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OP-ED What Cost is Too Much?

What Cost is Too Much?

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline is a poor excuse for ‘secure energy’ and should be taken for what it is- a risky, messy, and potentially rights violating endeavourer that should stopped as soon as possible. Supporters of this pipeline argue that the pipeline will secure a conflict free source of energy, that it is beneficial for the common good, and that this new pipeline connecting the Canadian tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico will create jobs.

People in favor of the Keystone Xl pipeline are still in the magical world where global climate change is not a reality, a world where dumping large amounts of toxic goop in neighbors’ yards and water supplies is a perfectly acceptable activity, and a world where ridiculously priced energy is still a logical option. In this world, people do anything, including tearing up the land and polluting enormous amounts land areas, to get their hands on energy. At what human cost is this pipeline too expensive? Is it when big oil companies, along with their political friends, say so? Or is it when citizens of the world are being treated unjust, by not being involved in the decision process and by not being allowed the right to their clean land and waters?

One of the main arguments supporters of the Keystone XL make is that the pipeline secures energy from a friendly neighbor. As we have seen in the past, nations who were once friendly can turn enemies quickly. Saying that Canada is a friendly neighbor now, does not guarantee friendliness in a few decades when they realize they need the fuel we are pumping out of their country to use in ours. Any energy option requiring imports creates an unstable, unsecure energy sector. A better option would be to produce energy sectors that are self-sufficient. We currently have enough natural gas reserves in the United States to meet our energy needs. This natural gas is cheaper, burns cleaner, and is ‘homegrown’. Additionally, the people making the decision to tear up the Canadian landscape and export the resources are not the people being most affected. These communities have little voice in the decision making process, but are greatly disadvantaged.

This participatory injustice completely negates the argument that this pipeline is beneficial for the greater good. The Canadian people are being negatively affected and being overpowered by big companies and government officials. Should Americans care less about the injustices towards Canadian people purely because they live on the opposite side of the border? The recognition injustice is blatant and barbaric. We as global citizens should care about how our actions are affecting others. Additionally, Americans are being forced to allow their land to be used as the pathway for this pipe, and are being forced to put their precious land and water at risk of contamination. This distributive injustice should not be allowed to called beneficial for the common people.

Pro-Pipeline advocates argue that in this rough economic time, this pipeline will stimulate the economy and create jobs. Do you know what else creates jobs? Renewable energy markets create jobs in the information sectors, manufacturing sectors, and the management sectors. Instead of creating jobs that have an expiration date when this form of energy is depleted, why not create jobs that will last. The pipeline carries tarsands, a fossil fuel and finite resource that one day will run out.

The Keystone XL pipeline causes change in land use and cover. Already, land use change is changing the current climate of the globe, acting as a feedback and accelerator of the negative impacts of increased fossil fuels burning emissions. If, or when, the pipeline is approved, Canada’s land will be strip mined and torn apart in the process that is required to acquire tar-sands, or bitumen (Swart and Weaver 2012). Dredging up the landscape does not take into consideration communities cultural and religious identities that may connect to the land. The western ideas that land is only to be used for exploitation are not how all cultures think.

Additionally, in order to obtain this tricky fossil fuel in the world’s last ditch effort to cling to the dirty fossil fuel dependency, energy is needed to heat, pump, and condense it, which only adds to the carbon foot print of the fuel source. Due to the slow flowing characteristic of bitumen, strip mining uses steam, solvents, and hot air. The tar sand industry also uses enormous amounts of water in the process. This water, a non renewable resource, is then contaminated. Furthermore, tar sands are not energy efficient. It takes about 2 tons of oil sand to produce one barrel of oil (Cook 1967)! Using water will take this resource away from people in the area who need it.


I am more against what the pipe is carrying then the pipe itself, however, this pipe is causing environmental injustice problems. Tar sands are not a viable option for fulfilling our energy needs. The companies involved should look into investing in renewable energy solutions rather than trying to use resources that will not only damage the environment when burned, but are scaring huge areas of forested land in Canada, as well as all over the world.


Cook, E. L. (1967). Recovery of Heavy Oil From Oil Sands. U. S. P. Office.

Droitsch, D. (2011). “The link between Keystone XL and Canadian oilsands production.” the PEMBINA institute: 16.

Swart, N. C. and A. J. Weaver (2012). “The Alberta oil sands and climate.” Nature Climate Change 2(3): 134-136.

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