The US State Department released its Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Assessment on the Keystone XL oil pipeline today, and it contains a lot of good news for Alberta. You can read the Executive Summary of the Assessment here or the full report may be accessed here.
At first glance, the report is unconditionally good news for the project and for Alberta. I hope to have the time to read it in more detail over the next few days, and also to tuning into comments from other sources on this project. Based on my early read, here are some thoughts:
On GHG emissions, a key objection that many have to increased oilsands imports, the assessment concluded that “crude oil delivered to PADD II and PADD III refineries by the Project are likely to be replacing heavy crude oil from other less reliable and diminishing sources. Assuming constant demand for refined oil products, the incremental impact of the Project on GHG emissions would be minor.” In the detailed report, the analysis confirms that, “…the proposed Project would not substantially influence the rate or magnitude of oil extraction activities in Canada, or the overall volume of crude oil transported to the U.S. or refined in the U.S.” Together, these supported that conclusion that, “from a global perspective, the project is not likely to result in incremental GHG emissions.”
The analysis takes an important further step in assessing the future impacts of the pipeline on GHG emissions, and comes up with what you will likely find to be a surprising conclusion. They find that, “it is likely that GHG intensity for future reference crude oils (i.e. alternatives to oilsands) will be trending upward while the GHG intensity for WCSB oil sands-derived crude oils will be relatively constant to slightly upward. If this is the case, the differential in life-cycle GHG emissions for fuels refined from these crude oils is likely to decrease.” In other words, if you look ahead to the operational horizon of this project, other sources of crude will become more emissions intensive faster than oilsands.
This report is a welcome break from the rhetoric that would suggest that oilsands, in and of themselves, are responsible for an atrocious climate crime. The reality, of course, is that oil in general is tied to carbon emissions, and thus to climate change. If you want a reduction in carbon emissions, fight for a carbon price not for blocking a single source of oil.