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Keystone Pipeline XL Pipeline: How the Ogallala Aquifer Weighs into the Debate

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With the general election drawing closer, and the Obama-Romney debates only months away, it is only natural to predict what topics will make the candidates sweat on stage. A topic that tends to be routine in the general election is our dependence on foreign oil. Democrats often lean towards proposing alternative and clean energy solutions, while Republicans seem to focus on finding new fossil fuel sources domestically. Despite this apparent regularity, this election cycle has a concrete manifestation of the Democrat-Republican divide on energy independence.

The Keystone XL pipeline represents the dichotomy between Republican and Democratic solutions to the problem of foreign oil dependency. The proposed pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada through Illinois, Indiana, and ultimately the Gulf Coast. It could create thousands of jobs and provide a sizable domestic supply of crude oil. This, of course, does not come without an environmental price. The pipeline will not only reinforce our attachment to fossil fuels, but it will also cross the Ogallala Aquifer. The aquifer provides drinking water for nearly two million people and supports billions of dollars in agriculture. Needless to say a leak/attack could be devastating.

Unsurprisingly, Governor Romney supports a permit to allow the pipeline, while President Obama opposes it. A Washington Post/ABC Poll suggests that the majority of registered voters side with Romney, as 62 percent are in favor of a permit. Over half of Democrats disapprove of the pipeline while just over 80 percent of Republicans support it. The Keystone pipeline is assuredly divisive, and its political implications are undoubtedly significant.

The SnagFilms documentary Guarding the Ogallala gives us an in depth look at the Ogallala Aquifer, the environmental risks the pipeline poses, and the environmentalists fighting against Keystone's construction. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Roshini Thinakaran follows rancher/activist Bruce Boetther as he fights to keep the pipeline from attaining a permit. The two show us both the importance of Ogallala as well as the impact the pipeline could have on the Midwest. The coming fall will surely bring with it topics that Roshini and Bruce examine in the film, so watch here and be informed about the immanent debates surrounding the Keystone pipeline.

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