The pipeline is a controversial project that would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas coast. It has been vigorously protested by environmentalists and enthusiastically endorsed by Congressional energy hawks.
As part of his recent push to curb carbon emissions, President Obama has gone on record as saying he would only approve of the pipeline if it came with a minimal carbon footprint.
“Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interests,” the president told Georgetown University in 2013. “Our national interest would be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
In January of this year, the State Department released an environmental impact report that concluded the pipeline would increase global carbon dioxide emissions by up to 27 million tons. A study by the Stockholm Environmental Institute in the journal Nature Climate Change says that estimate does not take into account the lowered price of oil that would follow the pipeline’s completion. The researchers say the resultant increase in CO2 emissions would be as much as 110 million tons per year.
From the abstract:
“We find that for every barrel of increased production, global oil consumption would increase 0.6 barrels owing to the incremental decrease in global oil prices. As a result, and depending on the extent to which the pipeline leads to greater oil sands production, the net annual impact of Keystone XL could range from virtually none to 110 million tons CO2 equivalent annually. This spread is four times wider than found by the US State Department (1–27 million tons CO2e), who did not account for global oil market effects.”
The report has been dismissed by the American Petroleum Institute. Spokeswoman Sabrina Fang told the Guardian that the oil will be shipped by rail if not by pipeline. Energy economist Judith Dworkin says consumption, not oil production, determines the price of barrels. The State Department has thus far declined to comment.