Keystone pipeline oil could be exported

WASHINGTON — Whether the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would boost American energy independence is a key part of the debate over the pipeline, the biggest environmental battle in recent history. Keystone promoters say the $7 billion project is vital for the nation — but there are signs much of the oil coming through it would be exported.

The United States increasingly exports refined petroleum products such as diesel, heating fuel and gasoline from the same Gulf Coast refineries where Keystone oil would be headed.

There is no reason oil from Keystone would be treated differently, according to energy analysts.

Disputes rage over how much is currently exported. A recent State Department analysis of Keystone says less than half of the Gulf Coast’s refined products go into the U.S. market.

The United States is on the path to energy security and is forecast to become the world’s leading oil producer in just four years, a different world from its past desperation to secure stable energy.

But Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said last week that the United States still will need foreign oil in the coming decades, and it is better if it comes from an ally. The 1,700-mile Keystone pipeline would go from the Alberta oil sands in Canada to the U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Oliver said the oil would be used in America and that Keystone is not an export pipeline.

Oil Change International, a group fighting the Keystone pipeline, argues that is clearly not true. The group used census and U.S. energy data to figure out how much is now exported from the Texas refineries expected to handle the majority of Keystone oil.

They found 60 percent of the finished gasoline produced last year in those refineries was exported.

“Keystone XL proponents are saying this is about energy independence and obviously it’s not,” said Oil Change International executive director Steve Kretzmann.

The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers trade group responded that export figures are being misused. Charles Drevna, president of the group, said the figures are nowhere near 60 percent when all gasoline produced to blend with ethanol is accounted.

Drevna asserted that the real Gulf Coast refinery export figures are only “probably around 11 or 12 percent.” That figure will remain the same after Keystone is built, he said.

Keystone is not for exports, he said. “Anyone who believes that either has to understand this industry better or they are just trying to mislead the public and Congress,” he said.

Some influential members of Congress, including Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, question how much American consumers would benefit from Keystone.

Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said the State Department needs to deal with the export issue before approving the pipeline.

“The State Department needs to explain how it is in America’s national and economic interests to facilitate Keystone XL’s completion, especially if the pipeline is simply a conduit for oil and refined products to go elsewhere,” Wyden said.

Other members of Congress say the U.S. needs the pipeline.

“Keystone XL is good for American jobs, good for our economy and good for national security,” said Washington Republican Rep. Doc Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

Charles Ebinger, an energy expert at the center-left Brookings Institution in Washington, said it is possible much of the Keystone oil flowing to the Gulf Coast could be exported. It would carry Canadian oil so isn’t covered by the U.S. law forbidding exports of American crude, he said.

And it could be exported as refined products the same as American oil already is, he said. “You can’t keep oil. It’s going to move to where market conditions direct it to move.”

But Ebinger said it shouldn’t matter much if it ends up exported, since oil is a global market.

“Any oil that goes into the world market as petroleum products or as crude will have an effect on the market and very likely drive prices down if it contributes to a glut,” he said.

It’s an issue, though, for members of Congress such as Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat and member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who said this month he is torn over the Keystone pipeline.

“I’d like to know that if we take the risk,” he said, “we get the benefit.”

More in Local News

Families begin relocating from public housing complex

Baker Heights is in need of repairs deemed to costly to make, and will be demolished and replaced.

Trail work by juvenile offenders builds resumes, confidence

Kayak Point trails were built out this year by groups from Denney Juvenile Justice Center.

Small fire breaks out at haunted house in Everett

Plastic that was supposed to be noncombustable was sitting next to a hot lightbulb.

Rules of the road for ‘extra-fast pedestrians’ — skateboarders

State traffic law defines them as pedestrians, and yet they are often in the middle of the street.

Distress beacon leads rescuers to Pacific Crest Trail hikers

Two men in their 20s had encountered snow and waited two nights for a helicopter rescue.

City of Everett to give $400K to a nonprofit housing project

The city expects to enter a contract with HopeWorks, an affiliate of Housing Hope.

Everett mayoral campaign is one of the priciest ever

Many campaign donors are giving to both Cassie Franklin and Judy Tuohy.

Some damage undone: Thousands of heroin needles removed

Hand Up Project volunteers cleaned up a patch of woods that some of them had occupied near Everett.

Talk of changes at Marysville schools has parents wary

The district has lost more than 1,000 students over the past 10 years.

Most Read