Reports clash on Keystone's carbon impact

The State Department's environmental analysis of Keystone XL drastically underestimated the project's impact on carbon emissions, according to a report by a British environmental group.

The group Carbon Tracker Initiative said in its report that State fell into a "significance trap" when concluding that the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline would not "significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands."

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“The U.S. president has to decide if just one single pipeline that could use up 0.5 percent of the total remaining 2 degrees celsius global carbon budget is indeed significant,” the report, which is coauthored by former Deutsche Bank climate change strategist Mark Fulton said.

The report is referring to the international goal of keeping the global temperature under 2 degrees celsius by 2100.

It also contends that State's estimates on U.S. oil demand contradict Obama's promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020.

Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer painted a different picture in his letter to Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday.

"The project would…have little impact on overall greenhouse gas emissions," Doer wrote.

"Further, the [Environmental Impact Statement] found that where the Keystone XL pipeline is not built, the alternative oil transportation scenarios would lead to emissions increases of 28 to 42 percent, and greater environmental and public safety risks in terms of spills, injuries and fatalities."

"Canada believes the approval of Keystone XL addresses the President's concern of achieving an outcome that does not "significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."

Advocates of the pipeline say it presents a viable, better alternative to transporting crude oil than railcars, which have come under scrutiny in recent months following a number of accidents.

President Obama told governors visiting the White House last week that a decision on the $5.4 billion project would be made in the coming months.