The Keystone XL Pipeline by the Numbers

COMMENTARY Environment

The Keystone XL Pipeline by the Numbers

Nov 7, 2014 3 min read

Former Research Fellow

Katie Tubb was a research fellow for energy and environmental issues at The Heritage Foundation.

Everyone has heard that the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline could deliver thousands of jobs on top of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day. Here are some other numbers to consider when thinking about the pipeline:

  • Two years — That’s how long it took the State Department to review and approve Phase 1 of the Keystone Pipeline System. Phase 1 stretches 1,600 miles from Alberta, Canada, to Illinois, and passes through both Dakotas and Nebraska as well as three other states. It received a presidential permit in March 2008.

    And yet, the Obama administration has turned the second phase — dubbed the Keystone XL pipeline — into a long, drawn-out political battle with Canada, a trusted ally and our top trading partner.

    The Keystone XL Pipeline even runs through some of the very same states from Phase 1, and thousands of miles of pipeline have spanned the U.S for years. In other words, the oil pipeline business is nothing new to America, and the Keystone XL Pipeline is no different.


  • Fifth place — That’s where TransCanada ranked on the Climate Performance Leadership Index of energy companies that are “taking action” on climate change while improving their bottom lines. One of the principle arguments that opponents of the pipeline make is the alleged contribution to global warming. TransCanada’s ranking certainly deflates such allegations. Then again, the State Department already had concluded, repeatedly, that the pipeline would have no significant effect on carbon dioxide emissions.



  • Six years and counting — That’s how long it’s been since TransCanada applied to the State Department for a permit to build the Keystone XL pipeline. During that period, the project has undergone five environmental reviews by State and been delayed three times by the Obama administration. The most recent delay came in April, when the State Department decided to withhold its recommendation to the president until the Nebraska Supreme Court rules on the new pipeline route. The court’s decision is expected late this year or next.



  • Seven pieces of legislation — That’s how many bills the U.S. House has passed in support of the Keystone XL Pipeline — since 2011! Members on both sides of the aisle have spoken in favor of the project. The administration and environmental extremists find themselves increasingly isolated in their opposition to the project, as the president’s usual allies — from labor unions to former members of his cabinet — have voiced their approval of the pipeline.



  • Sixty-five percent — That’s the proportion of American who feel the Keystone XL project should be approved, according to a May 2014 poll by ABC News and The Washington Post. Even among those who saw some environmental risk in the pipeline, a hefty number — 45 percent — still supported its construction and the economic growth it could provide.



  • Four thousand jobs — That’s the number of people employed in the construction of the southern portion of the pipeline, which didn’t need the president’s approval to go forward. Yet Obama has turned up his nose at the number of construction jobs that would be created by the rest of the Keystone XL Pipeline. “Merely temporary,” he sniffs. But all construction jobs are, by nature, temporary. And with an economy that’s recovering at a snail’s pace, surely a temporary job is better than none.



  • One hundred thousand barrels a day — That’s the amount of Bakken oil the Keystone XL could move to Texas refineries. In 2013, 965,000 barrels of crude oil produced in North Dakota had to be loaded onto railcars daily — four times the rail shipments logged in 2005. The demand for rail has allegedly hurt agriculture shipments.

Approving Keystone XL could relieve some of that pressure.

The Keystone XL Pipeline should have been approved and permitted years ago. Unfortunately, as former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said, “The decision on whether the construction should happen was a political one and not a scientific one.”

At this point, there are zero good reasons to keep the pipeline from moving forward.

 - Katie Tubb is a researcher in The Heritage Foundation’s Thomas A. Roe Institute for Economic Policy Studies.


Originally appeared in The Grand Forks Herald