Recently the U.S. Department announced it would allow time for eight federal agencies to submit their views on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to carry crude oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the project’s route. The proposed pipeline passes through Nebraska and other states along the way.
According to a report in the National Geographic, the Keystone XL project has become a prominent topic in a larger debate on the two energy alternatives the U.S. has to pursue, that is, non-fossil renewables or oil and gas that can be reached with new, more powerful drilling methods.
One of the main stumbling blocks for the pipeline is that it goes through environmentally sensitive areas in Nebraska, such as the North Valley Grasslands, an officially designated Important Bird Area, and several waterways, including the Yellowstone, Missouri, and Niobara Rivers. It puts at risk endangered or threatened species that includes the whooping crane, swift fox, and American burying beetle.
As expected, the industry received the news with disappointment while environmentalists welcomed the time gained with the decision.
“The State Department is taking the most prudent course of action possible. It is already clear that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline fails the climate test and will damage our climate, our lands and our waters. Getting this decision right includes being able to evaluate the yet-to-be determined route through Nebraska and continuing to listen to the many voices that have raised concerns about Keystone XL,” said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the International Program at Council.
Recently, a group called Cowboy and Indian Alliance, made of sixty ranchers, farmers and tribal leaders whose land is in the pathway of the Keystone XL pipeline, showed up in Washington on horseback for a period of four days of protest.
“For 500 years, our people have been suffering,” Matthew Black Eagle Man, a 45-year-old member of the Sioux Long Plain First Nation tribe in Manitoba, Canada, was quoted in an article in Occupy.com. “The government gave us the most desolate places in the country for our reservations. Now they want to build a pipeline on our land.”
The Keystone XL issue is a political test for Obama, who pledged to reduce the country’s carbon emissions (studies show that it emits about 17 percent more greenhouse gas than the average barrel of U.S.-refined crude oil) while at the same time guarantee a reliable supply of energy. Some say the latest twist in the saga is politically motivated by the oncoming elections. Others say that tar sands oil will be extracted from Canada, with or without the pipeline.
Image credit: NatGeo
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