Whopper. Fib. Lie. Whatever you want to call them, we are likely to hear a few untruths during the presidential debate if the conversation turns to the Keystone XL pipeline.
Mitt Romney has pledged to approve the pipeline on Day 1 of his administration, even using his very own soft hands to build it if necessary. If he did, he'd be opening the spigot for 900,000 barrels of the world's dirtiest oil to flow down through the country's breadbasket to the Gulf every day.
President Obama has not ruled out approving or denying the pipeline. Last year, he ordered a new study to be done on the risks presented by it, and the State Department is again evaluating a route proposed by TransCanada, the pipeline's owner and operator.
Whoppers are to eat at the movies (yummy), not to have to deal with in politics. I hope this quick guide below helps you see the truth during the debate.
Keystone XL and climate change: If we want to stay below a 2 degrees C temperature rise (we are already at .8 degrees C) we can burn 565 gigatons of carbon by mid-century. The tar sands of Canada, which the KXL pipeline would unlock, hold about 240 gigatons of carbon -- almost half the budget. Yikes.
Of course we are already feeling the effects of climate change. June broke more than 3,100 temperature records. That followed the warmest May on record for the Northern Hemisphere -- the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average. Again, yikes.
Opposition to Keystone XL in Canada and the U.S.: KXL's supporters claim that if the U.S. doesn't take the oil, China and other countries will. But the "Northern Gateway" pipeline, which would stretch from Alberta to Canada's west coast, is not likely to be built any time soon. The elected leadership of British Columbia, native communities along its path, and years of litigation stand in its way. With no pipeline to the west, the only route to get the oil out is south through the U.S., and I think both candidates know how we feel about it. A call from movement leaders resulted in the largest civil disobedience on the environment in a several generations, the two-week sit-ins at the White House in August of 2011. And earlier this year, more than 800,000 concerned citizens contacted Congress to say no to KXL.
Keystone XL and gas prices: There are two reasons KXL wouldn't reduce gas prices. The first is attributable to a surplus of oil in the Midwest. The pipeline would reduce that stress on refineries there and drive prices up -- TransCanada itself admits that the pipeline would likely raise gas prices by 15 cents per gallon in the Midwest. The second reason is that the oil is earmarked for export. Some of the refineries in the Gulf have already entered into contracts to export the oil after it has been refined. The communities there would get the pollution, but not the oil.