The Tar Sands Debate

Environmental activist and author Bill McKibben goes head-to-head with Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Project on PBS’ NewsHour over the proposed Keystone XL pipeline expansion that would carry 800,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day from Canada to Texas.
TransCanada’s $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which is proposed to go through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma into refineries in Texas, is sparking heavy debate across the nation. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton told the press that she has received hundreds of thousands of public comments regarding the proposed pipeline. The Department of State recently released a statement that the pipeline, which President Obama and Senator Clinton will approve or reject later this year, will have “no significant environmental impacts.” But with several oil spills occurring in the U.S. this past summer, most notably in the Yellowstone River, coupled with the fact that the first Keystone tar sands pipeline, constructed less than a year ago, has already had 12 leaks and spilled thousands of gallons of crude oil in states like Kansas and North Dakota, the Department of State’s environmental impact statement is now under extensive scrutiny.

Nebraska’s Governor Dave Heineman and Senator Mike Johanns are expressing their concerns over whether the pipeline’s proposed construction over the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest and most vital groundwater deposits in the world, will become tainted by oil leaks and spills. “I support Governor Heineman’s request that President Obama and Secretary Clinton deny the current application from TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline along a route crossing Nebraska’s Sand Hills and the center of the Ogallala Aquifer,” said Senator Johanns. “The proposed route is the wrong route. It’s clear to me, after traveling throughout the state, that most Nebraskans agree a better route is needed.”

On PBS’ NewsHour, author and environmental activist Bill McKibben, who has been at the forefront of passionate protests against the pipeline in Washington D.C this summer, debates with Robert Bryce of the Manhattan Project on whether the proposed pipeline is the answer for domestic “cheap, abundant and reliable” energy Americans need, or if it merely represents a win for the oil industry and a “game over” for the climate, the environment and a clean energy future. Despite, as Bryce mentions, the definite “possibility of leaks and damage,” he concludes that we shouldn’t turn down the use of Alberta Canada’s abundant tar sands oil reserves, however environmentally intensive or destructive they may be, and in so doing let another nation take advantage of the fuel.