After 1,800 Days, It’s Clear Keystone XL is in the National Interest

August 26, 2013

According to an Executive Order, approval of the Keystone XL pipeline’s permit requires a finding that the project “would serve the national interest.” The State Department, which is tasked with making this determination, has been reviewing the project now for over 1,800 days. And after nearly five years of review, it is clear the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.

What makes this project in the nation’s interest? Let’s examine the facts: 

Keystone XL is in the nation’s interest for jobs

The Keystone XL pipeline is a $7 billion private-sector infrastructure project that would create tens of thousands of direct and indirect jobs. According to the latest Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS), the State Department found “the proposed Project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2- year construction period” which could translate to “approximately $2.05 billion in earnings.” Labor unions have described the project as a “life line,” citing its ability to put Americans back to work.

Keystone XL is in the nation’s interest for energy security

Once constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would carry nearly a million barrels a day of crude oil from Canada, as well as energy supplies from the Bakken in North Dakota and Montana, to U.S. refineries and markets. A Department of Energy analysis projects that this increased North American energy supply and gains in energy efficiency could “essentially eliminate” U.S. dependence on Middle East oil. Canada is already America’s largest source of imported oil, providing close to 2.4 million barrels per day. With the help of the Keystone XL pipeline, estimates suggest Canadian imports could reach up to 4 million barrels a day by 2020.

Keystone XL is in the nation’s interest for safety 

Pipelines remain one of the safest ways to transport energy supplies, and Keystone XL will be one of the nation’s safest pipelines built to date. Keystone XL will be built with state-of-the-art technologies and incorporate 57 additional safety standards proposed by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. According to the State Department's August 2011 Final Environmental Impact Statement, these conditions would give the Keystone XL pipeline “a degree of safety greater than any typically constructed domestic oil pipeline system under current regulations." The pipeline will also adhere to new pipeline safety standards required as part of the Pipeline Safety, Regulatory Certainty and Jobs Creation Act of 2011.

Keystone XL is in the nation’s interest for the environment 

Referencing the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama recently stated, “[O]ur national interest will be served only if this project does not exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The State Department has concluded numerous times that the project will have minimal impact on the environment and, although a carbon test is not an existing metric for approval of cross-border pipelines or other infrastructure projects, the Keystone XL pipeline nonetheless meets the president’s stated test. The March SEIS found that the pipeline would not impact production of the oil sands, stating, “approval or denial of the proposed project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands.” The agency’s 2011 assessment concluded, “[F]rom a global perspective, the project is not likely to result in incremental greenhouse gas emissions.” The State Department also found that without the Keystone XL pipeline, the oil sands would make their way to markets in other ways, which may have a larger carbon footprint. A new report from IHS CERA reached similar conclusions as the State Department and also suggested that if refiners do not have access to Canadian crude oil, they will likely turn to heavy crudes from Venezuela to fill the gap.