Canadian ambassador says U.S. should complete construction on Keystone Pipeline

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This article was originally written on March 7, 2014.

Canadian Ambassador H.E. Gary Doer said the U.S. should continue constructing the Keystone Pipeline, a cross-country oil pipeline, in a speech at the Student Activities Center on Friday.

The Keystone Pipeline System construction, divided into four phases extending the pipeline various distances across the U.S. and Canada, has been subject to significant criticism by environmental groups who allege the pipeline will be damaging. President Barack Obama rejected a proposal for the Keystone XL Pipeline Project, the final phase of the project, in January 2012. The phase would have extended the pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to southern Nebraska.

Doer said he felt the current resources available to the U.S. and Canada have the potential to make the U.S. more energy independent and advocated for less restriction on the deployment of the Keystone Pipeline in the U.S.

“I believe we’ve won the lottery ticket — we just don’t know how to cash the ticket, to be less reliant on oil from the Middle East, and more reliant and independent in the neighborhood of North America,” Doer said. “We see the Keystone Pipeline, which is controversial, fitting into that narrative on energy security.”

Doer said stopping the development of the pipeline will not stop the production of oil in Canada, and the focus of the pipeline debate should shift to the environmental and safety concerns of the rail system, which is currently used to transport oil in the U.S.

“The state department concluded that it’s higher cost on rail than on pipeline, higher safety risk with more fatalities on rail, and higher greenhouse gases,” Doer said.

Sheila Olmstead, public affairs associate professor, said she felt stopping pipeline construction would not stop oil production in the U.S and Canada.

“I think we’re not in a great place trying to maximize those resources, and I agree also that we have these alternative transportation mechanisms that probably environmentally are not necessarily defined,” Olmstead said.

Jorge Piñon, interim director of the UT Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, said individual rail cars are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. According to Piñon, there will be several thousand miles worth of pipeline constructed in the U.S. this year alone.

“If the issue is pipeline as a negative contributor to the environment, how come we’re not opposing these 6,300 miles to be built in this country?” said Piñon.