Delilah Jean Williams

At the request of the State Department, which has jurisdiction over the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline project since it would start in Canada, President Obama blocked it for approval last year, which brought accusations of killing jobs to placate environmentalists by the Republican Party.

The pipeline was planned to run from Canada across sensitive areas of the US to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico, but more comprehensive impact studies needed to be completed. Obama will be taking up the issue again over the next month under pressure from Republicans, who said Obama was blocking the creation of up to a staggering 700,000 jobs, according to an American Enterprise Institute report.

Obama wisely took GOP demands with a grain of salt and put environmental concerns by individual states, like Nebraska, where the pipeline would have to cross a major aquifer—ahead of Republican demands.

Canadian-based Environmental Defence has fought the increase of tar sands extraction for years. Tar sand extraction is nothing like oil drilling. It is a highly destructive process that leaves entire ecosystems destroyed, because the oil has to be removed from hard clay, dirt and sand, using twice the fresh water that most average cities use in a year. Then it has to be treated with a carcinogenic chemical to thin the gooey substance enough to flow through pipelines. Other observations by the Environmental Defence include:

  • Processing oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes.
  • The toxic tailing ponds are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world and they are so toxic, propane cannons are used to keep ducks from landing in them.
  • Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands causes three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is among hundreds of US-based conservation groups and businesses that oppose the Keystone XL pipeline:

“The public deserves to know the real plan about tar sands coming to their backyard,” said Danielle Droitsch, from the NRDC. “We know tar sands oil destroys the Boreal forest and pumps large amounts of climate-changing carbon pollution. We’ve also seen how pipeline spills around the Great Lakes harm water and human health, which is why so many are concerned.”

Furthermore, the hefty jobs numbers predicted by Republicans and conservative think-tanks have also been challenged, since the majority of jobs would be in Canada and jobs in the US would be mostly temporary.

In addition, a recent report from the Global Labor Institute said that environmental destruction by spills could far outweigh the creation of jobs by pipeline construction. It cites concerns that potential oil spills, which have plagued similar pipelines in Canada, could be economically devastating.

Excerpt from GLI report:

Potential spills from the Keystone XL pipeline could far outweigh the benefits of jobs created by the project. The institute, which advocates the creation of union jobs in renewable energy and analyzes sustainability issues, believe that more than a million people work in agricultural or tourism jobs in the six states along Keystone XL’s route and the economic costs could be considerable if a major spill occurred.

But Republicans in Congress don’t want the American people to consider warnings from Canadian or US conservationists. Many GOP Party members are anti-science, anti-sustainability, anti-renewable energy and others don’t even believe global warming is real.

Obama’s inspirational inaugural speech and friendly Republican photo-ops Monday morning aren’t expected to abate Republican obstructionism for long.

Why? Because they don’t like him. They don’t like any intelligent, thoughtful, articulate, empathic, popular or pragmatic thing about him. And if they don’t get their way on things like Keystone XL pipeline, critics expect GOP clowns in Congress to waste little time in performing Act II.


Jean Williams, environmental and political journalist; PrairieDogPress writer; Artistic Director, Keystone Prairie Dogs.***PrairieDogPress is the media channel for, which is a fundraising website to support environmental groups for extraordinary efforts to protect Great Plains habitat and prairie dogs in the wild. PDP uses humorous images, social commentary and serious-minded political reports to challenge government on numerous levels, including accountability to the people, the protection of threatened species, the environment and Earth’s natural resources.