Among his many Day One actions, President Joe Biden revoked the presidential permit authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that transports crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries, ostensibly over concerns about climate change and the environmental impact of fossil fuel use.
In doing so, however, Biden might have actually placed the environment at more risk as the oil that would have flowed through the pipeline will instead be transported by rail and truck, methods which generate more air pollution and are more susceptible to accidents and spills.
“Biden is trying to be a ‘green’ hero, but if he truly cared about the environment, he would have left the pipeline in place,” Pete Nestle, a South Dakota resident, told the Washington Examiner. “It’s a hell of a lot more dangerous to move oil by rail. It isn’t rocket science. What he did was purely political.”
The increased environmental risks come in addition to the devastating economic impact of thousands of job losses and higher energy prices — due to greater transportation costs — that were also an immediate result of Biden’s decision to kill the new pipeline system.
Greater risk of accidental spills
According to shipping and transportation website FreightWaves, Biden’s decision to revoke the Keystone XL pipeline permit will not stop the vast oil reserves in Alberta, Canada from being tapped, and all of that oil will still need to be shipped to refineries and transportation hubs all across the continent.
Some of the oil will simply be shifted to flow through other pipelines already in use, but a substantial portion will end up being transported via rail cars and tanker trucks.
That will obviously increase the environmental risks from train and vehicle accidents, which can result in dangerous and toxic spills that can prove deadly for humans and animals at any point along a transportation route.
“If there is an oil leak with transporting the oil through a pipeline, all the dirt that is surrounding the pipe will absorb the oil and contain the spill,” Peter Bardeson, a local union leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, told the Examiner. “By rail cars, if there is a derailment, the oil runs everywhere on the surface. So just picture a tanker car derailment in the middle of small-town America … what an environmental disaster.”
More air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions
The potential for more accidents and spills isn’t the only environmental risk caused by Biden’s decision to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. The trains and trucks that will still have to transport the valuable oil will create more air pollution in and of themselves, according to a 2017 study conducted in part by Carnegie Mellon University, in conjunction with the University of Pittsburgh.
The in-depth study looked at the costs associated with transporting crude oil by way of pipelines and trains and trucks, as well as the costs of cleaning up accidents and spills associated with those modes of transportation. That data was compared with estimates for air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that were also associated with the different methods of moving oil.
What the study predictably found is that the costs of the estimated increase in pollution and emissions for rail and truck are vastly higher than for pipelines, as are the costs incurred in cleaning up accidental spills.
In other words, Biden’s political decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline not only results in lost jobs and higher energy prices but will also increase the risk for toxic spills, deadly accidents, and pollution. What a mess.