Oilsands companies are about to get the pipeline approval they wanted. Now it's time to call off the bitterly divisive pipeline wars.
Industry's own numbers show that Keystone XL is more than enough for a massive increase in their climate disrupting product. What they need is to find the decency to allow other Canadians to protect the values they cherish as well.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has supported approval of the gigantic Keystone XL pipeline for years. In his first trip to Washington DC he declared, "my support for Keystone is steadfast." U.S. President-elect Donald Trump promises "100 per cent" to approve Keystone XL in his first days in office.
The Keystone XL mega-project can easily handle Alberta's seemingly unslakable desire to pull ever more fossil carbon out of the ground. Just take a look at the chart below.
This is the oil industry's own chart showing their production plans through 2030. I've overlaid proposed pipelines and existing rail as red bars. As you can see, the industry's goal is to keep extracting ever greater quantities of fossil carbon, year after year. And as you can also see, piling the Keystone XL pipeline on top of all the other existing infrastructure is more than enough to handle even these plans.
Now call off the pipeline wars…
With Keystone XL approval in the bag, there's no need to force unnecessary pipelines down the throats of bitterly opposed Canadians.
Just how big is Keystone XL? Here are a few facts to put the gigantic scale into perspective:
- Bigger than 100 nations combined: It's so huge that the annual climate pollution from Keystone XL bitumen will exceed the combined emissions of the 100 least-climate-polluting nations. 1
- Fossil carbon: 13 billion barrels over its 40-year lifespan2
- Climate pollution: All that bitumen will release 7.5 billion tonnes of CO2 3
- Social damage: All that CO2 will inflict nearly $700 billion in economic damages on society, according to the US Government's "Social Cost of Carbon" estimates. 4
Not bad for just one pipeline. XL indeed.
Can we call off the pipeline wars now?
Trudeau can now avoid the looming bitter and divisive fight over Kinder Morgan TMX. Will he?
We are about to learn the answer in a just few days when our Prime Minister shows his cards on Kinder Morgan's Trans Mountain pipeline proposal.
That pipeline would pump another 8.6 billion barrels of bitumen — releasing another 5.1 billion tonnes of CO2 — down the Fraser River and into the coastal waterways of British Columbia. It faces a fierce wall of opposition from Canadians worried about everything from accidental oil spills to intentional climate disruption. It's a divisive tinder box, pitting Canadians against each other.
And it's clear from the industry's own chart above, that it isn't needed anymore.
At a bare minimum, our Prime Minister owes it to British Columbians to put off his final decision of KinderMorgan's TMX pipeline until the fate of Keystone XL is made clear in just a few weeks. It would be a reckless, heartless, and legacy-defining act to set off such a divisive pipeline war unnecessarily. Canadians deserve better.
After all, what kind of leader would pit his own people and their cherished values against each other if he doesn't need to?
- Annual emissions from KXL bitumen will be around 190 million tonnes of CO2 (MtCO2). That's 325m barrels times 600 kgCO2/bbl. According to the EDGAR database, the 100 least climate polluting nations emitted a combined 184 MtCO2 in 2014. KXL is a gigantic pipeline pumping huge amount of carbon into our atmosphere (global warming) and seas (ocean acidification).
- Keystone XL has a stated capacity of 890,000 barrels a day. That means 324 million barrels per year; 13 billion barrels over the proposed 40 year lifespan of the project.
- Environment Canada estimates 90 kgCO2 is emitted to extract each barrel of bitumen. A study by Oil Change International estimates 520 kgCO2 is released when each barrel of bitumen is burned. Together they add up to around 600 kgCO2/bbl in total. Multiplied by 13 billion barrels means over 7.5 billion tonnes of CO2 will be spilled into the air from this bitumen.
- The US Government estimates the "Social Cost of Carbon". It's "an estimate of the economic damages associated with a small increase in carbon dioxide emissions, conventionally one metric ton, in a given year." Damages are estimated to rise by 65% per tonne between 2020 and 2050 (in constant dollars). Each tonne emitted does more harm to society as the years go by. Over the 40 years of the project's proposed lifespan the Social Costs of Carbon averages around $60/tCO2 in US 2007 constant dollars. That's approximately $90/tCO2 in current Canadian dollars. When multiplied by the 7.5 billion tCO2 it means nearly $700 billion in economic damages to society (in constant 2016 Canadian dollars).