Bringing the Keystone Pipeline Debate Back into Focus by Breitling Oil and Gas CEO Chris Faulkner

Bringing the Keystone Pipeline Debate Back into Focus

While the politicians, the special-interest groups and the media continue to wrangle over the pros and cons of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline project, it seems to me that we’ve lost focus and a few key points have been left in the dust.

Critics have decried the estimated number of jobs the Keystone Pipeline will produce, warned of dire environmental consequences, and doubted whether the pipeline will do anything to lower skyrocketing gas prices.

You say tomato, I say tomahtoh: jobs will be created as well as saved

Let’s agree to disagree on the jobs estimates—TransCanada has put the number at 20,000, some US politicians have inflated it to 200,000, and the US State Department has issued its verdict of 5,000 to 6,000. One thing is for sure: construction and maintenance of the pipeline will create jobs, both direct and indirect.

But let’s look at the flip side of the jobs-created coin. What about the workers whose livelihoods are endangered if the pipeline project is never completed? Thousands of jobs are at stake in the Gulf Coast area refineries that were built for heavy oil. These refineries now process oil from Mexico and Venezuela, but heavy oil production in both countries is falling. And some of Venezuela’s oil is being diverted elsewhere for political reasons.

You say neither, I say nyther: killing Keystone won’t be a win for the environment

Another hotly contested element of the Keystone Pipeline is the potential environmental impact. It amazes me that so much coverage of the environmental concerns fails to mention that the US Department of State Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs has stated that the project will be safer than any other domestic pipeline under current regulations. (There’s already a network of more than 100,000 miles of crude trunk and gathering pipeline in the US; the Keystone pipeline will add about 1,700 miles more.)

What many in the media also fail to consider is that the alternatives to the pipeline—tankers and trains—are far more destructive from an emissions standpoint and just as dangerous in relation to potential spills.

And let’s not forget this simple fact: whether or not we allow this pipeline, Canada will be increasing production from its tar sands and shipping that oil by whatever method is available. Those hoping to stop the continued exploitation of the Canadian tar sands by blocking the pipeline will only succeed in keeping that oil from reaching US refineries, with the likely result of China taking advantage of our nation’s short-sightedness. And how will Canada’s oil reach China? Overseas tankers, of course, creating a greater risk of oil spills as well as additional emissions. Once again, the environment loses, as do American workers and consumers.

Let’s not call the whole thing off: Keystone is a win for consumers

Experts can’t even agree on how the Keystone Pipeline might affect oil prices in the US, noting that gas prices have less to do with actual supplies and more to do with speculators and projected demand. Some even warn that gas prices may rise as a result of the pipeline, as the glut in the Midwest is currently keeping prices down. Once that oil is rushing through the pipeline, they predict, Midwesterners, at the very least, will see their prices rising.

The stock markets are hard to predict, but how many times have we seen huge responses to even the tiniest positive news? Don’t underestimate the power of positive forward momentum. Each barrier to Keystone causes uncertainty in the market while new construction of a pipeline delivering a fresh supply of oil to the US sends a message of hopeful growth that can only buoy Americans’ confidence and the economy along with it.

Chris Faulkner is the Founder, President and CEO of Breitling Oil and Gas, an independent oil and natural gas company based in Irving, Texas. With diverse and extensive experience in all aspects of the oil and gas industry in North America, Europe and the Middle East, Mr. Faulkner is an advisor to the ECF Asia Shale Committee and sits on the Board of Directors for the North Texas Commission.

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