The Government Is Extremely Confused About Whether Building The Keystone Pipeline Will Increase Emissions

Barack Obama climate change

Today, President Obama said he would not approve Transcanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from Alberta’s oil sands to the Gulf of Mexico, unless doing so would not cause a net increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

But this issue has already been studied by the government — multiple branches in fact — and it’s confused.

Here’s what State Department had to say in its March draft Environmental Impact Statement for the pipeline:

[F]rom a global perspective, the decision whether or not to build the Project will not affect the extraction and combustion of WCSB [Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin] oil sands crude on the global market. However, on a life-cycle basis and compared with reference crudes refined in the United States, oil sands crudes could result in an increase in incremental GHG emissions.

Translation: oil sands development in general will definitely increase emissions. But building the pipeline will not.

A month later, the Environmental Protection Agency disputed State’s findings, writing in a letter to the Department that its model for determining emissions is outdated, and that it needs to further probe Transcanada’s commitment to putting measures in place that would limit greenhouse gas release.

The final call on the true potential of the Keystone to produce net greater emissions will probably be published in the Final Environmental Impact Statement, expected later this year.

The White House did not respond to a request for clarification.