Loaded Questions

Essential info on what's in the pipe

Nov 26, 2012
Outside Magazine

The projected path of the Keystone XL.   

Didn’t they alter the route for Keystone XL?
Yes. TransCanada has proposed rerouting a 100-mile section around Nebraska’s Sandhills wetlands. But the new route still crosses the 174,000-square-mile Ogallala Aquifer, a source of drinking water and irrigation for eight states.

Who gets the oil?
Refineries in Texas, many of which are owned by three big companies—Valero, Total, and Shell-Saudi Aramco—that export much of their product to Latin America and Europe.

Who loses?
Midwesterners accustomed to cheap gas, thanks to a supply glut at the refinery hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, which Keystone XL will relieve. Some experts think prices could jump 50 cents a gallon in the Midwest.

What’s in the stuff?
Tar-sands oil, or bitumen, is a nearly solid fuel laden with sulfur and heavy metals. To make it flow through the pipe, diluents are blended in. These are often natural-gas liquids, which can include the carcinogen benzene.

If we don’t build Keystone, won’t the oil just go to China?
It’s true that China is very interested in Alberta. But the U.S.-or-China equation is simplistic—this is about the global oil market. “North America is in the hot seat to turn on more oil than we could need for the next 100 years,” says Deborah Gordon, a climate expert with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “But if we turn it on all at once, we’re going to crash the market.”