The Keystone XL Pipeline: A Battle of Good and Evil?

By: Rebecca Theodore

Rebecca Theodore - new picOn January 29, 2015 the Keystone XL pipeline was passed by the Senate 62-36. Much to the chagrin of environmentalists, the 1,179-mile pipeline will carry an estimated 830,000 barrels of crude oil a day from Canada to Nebraska, where it will connect with existing pipelines on its way to Gulf Coast refineries.

Although President Obama has vowed to veto the bill, Republicans revel in the victory while at the same time, criticizing the liberal’s anti-carbon mania that the pipeline will contribute to global warming.

Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota, the lead Republican sponsor of the measure, said before the vote that the additions will “help us build the right kind of energy plan for our country.”

In all  truism and goodness  the Keystone XL pipeline registers an increase in energy security and reduction in   dependence on foreign oil and the creation of tens of thousands of jobs in Canada and the US and add billions of dollars to the economy.  In fact, an increased supply of oil from Canada would mean a decreased reliance on the Middle Eastern market. According to market principles, “the more oil in the market, the lower the price for consumers.”

Yet the evil surpasses the good.

It cannot be ruled out that mining and production of tar sands, destroy fragile forest ecosystems, waste enormous amounts of water, disrupt the lives of indigenous people in Canada and threaten the climate, pollute water sources and endanger public health.

Environmentalists  contend  that tar sands oil extraction and production emits three times more carbon dioxide than does the extraction and production of conventional oil.  Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) states that “the Keystone XL Pipeline undermines the U.S.  Commitment to a clean energy economy,” instead “delivering dirty fuel at high costs and  jeopardizes the gains made combating climate change via fuel economy standards and the use of clean energy sources as vehicle fuels.”

Moreover, the International Energy Association (IEA) warns that that up to two-thirds of known fossil reserves must remain untouched in order to avoid devastating effects on the climate from a global rise of 2 degrees Celsius, such as the melting of the Arctic ice, sea level rise, and more extreme tornados and hurricanes and more floods and heat waves.

Perhaps most important of all is Greenpeace executive director Phil Radford’s argument that TransCanada had “misled investors, U.S. and Canadian officials, the media, and the public at large in order to bolster its balance sheets and share price.  To this day,  it is alleged  that TransCanada’s public statements and information on the  tar sands  in the  Boreal forest of Alberta  were inflated   in a concerted effort to secure presidential permitting approval” of the pipeline.

More significantly,  reports  from the Boreal forests of Alberta communities, not only indicate that 100 of the town’s 1,200 residents have died from cancer in the lakeside village of Fort Chipewyan, as a result of tar sands  mining,  but they  are  now  facing a high rate of sexual assault and   human trafficking   and other negative societal impact  from the thousands of U.S construction workers that will invade the  Boreal community.

And while this injustice soars, Republican leadership continues to platform their dissent of climate science and herald their compliant fidelity to oil money.

Even while the State Department conclude the Keystone XL proposal “would include processes, procedures, and systems to prevent, detect, and mitigate potential oil spills,” the probability of spills from the  pipeline is high and more threatening than conventional spills, because tar sands oil sinks rather than floats, making clean ups more difficult and costly.

Besides, evidence shows that transportation of the tar sands from Canada is not without accidents. TransCanada’s first pipeline has spilled more than a dozen times in less than a year of operation.

In actual fact, accidents of spills are well documented in tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from a pipeline run by the Canadian company Enbridge.  A 22-foot crack in an Exxon pipeline also caused a destructive tar sands oil spill that began in a suburban neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas and into Lake Conway, a drinking water source and popular fishing spot.

It stands to reason that if the pipelines are to navigate six U.S. states and traverse major rivers, including the Missouri River, Yellowstone, and Red Rivers, as well as key sources of drinking and agricultural water, then there is the likelihood that dangerous substances like cyanide and ammonia, will wield its way into neighboring clean water supplies.

Given these circumstances, the birth of rare cancers, renal failure, lupus, and hyperthyroidism will rise, but giant oil companies will reap colossal profits.  Emissions will cause smog and acid rain and contribute to respiratory diseases, but when money continues to spin the web of deception, it is not about environmental injustices and human lives anymore.

All told, the Keystone XL pipeline remains common sense to Republican reasoning.  According to them, electricity plants powered by coal in the U.S. generate almost 40 times more greenhouse-gas emissions than Canada’s oil sands. The pipeline will be the safest and most advanced oil pipeline operation in North America. It will not only bring  vital infrastructure  to North American oil producers, but it  will also provide jobs, long term energy independence  and an economic increase to American economy.

The battle of good and evil may be a universal part of the human condition but the bigoted image that continues to depersonalize the human psyche in ‘the tyranny of oil’ cries out in the heart of darkness — “Drill Baby Drill.”

Rebecca Theodore is an Op-ed columnist based in Washington, D.C. She writes on national security and political issues. She can be contacted at:



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