spills in 2013 involving nearly 3 million gallons of crude oil, including the Lac-Mégantic derailment in Quebec, Canada, that killed 47 people and destroyed more than 30 buildings. Finally, a Manhattan Institute analysis of DOT data published in June, 2013, ( determined that while pipeline incidents released more oil per incident than other transportation methods, the frequency of accidents, injuries, and fatalities was far lower than for rail or road transportation of oil making pipelines the safest method of transporting fuels. Given that the Canadian oil will be pumped and transported regardless, it only makes sense to move that oil using the safest method – pipelines – rather than by rail, road, barge, or oil tanker.

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