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A Bad Deal: TransCanada Can't Change the Facts About Keystone XL

02/05/2015 08:01 pm ET | Updated Apr 07, 2015
Lucas Oleniuk via Getty Images

Someone at TransCanada must be getting nervous.

As approval of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline appears to be resting on extremely thin ice, TransCanada on Wednesday announced they would be entering the oil-by-rail business to help further their tar sands investments.

What about the pipeline? Well, in a transparent attempt to freshen up the company's tired talking points, TransCanada's CEO is using this announcement to continue to push flawed arguments on why America should forsake our national interest and allow the Keystone XL pipeline to be built. Give us the pipeline, TransCanada argues, or we'll start using trains -- but we're taking the tar sands out of the ground no matter what.

I beg to differ.

The reality is TransCanada needs to build this pipeline -- and a bunch of other pipelines to boot -- because only then will they be economically able to fully develop the tar sands. For TransCanada, the problem is simple: their product can't compete with the world oil market unless America gives them a way to move their product through our country.

Now, TransCanada doesn't exactly have the best record when it comes to telling the truth about Keystone XL, and this isn't the first time they've stretched the facts to support their bottom line.

For example, TransCanada's advertisements claim that any tar sands petroleum transported by the pipeline would stay in the United States, but TransCanada Executive Vice President Alex Pourbaix refused to actually commit to this when under oath.

TransCanada trumpeted the now commonly debunked promise that Keystone XL would create thousands of jobs for Americans. However, TransCanada's own consultant admitted this $8 billion dollar pipeline would only provide 35 permanent jobs. That's right -- 35 jobs in exchange for bearing all of the risk that a pipeline snaking across our communities would create.

Now they are threatening to ship tar sands by rail over Canada and across the United States if Keystone XL isn't approved. But we've been hearing about this for years, and if it was really that simple -- both practically and economically -- why isn't it happening already?

The quick answer is economics. It doesn't make financial sense for TransCanada to transport oil to the Gulf of Mexico by rail. The longer answer is a bit more nuanced: it's not only too expensive, but additional capacity would have to be created. Existing railway terminals need to be expanded, expensive expansion of double tracks would likely be required, new terminals need permits, and right of way negotiations and financing arrangements all take time (and would likely create as much political opposition as Keystone XL itself).

The grim facts are starting to catch up to TransCanada, and there isn't much they are going to be able to do.

While the new Republican-controlled Congress is fast-tracking legislation that forces approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama has -- correctly, I might add -- promised to veto any attempt to force approval of the project.

It has been made abundantly clear by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that building the Keystone XL pipeline would significantly worsen carbon pollution -- failing the President's climate test.

Now is not the time for tired talking points and further misinformation. TransCanada can continue to make its empty promises and false arguments, but the facts remain the same: Keystone XL is a bad deal for America.

Instead of catering to their fossil fuel donors, our elected leaders in Congress should be focusing on the job-creating, clean energy policies that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs, strengthen our economy, and address climate change once and for all.

The next generation is counting on us to make the right decisions. Keystone XL is not one of them.