TransCanada’s Shocking Climate Claim

The company behind the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has spouted a lot of lies in defense of its super-polluting project, but the latest is a doozy. TransCanada’s president for pipelines and energy, Alex Pourbaix, is now claiming that KXL simply doesn’t matter from a climate perspective. Here’s what he had to say earlier this week:

“Our opponents are trying to make this debate about [greenhouse gases]…You could shut down oilsands production tomorrow and it would have absolutely no measurable impact on climate change.”

2 trillion barrels of carbon-free oil?! No problem, according to industry spokesman Alex Pourbaix. (Photo: Kris Krug)
/record screeches to a halt

AHAHAHA! Oh, I’m sorry, I thought he just said that Keystone — a massive commitment to the dirtiest fuel on the planet — would have no impact on climate change. That would be ludicrous, of course, so of course he must have misspoken…wait, what’s that? There’s more?

“The oilsands and their greenhouse gas emissions impact have been overstated.”

Hmm…guess not.

Rule #1: Look Who’s Talking

Let’s step back for a minute and consider the tiny little issue of credibility. On the one hand: Alex Pourbaix, millionaire oil executive and spokesman for a company whose stock price is desperately linked to Keystone XL. On the other hand: Science.

For argument’s sake let’s say that Mr. Pourbaix is right, and that we can magically burn 2 trillion barrels of tar sands without adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Even then, we’re still left with a 2,000 mile long, leak-prone pipeline cutting across some of our country’s best farmland. We’re still left with an oil industry that has carved up Alberta’s boreal forest — and tens of thousands of acres of critical habitat for wolves, caribou, and migratory birds — like some post-apocalyptic nightmare. And we still have ever-rising prices at the pump, because committing to tar sands means we won’t invest in clean energy nearly as much as we need to.

But, unfortunately for TransCanada, that climate-neutral scenario is a load of [insert colorful euphemism for “bologna”] that doesn’t stand up to the most basic scrutiny, which is why the nation’s leading climate scientists sent President Obama a letter earlier this year urging him to deny the permit for Keystone XL:

Eighteen months ago some of us wrote you about the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, explaining why in our opinion its construction ran counter to both national and planetary interests. Nothing that has happened since has changed that evaluation; indeed, the year of review that you asked for on the project made it clear exactly how pressing the climate issue really is.

Conservationists, Tribal leaders, and thousands of others packed the National Mall to protest the Keystone XL pipeline on Feb. 17 (photo:
(If you’re interested in the technical details, my colleague at NRDC, Anthony Swift, recently put together a great paper explaining just how much Keystone XL would drive the future development of tar sandsand global climate change.)

It’s clear that TransCanada is spooked. They’ve spent the last few years assuring investors that their project will get built, despite an anti-tar sands movement that gets louder by the week. I marched on the White House with 40,000 other Americans last weekend, calling on President Obama to fulfill his promise and take strong action on climate, which means saying “NO!” to Keystone. He knows he has a decision to make, and it’s awfully hard to ignore the moral argument against tar sands when the facts are so clearly aligned. Or at least, the facts according to science. TransCanada might want to crack open a textbook and reacquaint themselves with reality.

Take ActionTell President Obama to stand up for people and wildlife! Say NO to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.