There are two big environmental arguments against the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, the controversial infrastructure project that would carry Canadian crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. This is the project that currently is causing headaches for the Obama Administration, which has promised both to promote fossil fuel production and to curb greenhouse gas emissions. One environmental concern is that the pipeline would speed climate change, because extracting and processing the oil is particularly carbon-intensive. The second is that a pipeline spill could harm sensitive lands and waters in the American Midwest.
Surprisingly, however, the environmental impacts could be worse if the pipeline isn’t built. That’s because the oil will almost certainly be produced in any case. All that would change would be the method of getting it to market, and the new route would involve tankers crossing rough and environmentally sensitive U.S. waters.