This month’s Green Flim, Above All Else, explores a hot topic in news and politics: the Keystone XL Pipeline. This film will be shown March 10 and March 11 at 7 p.m. in Sweigart Auditorium. Dr. Michael Brogan, assistant professor of political science, will moderate a discussion after the film. The screening of this film comes at a time when the pipeline has provoked much discussion.
Recently, a series of votes relating to the Keystone XL Pipeline bill has sparked interest in the controversial project, which was first introduced in 2008. The proposed 1,179-mile-long crude oil pipeline would transport tar sands oil from Canada, Texas, Oklahoma, North Dakota and Montana.
Many environmental organizations have cited the potential harm of building the pipeline. The bill itself identifies damage ranging from short-term (during construction) to long-term (3-50 years) effects on soil, water resources, wetlands, vegetation, wildlife, greenhouse gases and climate change. The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline will cross 1,904 waterways, including the Ogallala aquifer, the largest source of freshwater in the U.S. The pipeline will disturb 20,782 acres of land, which could require 20-50 years for potential recovery. The bill also cites several ways to limit or contain small- and large-scale damage intentionally or accidentally caused by the building and maintaining of the pipeline.
Advocates of the pipeline cite countless benefits from its approval. Construction and maintenance will create between 20,000 and 42,000 jobs. The U.S. Department of Transportation states that pipelines are 451 times safer than rail on a per-mile basis, and the $5.1 billion project is expected to contribute over $20 billion to the U.S. economy. The pipeline will have the capacity to transport up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day, thereby reducing dependence on Venezuelan and Middle Eastern oil companies by up to 40 percent.
Skeptics of the pipeline see these benefits as being greatly exaggerated or simply wrong. Jobs created are mainly for the two-year construction project and are not long-term. The Keystone I pipeline has seen over 12 spills in its first year of operation, more than any other first-year pipeline in the U.S; TransCanada, creator of the Keystone I pipeline, predicted that that pipeline would see one spill in seven years. One source states that the oil will never be seen by American consumers – it will mostly be sold to overseas companies and may result in an increase of 20 cents per gallon in the Midwest.
Opponents also argue that the “dirty” oil will require more energy, and therefore more money, to refine. Tar sands oil has been proven to create more carbon pollution than regular oil, and, once mined, leave toxic sludge ponds which can cause health problems. Reported physical effects of the BP oil spill in Louisiana include headaches, nausea, vomiting, kidney damage and irritation of digestive tract. More serious problems include lung damage, burning pain in the nose and throat, coughing, pulmonary edema, cancer, lack of muscle coordination, dizziness, confusion, difficulty breathing, delayed reaction time and memory difficulties.
Both sides of the pipeline discussion have utilized media outlets, including social media. Personal stories of why the pipeline should or should not be built, the benefits or consequences of building the pipeline, and any angle in between have been argued. Above All Else takes the position that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. Students should pay careful attention to the issue, which could affect all of us.
Printed in the 03/04/15 issue.