Keystone has no place in Transportation Bill

Instead of delivering traditionally bi-partisan legislation, ideologically motivated Republicans are again prioritizing rewards for their special interests – in this case, TransCanada and Big Oil. Keystone backers continue to play fast and loose with the facts over the sensitive issue of gas prices, even though KXL tar sands pipeline might actually raise Americans’ gas bill. Quite simply, all of the arguments for including Keystone XL in the final Transportation bill fall apart upon scrutiny.
 

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Keystone’s link to transportation is somewhere between tenuous and non-existent. Republicans such as Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan, a conferee on the transportation bill and an ardent supporter of the pipeline, have argued that we need Keystone to help ease high gas prices. Yet, I recently authored a peer-reviewed study that found, through sound economic principles, that approving the tar sands pipeline would actually increase gas prices for many Americans, raising costs for drivers across the country.
 
"Keystone XL: A Tar Sands Pipeline to Higher Prices,’ the report commissioned by NRDC, Forest Ethics, and Oil Change International, explains why TransCanada’s plan for a cross-border pipeline would not help, and would in fact burden, Americans struggling with pain at the pump. The tar sands pipeline would pump dirty tar sands oil from Canada through America’s delicate heartland, redirecting oil from the Midwest to Texas’ Gulf Coast refineries, which produce less gasoline per barrel than their Midwestern counterparts.
 
Keystone XL would simply allow Gulf Coast refineries to turn tar sands oil into diesel for export to international markets. The truth is, Keystone XL is likely to both decrease the amount of gasoline produced in U.S. refineries for domestic markets and increase the cost of producing it, leading to even higher gas prices.
 
Additionally, giving a green light to a new tar sands pipeline is an environmentally disastrous proposition. A recent Congressional Research Service report found that Keystone XL will have the same impact on U.S. emissions as adding 4 million cars on American roads.
 
With TransCanada’s shoddy safety record and the looming anniversary of the Kalamazoo, MI oil spill, of which distressing details are still emerging and clean-up is ongoing, there are many compelling reasons against approving a dirty tar sands pipeline. So why are politicians threatening to hold up improvement of our transportation system and hold millions of American jobs in limbo over an unrelated and risky tar sands oil pipeline?
 
Transparency groups may have the answer in their tracking of financial contributions from the oil industry to lawmakers. Meanwhile, other Republicans are simply content to try and gain political traction with the electorate and don’t mind ignoring the fact that Keystone XL wouldn’t provide any gas price relief.
 
While Keystone XL may fulfill the agenda of some Republicans on the Hill and their tar sands industry benefactors, there are many American citizens who would be negatively affected by Keystone XL and deserve better. From eminent domain considerations of landowners to those concerned that the Keystone XL route goes straight through the largest source of fresh groundwater in the United States, the issues at play are too important to slip the project through back room chambers of Congress via unrelated measures.
 
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has no business as part of the transportation bill. The truth about the relationship between the tar sands pipeline and gas prices should not derail the myriad of other benefits the transportation bill will bring to Americans. Conferees of the transportation committee should ensure passage of the transportation bill and leave Keystone XL, a risky and unrelated provision, off the final version of the bill.
 
Swift is an ttorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council