The battle over TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline has become the environmental issue of the year. Climate change activist and billionaire Tom Steyer, a vocal opponent of Keystone XL, has vowed to spend $100 million to make climate change a key issue in the 2014 midterm elections.
And while the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated the pros and cons of the Canada-to-Gulf-of-Mexico pipeline in Washington Thursday, Steyer joined the London-based Carbon Tracker Initiative to highlight a new report that warns that building Keystone XL would significantly raise carbon emissions. Steyer and Mark Fulton, a former Deutsche Bank analyst who wrote the report, take issue with the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement about Keystone XL, arguing that the mere act of building the pipeline will make it economically viable for TransCanada to extract more oil from the tar sands.
“The State Department missed a simple starting point,” said Fulton in a teleconference with reporters. “If what we have now is rail to get the tar sands out, if we build a pipeline, does that induce more production? This is a pipeline that they want to build, and building it enables more production.”
In June 2013, President Obama said “allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”
Many environmentalists view that statement as a line in the sand. Steyer stressed that the original arguments in favor of Keystone XL – that it would create thousands of jobs and lead to North American energy independence – have proven false.
“This pipeline does not go to America, but through America,” said Steyer. “It doesn’t meet the President’s test for approval. I honestly don’t understand how they can approve it.”
Obama is expected to make a final decision on the pipeline within the next couple of months.