The Obama administration is drawing closer to a decision on a major new crude oil pipeline that would bring significant amounts of crude oil from Canada to gulf coast refineries of the United States. The Keystone XL pipeline would stretch 1,700 miles from the oil sands of Alberta to the gulf coast and would make this new supply of crude much more readily available to the refineries of the gulf coast region that produce a large portion of America’s fuels and petrochemicals. Proponents of the pipeline argue that it will provide a new, more reliable source of crude oil and help to reduce gasoline prices in the United States.
The U.S. state department issued a report last month concluding that the pipeline was unlikely to have a significant impact on the environment. Those conclusions have been disputed, as environmentalists and others oppose the pipeline on two fronts. First, there is concern that a major oil leak on the pipeline itself would cause significant environmental harm and threaten drinking supplies to the communities through which it will pass. Second, there is opposition to the pipeline’s impact on development of the oil sands in Canada, which will likely increase significantly if the pipeline is approved. The oil sands region of Canada is the second largest deposit of carbon on the planet, next to the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, so there are concerns about the pipeline’s ultimate impact to long term climate change.
The final hearing on the pipeline is scheduled for October 7th. A decision from the Obama administration is expected before the end of the year.