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Athabaska Keystone Pipeline Xl Debate - Controversy of the Athabasca Keystone Xl Pipeline

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Controversy of the Athabasca Keystone XL Pipeline

What if we could take a controversial issue and please both sides? In the case of the highly debated Keystone pipeline extension (XL) I believe it is possible. The Keystone Main Pipeline starts in Canada where the second largest deposit of oil sands is located stretching 54,000 square miles across Alberta. There they mine the oils sands by removing the overlying sediment and transporting the oil sands to 'upgraders' where the sand is separated from the oil (About). The proposed Keystone XL pipeline will run 1,980 miles carrying 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Alberta, Canada then traversing through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska to join up with the Keystone Main in Steele City, Kansas then continuing on to Houston, Texas. The proposed route of the Keystone XL crosses through the Ogallala Aquifer which is a major concern for those opposed to the pipeline (Swift, 2011). The Ogallala Aquifer's integrity is only one of a few concerns about the Keystone XL Pipeline.

There are three main environmental issues with the Pipeline as it crosses the plain states. The contamination of the Ogallala Aquifer is only one of the many environmental dangers that a leak in the pipe would present but by far the most hazardous as the aquifer provides drinking water to two million people and supports a $20 billion per year agricultural economy. There is also a great unrest in Nebraska concerning the proposed pipeline since Nebraska has no regulations or responsible state agency to govern the oil pipelines (Keystone). Finally, the pipeline capacity far exceeds the amount of oil carried away from the Athabasca oil sands. In a recent study they found that "The amount of pipeline overcapacity is 1.8 million barrels per day in 2013, decreasing to 359,000 barrels per day in 2025, using CAPP growth estimates". If another pending pipeline, the Northern Gateway, were added, overcapacity jumps to over two million barrels per day in 2016 (Lemphers 2010). This overcapacity leads me to believe that they are only building the extension for a small amount of extra convenience. If the Keystone Main is only running at partial capacity then perhaps we should continue to use what we have instead of endangering land that sources millions of Americans.

The opponents of the pipeline exaggerate the environmental impact and threats the pipeline poses and the oil companies exaggerate the number of jobs that will be available. Many of these arguments are environmental issues, such as: 'They're producing an immense amount of green house gases.' Alberta, Canada accounts for less than 1/10 of 1% of world wide greenhouse gasses even though they run the mining equipment 24/7. (Alberta's 2011) They are also starting to employ a new technology that cleans the bitumen froth more efficiently, saving energy and water and reducing C02 emissions by 40,000 tons a year (Shell 2009). 'They use too much water- 2 barrels of water for 1 barrel of crude oil. Canada may end up in a water shortage.' They reuse 80-90% of their water by cycling the used water through tailings. The water they bring in from the outside was originally from the river but they are now planning on using the saline deposit underground (Shell 2009). 'They're using 2 barrels of natural gas to make 1 barrel of oil. This is a backwards way of thinking.' They use natural gas that is lower in energy than oil. Each barrel of synthetic crude contains about 5 times more energy than the natural gas used to make it and is much more valuable in liquid form. (Kunzig 2009).

The opposition believes that the building of the Keystone XL pipeline will stimulate the economy by the production of jobs. In the short-term, a few thousand jobs would be created by construction of the pipeline. Thomas Pyle, the president for the Institute of Energy claims that building the pipeline would create 20,000 direct high-wage jobs and other indirect jobs relating to

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