Two years ago, President Obama deferred a decision on whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, a $5.3 billion privately funded project that would channel oil from Canada's Alberta oil sands to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast. It was widely suspected that the delay was due to Obama's re-election campaign, with the White House wary of alienating environmentalist groups during a close contest. But the hour for Obama to make a decision is close at hand, following the release last week of a State Department report indicating that the pipeline would have a minimal impact on global greenhouse gas emissions or the production of heavy crude oil — a conclusion that has infuriated environmentalists.
In a nutshell, the State Department says the oil is going to be consumed one way or another — either some other country, like China, will slurp it up milkshake-style, or it will be transported to the U.S. via rail, which could leave an even larger carbon footprint. If the pipeline is not constructed, it would slow down Alberta's oil-sands production, at most, by a paltry 2 to 4 percent by 2030.
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