A new study published in Nature Climate Change by the Stockholm Environment Institute claims that the Keystone XL Pipeline is set to produce four times more climate change pollution than the US State Department predicted. The State Department has already been under increased scrutiny for playing politics with the science of climate change. Transcanda, a firm that would benefit from the building of the pipeline, was recently revealed to have ties to State Department staff making the recommendations despite attempts by the State Department to hide those ties.
The study concludes that the result of the Keystone Pipeline being put online would be an increase in world greenhouse gas emissions by 121 million tons of carbon dioxide. The State Department claimed the pipeline would only increase carbon dioxide emissions by 30 million tons.
Part of the study’s differences with the State Department’s calculation are accounted for by a prediction in the drop in the global price of oil once the pipeline helps Canadian Tar Sand oil hit international markets. The study predicts global oil prices will drop by $3 a barrel.
Such emissions have been on the mind of President Barack Obama, who has said his administration would allow the pipeline to be built “only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”
The new estimates, from scientists at the Stockholm Environment Institute, were published Sunday by the journal Nature Climate Change. Peter Erickson, lead author, said his work implies that the pipeline could basically wipe out reductions from some potential pollution-cutting policies under discussion.
So much for the War on Coal. If the Keystone XL is built it is, as NASA scientist James Hansen said, game over.
Of course the study has been unconvincing to the usual suspects. The American Petroleum Institute said the study is irrelevant and that if the pipeline is not built the oil will be shipped via train. The authors admit that it remains unclear as to whether the pipeline will encourage greater exploration of the oil sands, though no other outlet purposed at the moment offers the scale Keystone XL does.
The State Department has yet to comment on the Nature Climate Change study or whether it will make adjustments to its report.
Image from Nils Simon under Creative Commons license.