(Thanks for this guest post from Senator Tim Kaine, and for his leadership against the Keystone XL Canadian tar sands export pipeline! – promoted by lowkell)
The Senate is considering legislation to mandate approval of Keystone XL, a proposed pipeline that would transport hundreds of thousands of gallons of Canadian tar sands oil per day across the United States. The House just passed similar legislation.
I believe this pipeline would take our energy future in the wrong direction and pose a significant risk to the gains we’ve made in clean energy development.
America is in the midst of a clean energy revolution. Over the past few years, we have embraced a set of conservation and efficiency investments that have saved energy use in the vehicle sector and also helped the American auto industry significantly rebound. We’ve dramatically lowered energy prices for consumers, enabling them to switch from dirtier energy sources to cleaner ones, such as wind, solar and natural gas. From 2005 to 2012, the U.S. was one of the few nations in the world to reduce its carbon emissions.
Why would we want to undo this progress? The mining, refining and production of tar sands oil produces approximately 15% to 20% more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than conventional petroleum. The scientific consensus, I believe, is very clear that we have to do what we can to bring down our CO2 emissions, yet from an emissions standpoint, tar sands oil goes in exactly the wrong direction and threatens to reverse the gains we’ve made.
The mining of tar sands also poses drastic consequences for the land and people in the area of Alberta where it originates. The process of extracting tar sands has already decimated vast acreages of boreal forest and destroyed an area the size of Rhode Island, which now looks like a moonscape. For the people living near the mining sites, tar sands extraction has coincided with dramatic increases in respiratory problems and other illnesses related to air and water contamination.
Why would we embrace an energy source with such harmful effects when America is already driving down energy prices and carbon emissions without the devastating land and human costs associated with tar sands oil?
In the coming weeks, my colleagues and I will vote on final approval of the pipeline. We’ll have the opportunity to choose whether the U.S. is going to continue leading the world toward a cleaner energy future or whether we will take a step backwards.
I’ll be voting to make tomorrow cleaner than today – against legislation to mandate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.