Tar sands pipeline will comfort our enemies

The Keystone XL is an export pipeline. Valero Energy Corporation, the pipeline’s largest customer, has explicitly told investors that it plans to focus its Port Arthur refinery on exports.  Canadian oil won’t replace imports from hostile countries because Texas refiners are serving global demand rather than domestic need.

When pipeline advocates talk about rising demand, they ignore some very good news:  US oil consumption is on a steady decline, and small measures could reduce that consumption even further.  According to the Department of Energy, gasoline demand in the US will decline through 2030, because of efficiency standards.  We could reduce that by another 4 million barrels a day by requiring more efficient heavy trucks, airplanes, and buildings.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the reduction could be up to 7 million barrels a day.

Further focus on efficiency and innovation is the only realistic method of reducing US dependence on oil imports – especially from those nations hostile to us. This reduction in demand would make tar sands oil – the world’s most expensive oil to produce – uncompetitive and unwanted.

The Keystone XL pipeline will not mitigate oil market fluctuations, nor will it reduce the cost of oil.  OPEC controls most of the world’s oil, and sets oil prices.  Construction of the pipeline – a drop in the bucket of the world oil market – will not change that. – Tar sands oil only maintains the status quo of directly and indirectly helping fund terrorists and rogue nations that want to kill Americans with our very own petrodollars. Hardly a benefit to our national security.

Moreover, the International Energy Agency shows that if we reduce our demand for oil in line with stabilizing climate change, OPEC revenues would be $5 trillion less over the next two decades compared with business as usual. Which strategy do you think OPEC countries would prefer us to pursue?
Finally, construction of the pipeline would give politicians another excuse to roll back efficiency standards and investment in clean alternative energy, exacerbating global climate change.  This could be disastrous.  In 2007, CNA Corporation, a defense analysis operation, wrote, “climate change is a threat multiplier in already fragile regions, exacerbating conditions that lead to failed states — the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism.” In 2010, the Pentagon followed suit, writing in its Quadrennial Defense Review that global warming impacts and disasters will “act as an accelerant of instability or conflict.” 

Becoming energy independent must be a top priority of the United States.  It certainly is for veterans like me.  TransCanada and its allies know this, and cynically play on our hopes by presenting the pipeline as a solution. Let’s not be fooled. The Keystone XL pipeline would perpetuate our deadly oil dependence and will  not make us more secure.
Steven M. Anderson, a retired Army brigadier general, is a senior mentor with the Army’s Battle Command Training Program.


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