Column: The many problems with the Keystone XL pipeline

The new pipeline approved by Congress would be detrimental to the environment and would not significantly benefit our country.

On Jan. 29, the Senate passed a bill that has been circulating around the government for several years now: the Keystone XL Pipeline Project.

TransCanada, the company that would be conducting the project, has stated that this pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of tar sand oil from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Nebraska. The oil would travel just under 1,200 miles through a 36-inch-diameter pipe.

The bill has to go through Congress because it crosses an international border. The vote was 62-36, with a majority of Republicans supporting the bill and a majority of Democrats opposing it. It will go to President Obama, who is expected to veto it. Republican congressmen claimed that they would attempt to override the veto, but the vote fell just short of the two-thirds majority required to overcome a presidential veto.

If passed, this bill will implement a dangerous and environmentally destructive project. Many negative consequences would arise from building a pipeline through Canada and the U.S. NPR reported that drilling tar sand oil is much more detrimental to the environment than traditional oil drilling. Carbon dioxide emissions from this type of drilling are three or four times higher than that of traditional oil, according to Friends of the Earth.

Furthermore, Friends of the Earth has found that it takes large quantities of heat and water to separate bitumen, the tar, from other substances such as sand, silt and clay. The majority of this water will be put into large man-made pools that will be situated next to clean water suppliers. There is a chance that the bitumen that was unable to be removed from the water could seep into the neighboring clean water. This would present a major health concern. The pipeline would also be crossing major bodies of water, such as the Missouri River, Yellowstone and the Red Rivers. If the oil were to accidentally spill in the water, cleanup would be costly and difficult, since bitumen sinks.

The location does not make the situation any better. The tar sand oil would have to be drilled from under the boreal forests of Alberta, a major source of reducing carbon emissions and home to many different species. These forests would have to be destroyed to drill the oil. Indigenous populations living along the pipeline route would also be disturbed. In fact, people in the area have already suffered from spikes in cancer, renal failure, lupus and hyperthyroidism.

This pipeline would not make a major difference to the U.S. economy. It would primarily benefit Canadian oil firms, and would not contribute much to the already low price of oil. Although the project would create some jobs, many of these jobs would not be permanent.

Several years ago, when this bill was first proposed, the lure of lower oil prices and more possible jobs attracted supporters. However, with the drop in prices and the rise in employment, this pipeline is no longer needed.

Our country is missing a major opportunity to reduce our carbon footprint by passing this bill. We have the chance to begin eliminating our concerning reliance on oil, a substance that is diminishing our natural resources. This country can turn toward cleaner forms of energy such as wind and solar. However, by reaching the agreement to pass this bill, the U.S. is continuing down a path of destruction. Hopefully, President Obama recognizes the adverse consequences that come with implementing this project and will veto the bill.

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