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A Decade Long Environmental Battle Finally Decided

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

by Caleb Rogart

One of the most public controversies in the 21st century so far is the issue of the Keystone XL Pipeline (the KXL), a tug of war between the environmentalists and citizens on one side, and on the other, powerful fossil fuel industries. It seemed all hope was lost for the KXL after the Obama administration vetoed the pipeline in 2015. However, quickly after President Trump was sworn into office in 2016, he approved the KXL and provided the pipeline with grants over what some called faulty environmental reviews. Because of this, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and other environmental groups successfully won two lawsuits against the Trump administration over the faulty grants, and are currently suing for the third time.

Map of the KXL starting in Canada and running south to Nebraska

There is another reason why the KXL pipeline is so hated by environmentalists, politicians, and civilians threatened by it. The KXL doesn’t carry regular oil, it carries tar sand oil, which is much thicker than normal oil. More importantly, it has the potential to spill three times the amount of oil per mile compared to regular oil. Recently, the KXL leaked 378,000 gallons of tar sand oil in North Dakota, and it was not immediately found due to tar sand oil immediately sinking to the bottom of the waterway, rather than staying afloat and being easily noticeable. Aside from the potential environmental damage caused by spills, according to the NRDC, the KXL could “Burden the planet with an extra 178.3 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, the same impact as 38.5 million passenger vehicles or 45.8 coal-fired power plants.”

A picture of before and after an oil spill.

In May 2020, the then campaigning Vice President Biden used the KXL to gather support, as he said he would cancel the KXL on his first day in office. This brought much acclaim from environmentalists, and even some Americans who despised the KXL. On January 20, 2021 he kept his promise and canceled the KXL. Some question whether this was, in fact, a good thing. In the process of canceling the KXL, 11,000 jobs were lost, and Canadian representatives were upset as well, as the KXL brought in an abundance of money for Canada.

Was the loss of 11,000 jobs in the name of environmental protection worth it? According to the Biden administration, yes. The 11,000 workers, along with countless more fossil fuel workers could soon be offered new jobs in the solar and renewable energy industry. President Biden not only stopped the drilling of oil on government land and in the ocean, but also redirected government funding to oil, coal, and gas companies to focus on a $2 trillion plan to address the climate emergency. A hefty part of $2 trillion will be put into opening new solar power plants and job retraining to teach previous fossil fuel workers to work in solar power. They will be paid the same, if not better, and working in solar energy has proven to be healthier for workers compared to workers who work with fossil fuels.

The cancellation of the KXL pipeline is just one step towards addressing climate change. The UK banned sales of new diesel and gasoline cars starting in 2030. Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, and GMC will stop selling all vehicles that take gasoline by 2035. Even large companies and individuals who do not have direct ties to the energy industry are helping to stop climate change. Ikea bought 11,000 acres of forest in Georgia to protect it from development. Prince Charles of England and Bank of America have announced they will team up in a new climate effort, with a goal of directing $10 billion to green causes by 2022. Even one of the richest men in the world, Jeff Bezos, gave $800 million in grants to groups fighting climate change. While the KXL has been a painful battle for over a decade and now, with a new administration, the cancellation of the KXL shows times are truly changing.


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