Keystone XL: Plenty of risks, few benefits

By Ian Kea

In the three months since Republicans swept November’s midterm elections, the new majority in Congress has wasted little time in passing a bill that approves the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Republicans have called the pipeline a job creator that will stimulate the economy, but the project looks to have little economic effect and many environmental risks.

Proponents of the pipeline repeatedly touted that gas prices would go down dramatically if it is built, but Keystone could just use the U.S. as a middleman to ship oil overseas. Energy consultant Philip Verleger told Bloomberg that gas prices would actually rise in some states near the pipeline because the oil produced would be mostly exported, according to the U.S. State Department report.

One proponent, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) said the pipeline would employ 20,000 people, according to Newsweek, but he failed to mention that most jobs created would be temporary, and would only last one to two years. The U.S. State Department found in their report on Keystone XL that only 35 jobs created by the pipeline would be permanent.

Not only does this pipeline make little sense economically, it also would create the possibility of an environmental disaster to our nation’s crops, ecosystems, water supply and wildlife. The pipeline would stretch across the Midwest and end in Texas, including a stretch over the Ogallala aquifer, one of America’s main water sources for drinking and irrigation. In Alberta, Canada, leaks in pipelines have heavily polluted major water sources such as Cold Lake.

Additionally, the National Drought Mitigation Center has confirmed major droughts in Oklahoma and California for this year. We need to protect what water we have not only for our health, but for our farms as well. If the aquifer were to be contaminated, some of America’s largest farmlands on the Great Plains would lose water for irrigation. The pipeline also poses significant risks to our environment, given that phase one of the Keystone pipeline had 12 significant oil spills during its first year of operation.

Not only would Americans have to deal with losing land and resources after an oil spill, but taxpayers would also have to pay for the cleanup costs. In 2010, taxpayers indirectly subsidized British Petroleum when the oil company cut $10 billion from its tax bill to pay for cleanup of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, according to Reuters.

Although President Obama has vowed to veto the bill, Keystone XL — which has been a priority for Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell since November — has some history to it.

According to a report from the International Forum on Globalization, the pipeline could produce $100 billion in profit Charles and David Koch, the brothers who run Koch Industries, and two of McConnell’s, and many other Republicans’ top campaign contributors.

This pipeline creates only one winner in all of the debate — big oil. The U.S. should not risk its water supply and ecosystems for a pipeline for oil that will be exported to the international market, and has few benefits for the U.S.