The keystone pipeline project consists of plans to transport oil throughout the United States from Canada. It is estimated that if completed, it would allow 1.1 million of barrels of oil to cross the country each day. The project was proposed in 2008, but the final decision was postponed by President Obama until 2013. Many supporters say this was an effort to put off the controversial project until after the election. The president stated that he wanted more time to study the long term effects of the project on the environment.
Environmentalists have concerns about the impact the pipeline will have on the environment and wildlife, stating that it could cause air and water pollution or cause harm to migratory birds. Major leaks could contaminate drinking water. Others are afraid it would increase earthquake activity due to part of the planned lines crossing seismic zones. Critics also believe that a major leak would be equivalent to the BP oil spill. TransCanada predicted the Keystone 1 pipeline would have one spill, when in reality during one year they had a total of 12 spills. They were also made to dig up and replace ten sections of pipe after government testing indicated defective steel. In July 2010, about 800,000 gallons of tar sands leaked into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
There are already 200,000 miles of similar oil pipeline in the United States today. Some people argue that it would create emissions of greenhouse gases. People in favor of the pipeline state that oil sands only account for 0.1% of greenhouse emission. Those who disagree say that the process of refining crude oil uses a large amount of water and energy.
The Keystone pipeline would increase energy sources for the U.S. and lessen the country's dependence on foreign oil. Some argue that the oil imported to the gulf coast would end up being sold to Asia. Others say that oil would be exported to Asia regardless of whether the pipeline was in place. Critics believe the fuel would never reach the fuel tanks of U.S. drivers, and that this is just about Canada being able to get their oil exported from the gulf coast. At a congressional hearing in December, the president of TransCanada was asked if the oil would stay in the United States, and he said no. A proposed amendment was denied, because republicans said that the market for oil is global. Representative Ed Markey stated that this project will "create a connection between Alberta and Asia and use the United States as the place where the pipeline gets constructed. And so if that's all we are is a middleman in this transaction, then the American people should know that." Some people feel that as long as it means we are importing less oil from the middle east, that it doesn't matter if every barrel doesn't stay in the U.S.
The alternative to the pipeline has been by transporting oil on tankers or railroads, which create more pollution than the pipeline is estimated to cause.
The CEO of TransCanada states that the pipeline would create jobs for 20,000 American workers which would in turn stimulate the economy. But the U.S. state department only estimates the creation of 5,000 to 6,000 new jobs. Critics argue that these jobs would only be temporary, and do more harm than good for the economy.
Although those in favor of the pipeline say it will lower gas prices, critics believe it may actually raise prices in the Midwest because Canadian producers could reprice their oil to increase their profits.
TransCanada is filing for a presidential permit and anticipates to be approved in 2013, and up and running by 2015. The gulf coast project, a 485 mile pipeline from Oklahoma to Texas, is estimated to cost $2.3 billion. It was recently reported that after being blamed for rising gas prices, President Obama plans to visit the gulf coast. It is believed that he will announce his support for the southern pipeline and voice his plans to speed up the permit process for the southern portion of the project, even though originally he was not supportive. Republicans state that he is falsely crediting himself, because the southern portion of the pipeline will go on regardless of his approval. According to a CNN article, Obama was always in favor of the southern portion, only blocking the northern section. Oklahoma oil and gas companies are preparing to push the president in a letter to approve the entire pipeline. Other companies in support include Continental Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Devon Energy, and Sandridge Energy. The letter urges the White House to repeal industry tax breaks and warns that environmental laws could hurt the country by doing more harm than good. The northern section has to be approved because it crosses into Canada.
Latest polls show that the majority of Americans are in favor of the pipeline, with 57% in approval and only 29% opposing.