The two recent articles that opposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline (“Just say no to Keystone XL,” Jan. 27) contained a number of exaggerations and misleading statements, some of which are:

• “Getting at the sands requires clear-cutting thousands of acres, diverting rivers and strip mining.”

• “Just one flaw in the steel along the 1,700 miles the pipeline must traverse or one mistake by a worker doing pipe fitting, and you will have a huge explosion that releases a vast amount of hot, poisoned water plus tar, which will sink into the local water table and aquifer.”

• “Keystone XL completion will increase gasoline prices.”

• “Alberta can only sell its tar-sands crude to the U.S. market, already glutted with Bakken and other oil.”

Strip mining of the tar sands and then heating the sand to release the oil is being replaced, or has already been replaced, by a different process that removes the oil by heating it up underground and collecting it in underdrains. It doesn’t require clear-cutting of thousands of acres or diverting rivers. The tar-sands oil contains tar that isn’t volatile enough to explode, and even if it were hot when it entered the pipeline (which is unlikely), the ground would cool it in just a short distance of the pipeline. It also wouldn’t sink into a local aquifer because the soil through which it would have to move to get to the aquifer would prevent this from occurring. It could sink to the bottom of a body of water such as a lake or a river, but it could then be removed by dredging, which is what was done in the Michigan case cited. Tar-sands oil is already being shipped by rail to refineries in the southern United States, and prices have gone down as a result, not up. When the United States failed to approve the Keystone pipeline, there was talk of constructing a pipeline to Vancouver, B.C., where the oil would then be shipped to China This is still an option, but is unlikely as long as the trains are available.

Efforts to reduce oil consumption are ongoing and will be unaffected by construction of the Keystone pipeline or oil from the Bakken, or from Texas, Alaska, or elsewhere in the United States and Canada. Despite all of the new oil, we are still importing a sizable share of our oil from overseas. Even after oil consumption has been significantly reduced through more efficient engines, we will still need lots of oil for planes, trains, buses, ships, and even cars and light trucks. We can either import this oil from overseas at a drain on our economy and from countries that could cut the supply anytime they so choose, or we can obtain it at home and achieve energy independence. A recent news article in the Star Tribune stated: “… an 11-volume State Department environmental review of the proposed [Keystone] pipeline, released last year, concluded that its construction would not significantly increase the rate of planet warming pollution.” So let’s go build it.


Robert Sullentrop, of Minneapolis, is a civil engineer.