Keystone XL would reduce long-haul truck traffic, thus less emissions

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Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline contend that, if constructed, it would lead to dramatic increases in greenhouse gas emissions and accelerate climate change.

But a supporter of the $7 billion oil sands project argued Tuesday that approval would help cut harmful emissions and make the transport of American oil much more efficient.

“It would mean 300 to 500 [fewer] long-haul truck trips from oil and gas wells to rail stations in western North Dakota,” said Lynn Helms, director of mineral resources at the North Dakota Industrial Commission, in testimony before a House committee.

The Keystone pipeline, Mr. Helms said, would not only transport Alberta oil sands through the U.S., but could also carry fuel from the Bakken Shale, a massive deposit under the U.S. upper Great Plains that’s helped spur an American energy renaissance.

Now, much of the Bakken oil is moved by truck, a method which undoubtedly releases harmful greenhouse gases from the vehicles’ fossil-fuel engines.

“For every year the Keystone is delayed, we emit 1 million kilograms of greenhouse gases per day that would not be emitted” if the pipeline were built, Mr. Helms said.

His testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology underscored yet another argument in favor of the project. Proponents remain frustrated that, after years of review, the Obama administration still hasn’t made a decision on whether to approve it.

A recent, favorable State Department environmental review, which found that Keystone wouldn’t drive up harmful emissions nor increase American dependence on crude oil, seems to indicate that the White House is leaning toward signing off on the pipeline.

That decision would help quiet critics who say Mr. Obama isn’t serious about job creation, nor is he dedicated to helping achieve North American energy independence.

But environmental opponents, both in Congress and outside of it, remain as vocal as ever.

“The Keystone XL pipeline project heightens and highlights an issue this committee has been debating for a long time: climate change caused by human activity,” said Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, Oregon Democrat and ranking member of the Science, Space and Technology subcommittee on the environment. “The Keystone XL pipeline showcases our continued dependence on fossil fuels, the use of which contributes greatly to anthropogenic climate change.”

Even though the State Department argues that Keystone won’t lead to a significant increase in harmful emissions, Ms. Bonamici and others disagree.

Included among those is the administration’s own Environmental Protection Agency, which has been highly critical of the State Department review and has argued that Keystone must be studied further before a final decision is made.

Backers of the project take such criticism in stride. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, said that each and every worthwhile American energy project has its outspoken detractors.

“An agricultural system that provides us with food, the fuel we need for commerce, national defense and national security and industry — all of these things depend on oil and natural gas,” he said at the hearing. “Yet there’s a group of people opposing every single new project. There’s always some reason.”

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