The Top-10 Myths Vs. Facts About Keystone XL

By now, you’ve probably heard about the Keystone XL pipeline–what many people are terming the biggest environmental issue of the year. Time after time, TransCanada (the company behind the project) and its backers have been caught spreading blatant lies about the proposal, and in a recent action alert to supporters, the corporate advocacy group Americans For Prosperity made a series of claims–about jobs, the environment, and pipeline safety–that hold less water than a wicker basket. The fact remains that TransCanada is trampling the rights of American citizens in their rush to ship tar sands oil overseas.

Take Action Email President Obama and tell him to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline >>

Keystone XL Pipeline Myths vs. Facts

So what do you need to know about the biggest threat to our energy future? Let’s bust the biggest myths about KXL one at a time, then find out how you can help stop the pipeline.

TransCanada executive. You can’t see it from this angle, but his pants are, in fact, on fire. (Photo: flickr/Onion)

MYTH #1: “Keystone XL project will create 20,000 jobs–7,500 of which will be in Nebraska”

FACT: TransCanada’s job claims are complete fabrications. According to the Cornell University Global Labor Institute, “The company’s claim that KXL will create 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is not substantiated” and “KXL will not be a major source of US jobs, nor will it play any substantial role at all in putting Americans back to work.” In fact, the State Department’s own study suggests that far fewer jobs will be created and most of them will be non-local and temporary.

MYTH #2: Keystone XL will improve America’s energy security.

FACT: The Keystone XL pipeline is designed for one thing—to send oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast, and from there to overseas markets. According to retired Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson (the US Army’s senior logistician in Iraq from 2006-2007), the pipeline “would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight. It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.” And as Anderson makes clear, “Canadian oil won’t replace imports from hostile countries because Texas refiners are serving global demand rather than domestic need.”

MYTH #3: “Keystone XL is safe–newer technology, concrete barriers and thicker pipe.”

FACT:  Because raw tar sands bitumen is more corrosive and abrasive than normal crude oil, the risk of a spill is greater. The Alberta pipeline system (which carries diluted bitumen, the same product planned for KXL) has had approximately sixteen times as many spills due to internal corrosion as the U.S. system. Yet, the safety and spill response standards used by the United States to regulate pipeline transport of bitumen are designed for conventional oil. To make matters worse, the industry doesn’t know how to clean up this product after a spill–its unique composition means that traditional clean-up techniques don’t work (for example, unlike regular oil, diluted bitumen sinks in water).

MYTH #4: The government review process for Keystone XL has been fair and thorough.

Unrefined tar sands (Photo: Flickr/Lou Gold)

FACT: The US State Department (the agency responsible for vetting the project) has conducted a sham review. Their activities have been tainted by a conflict of interest in favor of the project and they have failed to assess pipeline safety issues with any rigor, inadequately consulted numerous Tribal nations, and neglected to protect Americans from eminent domain threats made by TransCanada. This includes preferential treatment for TransCanada’s chief lobbyist (a former aide to State Department Secretary Clinton), as well as outsourcing much of the review process to a company who counts TransCanada as a major client.

MYTH #5: Keystone XL will reduce our energy prices.

FACT: According to its own secret documents submitted to the Canadian government, TransCanada expects the pipeline to increase gas prices in the Midwest by up to 15 cents per gallon. Currently, a surplus of gas in the region means that our prices stay stable. If the pipeline is built oil companies will be able to send their product to the Gulf coast for export, which will reduce this surplus and drive up costs for Midwestern consumers.

MYTH #6: Out-of-state “special interests” and “environmental extremists” are spearheading opposition to the pipeline in Nebraska.

FACT: the real out-of-state special interests are TransCanada (a foreign oil company) and its lobbyists in Washington, who stand to make billions from this project. Meanwhile, Nebraskans of all stripes, including ranchers, farmers, Tribes and elected representatives from both sides of the aisle (including Republicans like Senator Mike Johanns and Governor Dave Heineman), have expressed their united opposition to the pipeline route. Not to mention the thousands of American landowners who have testified against the pipeline at local hearings around the country.

MYTH #7: Keystone XL won’t increase global warming pollution because Canadian tar sands will be developed anyway, even if we don’t build the pipeline.

Tar sands development leaves an enormous scar on the boreal forest at this site near Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada (Photo: SkyTruth)

FACT: TransCanada has put almost all of its eggs in the KXL basket for one simple reason—that’s the only realistic way to sell its product overseas. The oil industry have also considered building a 730 mile “Northern Gateway” pipeline to Canada’s west coast, but its chances are remote due to strong opposition from native communities along its path. Any western route would face decades of litigation, by which point the tar sands may be obsolete as clean energy technology matures.

MYTH #8: “There already is a TransCanada pipeline going over the Ogallala Aquifer, the Keystone Pipeline [that] has been operational for years in Eastern Nebraska, without a spill.”

FACT: The original Keystone pipeline has been plagued by problems since its opening in 2009 – at least 12 reported spills, including one of 21,000 gallons this spring. Keystone XL would be the first tar sands pipeline routed through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills and directly through the heart of the Ogallala aquifer.

MYTH #9: “Legislation already exists to protect Nebraskans; LB 629 was signed into law last session that holds TransCanada financially responsible for any damage due to the pipeline.”

FACT: LB 629, the “Oil Pipeline Reclamation Act,” is a much weaker bill than Nebraskans need to protect their property and natural resources. And while it covers reclamation, the measure hardly puts TransCanada on the financial hook: other critical issues like spill liability, eminent domain, pipeline siting, and state permitting are nowhere to be found in the legislation.

MYTH #10: Keystone XL will generate “$585 million in new tax revenue–this means better schools and infrastructure.”

FACT: The Cornell study repeatedly shoots down TransCanada’s economic claims, saying that “What is being offered by the proponents is advocacy to build support for KXL, rather than serious research aimed to inform public debate and responsible decision making.” Like their jobs figures, this tax revenue estimate seems to have materialized out of thin air.

Take Action Email President Obama and tell him to stop the proposed Keystone XL pipeline >>

These claims are only the latest in a long-running battle between TransCanada and Reality. For the full scoop on Keystone XL, and what it really means for Nebraska and the United States, visit