The Keystone XL pipeline could generate four times more carbon emissions than the U.S. State Department’s environmental analysis of the project estimates, a new report concludes.
Adding economic analysis of increased oil consumption to the mix, the Stockholm Environmental Institute estimated that Keystone XL production in the Alberta oil sands could reduce prices by $3 per barrel, the Associated Press reported, enabling consumers to buy and use more of it, in turn increasing the amount mined. The result could add 121 million more tons of carbon dioxide net equivalent emissions annually, as opposed to the State Department’s estimate of 30 million tons, AP said.
“This spread is four times wider than found by the U.S. State Department, which did not account for global oil market effects,” the study authors said in a statement.
Supporters of the $7 billion, 1,700-mile-long pipeline system from the Alberta oil sands of western Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico Coast said the study didn’t matter because the oil sands would be mined with or without Keystone XL, AP said. Others dismissed the study for various reasons. For one thing, a potential 121-million-ton carbon dioxide release is nothing compared to the 36 billion tons of CO2 emitted during 2013, University of Sussex economic Richard Tol told AP. For another, it could not be assumed that increased oil production would spark higher demand with lower prices, said Independent energy economist Judith Dwarkin in Calgary, Alberta, to AP.
President Barack Obama has said he would not approve Keystone XL if it would increase the carbon footprint of the oil sands and lead to their increased development.
Considerations of Keystone XL’s potential effect on the market by increasing consumption and thus lowering prices is “an aspect that has received remarkably little attention among existing Keystone assessments,” the authors said in their introduction to a draft of their report from last year. (This year’s version reflects the State Department’s estimates potential carbon footprint in its final environmental analysis.)
Obama’s decision is pending while federal agencies weigh in on whether the project would be in the U.S.’s best interest, in the wake of a judge’s strikedown of a Nebraska law that would have allowed the pipeline to proceed.