Study: Keystone emissions four times feds’ estimate

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline could cause four times as much greenhouse gas emissions as the federal government previously estimated, according to a new study.

State Department officials failed to account for the pipeline’s impact on oil prices, the study said. The researchers at the Stockholm Environment Institute estimated that the pipeline would cause crude to fall by $3 a barrel, which would increase oil consumption.

The study in the journal Nature Climate Change concluded that the lower price would increase greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of up to 121 million tons of carbon dioxide a year, comparable to the emissions of 23.1 million cars. The State Department had estimated up to 30 million tons of carbon emissions a year.

President Obama had pledged to approve the final leg of the oil pipeline, which is planned to run from Alberta, Canada’s oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast, only if it doesn’t “significantly exacerbate” carbon pollution.

The Obama administration’s consideration of the pipeline’s permit is currently on hold while a lawsuit over its route is argued in Nebraska. The state’s highest court will hear the case in September.

The American Petroleum Institute told The Associated Press the study was irrelevant, because the oil Keystone would carry would be developed and transported anyway.

TransCanada Corp., the company proposing Keystone, refuted the study’s findings.

“It’s clear that a single pipeline carrying less than one per cent of the world’s daily oil production is not the key driver of global oil consumption,” Shawn Howard, a spokesman for the company, said in a statement.

He also said the study completely ignored the State Department’s finding that the top alternative to Keystone — carrying more oil by rail — would increase greenhouse gas emissions.

“Under any scenario where the project is denied, GHG emissions from the movement of this oil would actually increase — 28 percent more GHGs if all the oil is railed to the Gulf Coast, 42 percent higher GHGs if a combination of rail and new pipelines is used,” he said.

—This story was updated at 11:20 a.m.