The idea of global warming is almost universally accepted amongst the world’s top scientists as one of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.
As global warming and its consequences become more and more apparent in society, there seems to be little to no agreement on how to handle climate change.
One of the most pressing climate topics of the day has become the Keystone XL Pipeline, an oil pipeline that would cross the Canadian border and pump millions of barrels of tar sands oil into the United States by the day.
The Keystone 1 Pipeline began construction in 2008 and began pumping fuel into the United States in 2010. This pipeline runs from Alberta, Canada to Pakota, Illinois. This existing oil pipeline has allowed the United States to become increasingly less dependent on Middle Eastern oil and more dependent on North American oil.
TransCanada proposed an extension to the pipeline that would allow Canadian tar sands oil to be transported thousands of miles south from Alberta, Canada to Montana, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposition to build the extension, or the Keystone XL Pipeline, has sat on the president’s desk for years, supposedly a priority, but the issue has made no progress in Washington.
From the oil industry’s side, the Keystone XL Pipeline is a no-brainer. The pipeline brings in millions of barrels of Canadian oil into the U.S. From an economic perspective, the pipeline seems like a beneficial project.
Both the construction and use of the pipeline is projected to create thousands of jobs, both direct and indirect. Supporters also argue that the pipeline will help bring oil money back to North America and benefit Americans right at home.
Despite numerous ambiguous reports that say the short-term environmental impact is minimal, environmentalists argue the pipeline could be a disaster waiting to happen. The oil that the pipeline will bring to the United States is called tar sands oil, which is known as the “dirtiest oil on the planet.”
This oil contains bitumen and requires a great amount of refining to become usable as fuel. This refining process produces excess amounts of carbon dioxide, which is widely accepted as the main cause of global warming.
Environmentalists also argue that the economic benefit from construction of the pipeline will be minimal and most jobs created will be temporary positions. There is a widespread fear of another catastrophic oil spill that would devastate precious farmland around route of the pipeline and the essential Ogallala Aquifer, an aquifer that helps irrigate farmland and provides water to millions of people.
Finally, environmentalists argue that both the possible risk to the environment from the pipeline itself and the downstream impact of increasing emissions show that building a transcontinental oil pipeline is a step in the wrong direction.
If serious efforts are to be made to reverse climate change these funds would better be spent on developing newer, renewable, and more reliable forms of energy.
Most Americans support building the pipeline, but only by a narrow margin. When the pipeline was first introduced, 53% of American voters supported the construction of the pipeline according to the Rasmussen poll. In Canada, where much of the existing pipeline lies, 39% of Canadians support construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline according to Forum Research.
Politicians in Washington continue to deliberate on these statistics, while very few consider the people the pipeline will affect in the long term: young people.
This is also the opinion of Nithin Vejendla ‘15, who says, “I think the Keystone Pipeline, while a good source of jobs, has the potential to cause an environmental disaster that will be felt mostly by our generation, and not the ones making the laws.”
Marc Esposito ‘15, the President of the Environmental Club at RPS said, “The Keystone Pipeline already exists to process oil for domestic use and I don’t see the need to double its capacity so we can use a limited resource two times as fast.”
RPS JSA President Arjun Ahluwalia ‘16 and Vice President Michael Sullivan ‘16 are also opposed to the pipeline for different reasons. Arjun says that, “If companies can spend oodles of money building a continental-wide underground pipe from Alberta to Port Arthur, they can undoubtedly spend a little more to create a pipeline that goes around the Ogallala Aquifer.”
Michael is more concerned about individuals’ rights. He says that, “What I find disturbing is the threat of eminent domain suits by TransCanada against farmers. This would be a violation of property rights for the profit of a company.”
Clearly, many campus leaders at RPS do not support the construction of the pipeline.
Regardless of one’s position on pipeline construction, the larger issue of climate change will be felt most by future generations. Thus, this generation must find solutions to this very serious problem that threatens the Earth.
It will be interesting to see if the voice of today’s youth will be heard in the debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline.