Gregory Talamini, Contributing Writer
Keystone XL is the name given to the proposed expansion of the already existing Keystone Pipeline, which became operational in 2010. The Keystone Pipeline system was built by the TransCanada Corporation in order to transport oil. The oil that is transported by the Keystone XL pipeline differs from common crude oil in that it is derived from bituminous sand, or “tar sands.” Tar sands are a thick semi solid substance, with a consistency that is not unlike molasses. The act of processing tar sands into a fuel, like gasoline, requires the emission of two to four times the amount of greenhouse gasses than those that are emitted as a result of the refinement of common crude oil, making it the most carbon intensive of all fossil fuels.
As of right now, the Keystone Pipeline has two segments, which will soon have the collective capacity to transport 590,000 barrels of oil a day. The first segment begins in the town of Hardisty, in the Canadian province of Alberta, and the second segment ends in Cushing, Oklahoma, a distance of over 2,000 miles. TransCanada is currently awaiting permission to add 800 miles of pipeline to the already existing pipeline system. This addition, Keystone XL, would run from Cushing Oklahoma, to Nederland, Texas, and would allow the pipeline to transport an additional 510,000 barrels of oil into the U.S., for a total of 1.1 million barrels per day.
Renowned climatologists, Nobel peace prize laureates, leaders of indigenous nations and members of congress have urged President Obama to consider the impact that such an action would have. One of the key concerns is the position of this pipeline in relation to the Ogallala aquifer. One of the largest sources of fresh water on the planet, the Ogallala aquifer covers an area of 174,000 square miles. It crosses the boundaries of eight states. Similar, yet smaller pipelines have leaked in the past, and concern stems from the fact that these spills negatively affect water quality. One half of one percent of all the water on our planet is drinkable: in light of this, and the fact that our planetary population has very recently reached 7 billion people, this concern is not one to be easily dismissed. The decision to grant the necessary permits for construction rests solely on the head of Barack Obama; it is needless to say that this is a pivotal decision for the future of our national and global environmental policy.
On November 6th, one year before the next presidential election, an estimated 12,000 people, including members of SUNY Oneonta’s Environmental Science and Environmental Activism club, showed up in Washington D.C and completely encircled the White House, in order urge our president to say “No” to the pipeline.
Their solution? “Use our wind, use our sunshine, we don’t need their dirty pipeline!” While the situation has yet to come to a definite resolution, it has become increasingly clear that citizens with environmental concerns largely oppose the pipeline’s construction. Regardless of the ultimate outcome, the protests, which are reflective of our present geo-political climate, have come to demonstrate the potential power of a motivated citizenry.