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For years, discussion of the Keystone XL pipeline has stirred feelings of anger, fear and disgust. But I wonder what percentage of the population knew the basics of the subject. Where was it to start and end? What was to be shipped in it? When would it be operational? What would be the effect? Why was there so much opposition?

While the pipeline has been canceled by the developer, the subject still has legs. The pipeline started in Alberta, Canada, and would have ended near the Gulf Coast. It was to send oil from tar sands through the pipeline at a maximum rate of 800,000 barrels per day starting in 2023. This oil would not be pulled from a hole in the ground, but would come from strip-mining Canada’s boreal forest. The oil is heavy (thick) crude — not like liquid West Texas Intermediate or sweet crude. It is more acidic and more corrosive than the “sweeter,” lighter crude. Most of it would have been refined by facilities along the Gulf, because few foreign refineries are able to refine heavy crude. Most of the product was destined for foreign markets.

Did we lose all of this production? Perhaps some of it, but some will move by rail and some will move through other pipelines.

General opposition arose not just because this oil was thought of as increasing potential carbon dioxide, but because it is such “dirty” oil and a lot of energy is needed just to free the oil from the sand/shale/rock that it is trapped in.

Additionally, many Indigenous tribes and landowners did not want the pipeline running through their property. Why? Another Keystone pipeline broke in 2019 and spewed about 380,000 gallons of heavy crude over the landscape and into a stream.

Jay R. George


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