Much of the argument in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline has focused on the positive economic impact. But Catrina Rorke writes for the American Action Forum about a different benefit that should interest environmentalists.

The five-year delay in building the Keystone XL pipeline is costing us jobs and wages, limiting our access to low-cost North American oil, and facilitating our continued reliance on oil from the Middle East and Venezuela. While the economic costs of delay are well documented, the environmental and human impacts could also be devastating. The delay has the potential to cause up to:

  • 7.4 million additional tons of CO2 to be released—the equivalent of 1.5 million cars on the road,
  • 979,356 additional gallons of crude oil to be spilled, and
  • 159 additional deaths.

When built, Keystone XL will carry roughly 4 percent of daily U.S. oil consumption in a safe, efficient, sophisticated pipeline. While awaiting approval, however, the market has taken steps to gain access to that oil in ways that don’t require White House approval – namely, moving oil by rail. The State Department analyzed a number of alternative rail scenarios[1] and found that the Keystone XL pipeline excelled by comparison, reducing carbon emissions, oil spills, and risk of injuries and death.