Kerry, Keystone, And The Climate

Ben Geman reports on John Kerry’s reluctance to get involved in the battle over the Keystone XL pipeline:

“I am staying as far away from that as I can now so that when the appropriate time comes to me, I am not getting information from any place I shouldn’t be, and I am not getting engaged in the debate at a time that I shouldn’t be,” Kerry told the House Foreign Affairs Committee … Kerry noted the decision would ultimately come to him, but that until then the various steps of the review process aren’t complete. “It is not ripe,” he said. Kerry spoke in response to a question from Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.) about State’s years-long review of the Keystone project, which would bring oil from Alberta’s oil sands over the border and down to Gulf Coast refineries. …

Salmon and other advocates of the project were buoyed by the draft State Department review, which found that approving it would not have much effect on the rate of expansion of oil sands development, dealing a blow to critics.

Joe Romm worries about the State Department report’s blind spots:

Right now, Kerry has the State Department’s Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, but if that is all he information he relies on, he won’t get the full picture. While he will see that the project will only bring 35 permanent jobs, which is true, he would also see almost no discussion of the pipeline’s impact on the climate. (Oddly, he will be able to read an extended discussion of climate change’s projected impacts on the construction and maintenance of the proposed pipeline.)

Romm says Kerry should read the new report out from Oil Change International, which argues that the idea the the tar sands will be developed without Keystone is “simply incorrect”:

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is a project that will carry and emit at least 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year. This is a conservative figure, based on industry analysis of the carbon emissions associated with current tar sands production. … [This] is equivalent to the tailpipe emissions from more than 37.7 million cars. This is more cars than are currently registered on the entire West Coast (California, Washington, and Oregon), plus Florida, Michigan, and New York – combined.

Between 2015 and 2050, the pipeline alone would result in emissions of 6.34 billion metric tons of CO2e. This is greater than the 2011 total annual carbon dioxide emissions of the United States.

David Biello summarizes the EPA’s comments [pdf] on the study:

[State Department A]nalysts assumed the tar sands oil would find a way out with or without the new pipeline. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not agree. Keystone XL’s ability to carry an additional 830,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day is vital to expanded production of the tarry crude in Alberta. The EPA contends that the analysis by State got the economics all wrong. In particular the consultants were too optimistic about the ease with which the oil could be moved by railroad—an alternative already in use. But such tar sands oil transportation alternatives can more than triple the cost of moving crude. State’s report also neglected to consider the potential for congestion on the railroads with an uptick in oil transport, EPA contends. Of course, from a greenhouse gas perspective, transport by pipeline results in fewer emissions than transport by rail, truck or barge.