30 Times More Dirty Oil

February 3, 2014

Tonight Americans will hold hundreds of vigils across the country to protest the Keystone Pipeline. The State Department’s environmental impact statement released Friday claims that climate damage from the pipeline would be minimal on the theory that the tar sands oil will inevitably be burned anyway. The reality is it would dramatically accelerate damaging emissions and climate disruption.


The Keystone XL pipeline is a great deal for tar sands oil companies and lobbyists, but it’s a raw deal for regular Americans.
They say this pipeline would bring us good jobs and affordable energy. This new report confirms neither promise is true.  The oil is not for us, and the pipeline would only create 35 permanent jobs.
This new report pretends the pipeline makes no difference to our climate because if Keystone XL is rejected, they will ramp up tar sands oil distribution by train anyway. But that is uncertain—oil companies have tried and failed to expand distribution by train before.
The Keystone XL pipeline would deliver over 30 times more dirty tar sands oil to Gulf refineries than is delivered by train today.
If it’s approved, Keystone XL will cause as much carbon pollution as 50 coal plants each year—hardly a “minimal” impact.
The truth is this pipeline is critical to getting more tar sands oil to market. The oil companies wouldn’t be spending millions lobbying for it if it weren’t critical.
The review was run by lobbyists for TransCanada, the Canadian company hoping to build the pipeline. It’s no wonder a top oil lobbyist apparently got to review the final report before anyone in Congress was allowed to.
President Obama promised to reject the pipeline if it damaged the climate. But Keystone would cancel out Obama’s most important climate improvement measure, the historic fuel economy standards he put in place last year.
If the President is serious about his climate legacy, he cannot approve this pipeline.

Killer Video: NextGen Climate Action bought an ad after the State of the Union address, arguing it’s “a sucker’s deal for America.”

KEY:  Connect with your audience |  Make your case | Show how your opponents differ


ATTACK: “If America rejects the Keystone pipeline it won’t stop the carbon pollution because TransCanada will find some other way to extract the tar sands and sell the fuel.” 


  • This new report pretends the pipeline makes no difference to our climate because the tar sands oil will be burned with or without it. The truth is this pipeline is critical to getting tar sands oil to market: approving it will dramatically accelerate production of the world’s dirtiest oil, while rejecting it means production will be less and slower, protecting our climate.
  • The State Department only compared the carbon footprint of the pipeline to other methods of transporting the tar sands to refineries in Texas. It did not factor in the difference if the tar sands oil were never extracted at all.
  • The Keystone pipeline would mean bringing 33 times more dirty oil to market, assuming that oil gets extracted at all, and maybe even more. The State Department estimated that the pipeline would have a capacity of 830,000 barrels per day. Without the pipeline, the State Department assumed that the same amount of heavy crude would be extracted and shipped via rail. But because tar sands oil is so heavy, transporting it by train is expensive. Currently only about 25,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude get shipped to the Gulf Coast because of the high cost.
  • If approved, Keystone would be responsible for over 180 million metric tons of heat-trapping carbon pollution each year—as much as the tailpipe emissions from nearly 40 million cars or over 50 coal-fired power plants.
  • If the President approves Keystone, it would lead to over 6 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon pollution in just a few decades—enough to cancel out the carbon pollution prevented by the new fuel efficiency standards for cars he approved in his first term.
  • We have a duty to protect our country for our children and grandchildren and deal with climate change now. Helping oil companies transport dirty oil with Keystone XL isn’t the way to do it.
ATTACK: “Keystone could create 20,000 jobs.”


  • Try 35. The State Department confirmed in its most recent report that constructing Keystone would create only 35 permanent jobs and 3,900 temporary construction jobs.
  • Those other jobs numbers come from TransCanada, and they’re wildly inflated. We need to focus on putting more Americans back to work in more long-term and good paying jobs right here in America.
  • Compare the Keystone jobs number with the fact that there are nearly 120,000 Americans with permanent jobs in solar energy—including nearly 4,000 in the states through which Keystone would be built. In fact, clean energy jobs are growing four times faster than other work.
  • The pipeline also has the potential to kill jobs. A pipeline rupture would devastate farms and ranches along the pipeline, just like the BP Oil spill devastated Gulf fishermen.
ATTACK: Moving more oil south will lower American gas prices at the pump.”


