In its environmental assessment of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, the U.S. State Department severely underestimated the project’s impact on oil production, and the resulting greenhouse gas emissions.
That’s according to a rigorous economic analysis published in a new report by the Carbon Tracker Initiative. Researchers found that, if constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would increase global greenhouse gas emissions by roughly a whopping 5 gigatons over the course of its lifetime. For some perspective, that’s the equivalent of the annual emissions from 1,400 coal-fired power plants or 1 billion automobiles, according to the report’s authors.
As you may recall, in a speech last June at Georgetown University, President Obama explicitly stated that he would approve the pipeline “only if this project doesn’t significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
In its recent environmental assessment, the State Department’s suggested that the pipeline is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands,” thereby implying that it would pass President Obama’s stated climate test.
However, the Carbon Tracker report, called Keystone XL: The “Significance” Trap (pdf), proves otherwise.
Using the State Department’s own numbers, Carbon Tracker researchers determined that the Keystone XL pipeline, if constructed, would increase the rate of extraction of tar sands, to the tune of roughly 510,000 barrels per day of bitumen (or roughly 730,000 barrels per day of DilBit, after dilution to allow it to flow through the pipeline). As Carbon Tracker researchers put it, “There is over 510kbpd of bitumen production which would benefit from even the narrowest improvement of margins.”