Senator Lisa Murkowski (R, Alaska) had an opinion piece in the News-Miner on Sunday, defending her high profile support of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The puff piece is so wrong, in so many ways that it would take a week of blog posts to address them all. WC will address only a few of the senior senator’s more egregious errors.
Although she seems to forget sometimes, Senator Murky represents Alaska, the state that is being most immediately and severely impacted by climate change. Alaska has communities that are falling into the ocean as a result of global warming. Alaska is the state whose commercial and subsistence fishing will be most seriously affected by ocean acidification. Alaska is the state whose infrastructure would be most seriously damaged by permafrost thawing. And yet she wants to enable the increased production of the oil-like substance that, measured by kilocalorie, generates the most CO2 on the planet. Keystone would ship mostly Alberta tar sands bitumen, not crude oil. It’s bad enough that a barrel of crude oil produces about 0.43 metric tons of CO2. Alberta tar sands bitumen costs us another 0.25 metric tons of CO2 to extract, before it even gets to something like transportable crude oil. Most of the stuff proposed to be shipped through the Keystone XL pipeline is the most environmentally damaging stuff on the planet, leaving a nightmarish wasteland where generated and nearly impossible to clean up where spilled.
Senator Murky also misleads readers about what would be shipping in the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. She states 100,000 barrels a day of North Dakota Bakken oil would flow through the pipeline. The proposed pipeline’s capacity is 830,000 barrels per day, overwhelmingly bitumen from the Alberta tar sands. In the very best case, Bakken crude would be less than one-eighth of throughput. Nor is it clear that there is or will be 100,000 barrels a day of excess crude from the Bakken fields; all production from Bakken ships through existing pipelines. It’s Alberta’s bitumen, not North Dakota’s Bakken production, that is the force behind Keystone XL.
Senator Murky says, “We have repeatedly heard Keystone XL described — wrongly — as a foreign project that will carry Canadian oil to the Gulf Coast.” The owner of Keystone is TransCanada. You remember TransCanada. They’re the Canadian outfit that sucked millions of dollars out of Alaska while not developing a natural gas pipeline for Alaska under The Quitter’s idiot Alaska Gasline Inducement Act. TransCanada owns 100% of Keystone XL. Based on the company’s record in Alaska, WC wouldn’t trust them with parking meter change. A while back, Keystone XL was a partnership with ConocoPhillips. But CP sold its interest a while back. Senator Murky is frighteningly out of touch. And the description Senator Murky doesn’t like is entirely accurate. Keystone XL is a foreign-owned company shipping almost entirely foreign fake crude oil across the U.S.
But even if you are a climate change denier, Senator Murky is wrong when she claims, “Approving the Keystone XL pipeline will not eat into the markets for Alaska’s oil.” Crude oil, even fake crude oil like bitumen, is a commodity. Elementary supply and demand tells us that more oil means lower prices. To the extent supply increases, prices decline and motivation to explore Alaska for more crude reserves likewise declines. Low crude oil prices are Alaska’s nightmare: not only is there less state revenue in the short term; there is reduced exploration to produce more crude oil.
Finally, Senator Murky tries to link approval of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to oil exploration in Alaska, saying “I also believe Keystone XL is a test for the United States — a test of whether we, as a nation, can still review, license, permit and build large-scale energy infrastructure.”
The United States has done exactly that. For example, wind-generated electrical capacity has increased 12-fold in the last ten years. Solar photovoltaic has increased 1,300 times over the same period. Total renewable sources of electricity have increased by 13% in the last five years. Obviously, the United States is perfectly able to “review, license, permit and build large-scale energy infrastructure.” It’s only a problem in Senator Murky’s head.
You see, Senator Murky voted against the amendment to the Keystone XL bill that would have determined humanity is responsible for increasing CO2 in the atmosphere. She still sees “large-scale energy infrastructure” as Big Oil and, maybe, natural gas. She refuses to acknowledge that my any sensible accounting system that looks further than the end of her nose – or the next election cycle – her opinion piece is exactly counter to Alaska’s long term best interests.
The apple didn’t fall very far from the tree.