  • Actually, experts tell us that Keystone XL is not likely to change gas prices at all. Right now there’s a glut of Canadian tar sands oil that’s keeping prices down. Oil companies want to ship more of this dirty oil to China so they can also charge us more for it here.
  • Nonpartisan economists have found that the Keystone XL pipeline will do nothing to reduce gas prices. Actually, the reason oil companies wanted to build Keystone wasn’t to lower their prices, but to raise them (by reducing the glut of tar sands oil in North America).
  • To save money at the gas pump and secure our energy future, let’s do what is already working—make our cars go more miles on the same amount of gas, rein in the Wall Street speculators who abuse the oil markets, and invest in homegrown clean energy that won’t ever run out, like solar.
ATTACK: “Keystone will allow us to get more oil from Canada and less from the Middle East.”


ATTACK: “Trust us, Keystone XL will be safe.”


  • Another pipeline transporting Canadian oil spilled in Arkansas just recently. TransCanada had 12 toxic spills in one year of operating another pipeline, and their pipelines are prone to safety failures and spills—including the one that flooded North Dakota with 20,000 gallons of toxic oil.
  • If we’re going to risk building this pipeline to carry toxic, potentially pipe-corroding oil through two thousand miles of American farmland and over our country’s largest water aquifer, Americans should get the benefits. Instead, America will get the risks while foreign nations get the oil.
  • If we learned anything from the Exxon and BP disasters, it’s that spills are catastrophically costly. A spill would devastate farmers and ranchers along the Keystone route—and could leave their kids and grandkids with contaminated drinking water for decades.
  • Keystone is all risk and no reward for America. The fact that Canadians don’t want Keystone built across their own country tells us everything we need to know about the risks.


  • The State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is not a final decision. Based on the report, Secretary of State John Kerry will make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final call.
  • There have been huge conflicts of interest in the Keystone process: State hired a firm to do the Keystone environmental impact statements that lists TransCanada as a “major client.” When the State Department accepted proposals for a supplemental environmental report, they hired a second firm that subcontracted the study to two firms with potential conflicts of interest. That second firm’s number two person on Keystone had done prior work with TransCanada as a contractor. State Department staff tried to cover up these conflicts.
  • TransCanada and pro-pipeline PR firms hired many lobbyists with close connections to the State Department and the Obama Administration. Those hires included Paul Elliott, Secretary of State Clinton’s national deputy campaign manager in 2008, Anita Dunn, former White House Communications Director under Obama, and Larry Rasky, a Kerry campaign staffer from the Secretary of State’s first senate bid. It appears that the American Petroleum Institute’s chief executive may have even seen the State Department report before Congress or the American public.
  • Keystone opponents are also battling the expansion of rail capacity, in case the pipeline is rejected and TransCanada tries to move the oil by train. One company’s plan to build a rail terminal for heavy crude in California has been delayed because city officials sought an environmental review. Two proposed crude terminals in Washington state were blocked in the wake calls for additional study of the environmental risks associated with the project.
  • The EPA criticized multiple drafts of environmental impact statements for failing to consider all of the impacts the pipeline might have.
  • The Keystone XL pipeline is sponsored by a foreign corporation that wants to build a 1,700 mile pipeline cutting across America to move Canadian oil to Gulf Coast ports, where it will be processed and sold to foreign countries.
  • If approved, Keystone would be responsible for over 180 million metric tons of heat-trapping carbon pollution each year — as much as the tailpipe emissions from nearly 40 million cars or over 50 coal-fired power plants.
  • From 2015 to 2050, Keystone XL would lead to over 6 billion metric tons of heat-trapping carbon pollution — enough to cancel out the carbon pollution prevented by the new fuel efficiency standards for cars President Obama implemented in his first term, which are projected to reduce emissions by 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program.
  • Since 1990, pipelines in the U.S. have spilled more than 110 million gallons of crude and petroleum products. Tar sands oil could also be more corrosive than conventional oil, which would make the Keystone XL pipeline more prone to leaks. It also sinks in water, complicating clean-up.
  • Keystone XL would cross over the Ogallala Aquifer, the country’s biggest water aquifer and a source of drinking water for two million Americans.
  • The pipeline’s hidden costs could kill more jobs in the long run by increasing gas prices in the region and damaging family farms, ranches, the local tourism industry, and the trucking sector. TransCanada admitted KXL will actually increase gas and diesel prices in the region by 10 to 20 cents more per gallon, which will send billions from American consumers to foreign and multinational oil interests.