Saturday, November 29, 2014

Obama says Keystone XL is for exporting oil outside the U.S., experts disagree

President Barack Obama and many other Democrats think there’s little to be gained by building the Keystone XL pipeline. "Understand what this project is," Obama said at a Nov. 14 press conference in Burma. "It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. That doesn't have an impact on U.S. gas prices." Two days later, in Brisbane, Australia, Obama described Keystone XL as "a pipeline shipping Canadian oil to world markets, not to the United States." Predicting the effect of the pipeline on gas prices is a little tricky. Experts tend to agree that it could impact gas prices, but the effect would be indirect and minimal. But in this fact check, we’re going to focus on the export question -- whether or not, as Obama said, Keystone XL’s primary destination is beyond the United States. We found that Obama’s off the mark. In recent years, the United States has become a net-exporter of refined oil products, like gasoline, jet fuel and asphalt (meaning it exports more products than it imports), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, it is a net-importer of the crude oil it uses to make those products. Keystone XL would transport crude oil from Canada’s tar sands through the Midwestern United States down to the Gulf Coast, and there are refineries all along the proposed route. (The map is from TransCanada, the pipeline operator.)  America gets more crude oil from Canada than any other country. Nearly all of Canada’s exports go to the United States, and this accounts for about a third of America’s total crude oil imports. Much of its oil already makes it to the United States by rail and existing pipelines. We asked several energy economics experts, and they believe that quite a bit -- if not most -- of the Keystone XL crude oil will be bought and used by American refineries. "It’s difficult to say with any certainty, but it is most likely that most would be refined in the U.S.," said Kenneth Medlock, an expert in energy economics at Rice University in Texas. A recent State Department report argues that it would not be "economically justified" for Canada to primarily export its Keystone XL oil to countries other than the United States, when there are plenty of American refineries to consume it. Some independent refineries -- particularly those in the upper Midwest, but also in Texas -- are in desperate need of crude oil, said Charles Ebinger, a senior fellow in energy security at the Brookings Institution. Currently, the refineries have to import crude from places like Venezuela and Mexico -- though it would be cheaper and better for overall energy security to buy from a North American source, rather than pay high transport costs...more

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