Good news! When you’re at the gas station filling up, you’ve probably noticed that it doesn’t hit your wallet as hard as it used to. Gas prices are going down, and that’s great for you and me.
But you may have also noticed that yesterday the senate voted not to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. Are the two related? Well, yes and no.
The Question: What the heck is the Keystone XL pipeline?
Up in Alberta, Canada, there is a company called TransCanada that is proposed in 2005 that they should build a 1,179 mile addition to an existing pipeline to connect their oil fields in Canada to refineries in Texas. The plan for that pipeline is to pump 830,000 barrels of petroleum through the heart of the United States. Take a look at the handy map below to see what it’s supposed to look like if it gets built. But it might not. Let’s explore why!
The sides of the issue
For the pipeline
Politicians like the idea. In theory, building the pipeline will actually create about 42,000 temporary jobs and about 35 permanent jobs. And it it would boost the economy by $3.4 billion. Plus, it means more oil from a friendly country not located in the Middle East.
Other advocates argue that demand for the oil still exists regardless of whether the pipeline is built or not, so it’s safer and better to pipe it in through the pipeline rather than by rail: railways have their own special set of hazards.
Transcanada likes it because it brings them profit. Other oil companies like it because it may set a president for future projects.
Environmentalists and environmentally conscious politicians think it’s a terrible idea for the U.S. and the environment in general. Basically, the kind of oil being brought in is messier and dirtier than “normal” oil. The processes to extract it are tricky, and cause toxic environmental runoff or destroy forests. The fact that it’s a heavier oil also means that damage from spills are worse and harder to clean up.
So far, the science is out on whether it’s going to have any impact on climate change; we’ll know more when the State Department concludes their investigation.
So what happens now?
Well, maybe nothing. Congress has taken responsibility for voting on a bill to allow the pipeline to be built, and so far the Democratically-controlled senate has blocked it successfully. But the senate gets turned over to the Republicans in January, and another vote may be at the top of their list. Even so: if congress passes a bill allowing the pipeline, Obama has the chance to veto it. And TransCanada may not be able to afford to build it after such a long wait and increases in construction prices.