Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Deeper Look into the Keystone XL Debate (CFR)

Separating Fact from Fiction on Keystone XL

Opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which would move diluted bitumen from the Canadian oil sands to the Gulf Coast, has come into full force over the past couple weeks, with over five hundred people arrested at protests in DC. I’ve written extensively regarding how both sides of the oil sands debate exaggerate their arguments; in reality, the oil sands are neither a climate catastrophe nor an energy security bonanza.
As opposition has ramped up, though, pipeline opponents have gone into overdrive, introducing a host of new arguments, most of which are bogus. The purpose of this post is to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to the newer claims.
Let me be clear up front that my neglect of pro-pipeline arguments here doesn’t imply approval – many of them are ridiculous too. But I’ve written about them before, and don’t want to rehash old points. Nor should this post be read as saying that those who oppose Keystone XL are necessarily wrong on the fundamental question (though I tend to lean the other way): this fight is as much about power as anything else, and in politics, power matters.
On to the newer anti-Keystone claims:
“Gasoline made from the tar sands gives a Toyota Prius the same impact on climate as a Hummer using gasoline made from oil.” – Al Gore, August 31, 2011
A Hummer gets 10 miles per gallon. A Prius gets 50. Gasoline from the oil sands entails roughly 15% greater emissions than gasoline made from the average barrel of conventional oil used in the United States. A Hummer using “gasoline made from oil” thus has 4.3 times the impact on climate as a Prius using “gasoline made from the tar sands”, not the same amount. None of these numbers are controversial (well, some in industry would claim that 15% is too high). Someone like Gore who cares passionately about both climate change and scientific seriousness should not mislead his followers on such a massive difference.

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