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September 07, 2011

Energy Secretary Makes the Wrong Decision on Keystone XL

Tar sands tailings pipeline in CanadaLast month, the U.S. State Department endorsed the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the massive TransCanada project that will pump 900,000 gallons of tar sands oil from Alberta to Texas refineries.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu recently followed the State Department's lead, saying that the Keystone XL is "not perfect, but it's a trade off," despite the emphatic thumbs down from the Environmental Protection Agency -- not to mention the fact that it would threaten the water supply of millions of Americans and cause a major setback to long-term U.S. and Canadian carbon emissions. To say this is a disappointment is an understatement.

Secretary Chu -- echoing the "ethical oil" euphemism pushed by the industry -- said in a recent interview that Canada's dirty-energy industry is "making great strides in improving the environmental impact of the extraction of this oil." But he doesn't offer examples.

Secretary Chu doesn't have examples because it's false. It's impossible to restore a toxic sludge pit that kills countless birds. And it's impossible to guarantee that the 1,700-mile pipeline will run without hiccups. Just ask the people who live near the existing Keystone 1 pipe and the residents along the Yellowstone River, where clean-up costs have exceeded $42 million.

As Secretary of Energy, Chu should be looking at the larger energy security needs of the country. Continuing our oil dependence instead of investing in clean-energy solutions will only deepen our long-term energy security woes. The factories of Detroit, the labs of Silicon Valley, and the wind farms of Iowa and Texas stand ready to take on the new energy challenge. But this will only happen if we make room for a new economy and throw out dirty ideas like the Keystone XL pipeline.

Secretary Chu recycles the talking point that Canadian tar sands will diversify oil sources for the U.S. and reduce prices for Americans. But these are mere fantasies. The fact that the pipe will span six states and end in the Gulf of Mexico region suggests that tar sands oil will have a one-way ticket to foreign countries, where oil prices are higher and the profit is easier. Sierra Club Chairman Carl Pope points out:

The reality is that this is not an imports scheme, but an exports scam. The US gets the water pollution risk to the Ogallala Aquifer, the private property expropriations in Texas, and the air pollution around the refineries -- plus gasoline prices that may run $0.30/gallon more than they otherwise would. Koch, Valero and their allies get higher profits and greater volume -- because they finally get what they have always wanted, access to the highest price world markets.

Does this sound like ethical oil to you?

Take action and put a stop to Canadian tar sands.

Photo is of a Syncrude tar sands tailing pipeline and pond in Canada, courtesy of DirtyOilSands.org and GarthLenz.com.

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