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Keystone Emissions Seen as Equal to 46 Coal Power Plants

The Keystone XL pipeline would increase greenhouse-gas emissions by 181 million metric tons, groups fighting the project said in a report, the equivalent of more than 46 coal-fired power plants or 34 million vehicles,

The finding, at odds with the environmental review by the U.S. State Department, said total emissions from the pipeline through 2050 would be greater than total U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions in 2011. The project to carry almost a million barrels of Canadian tar sands oil a day to the U.S. Gulf Coast would increase emissions of gases tied to global warming, the groups said in a statement.

“What’s clear is that we cannot burn all of the fossil fuels without causing significant problems,” James Hansen, the former U.S. space agency scientist who has been urging policy makers to combat global warming since the 1980s, said today on a conference call. “We do have to affect this by adding a fee to fossil fuels, but in the meantime we have to stop these crazy projects like the tar sands.”

The analysis assesses the emissions from producing, transporting, refining and using the oil from Alberta, Canada, to come up with 181 million metric tons, which the groups said is equal to emissions from 51 coal plants and 37.7 million vehicles. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the tonnage would be equivalent to the annual output of 46.5 coal-fired plants, 34 million passenger vehicles or the electricity used to power 24.5 million homes.

Minimal Impact

The Keystone pipeline being proposed by Calgary-based TransCanada Corp., would carry the oil across six U.S. states, including Nebraska, to U.S. refineries. Legislation to issue a permit for the project without presidential approval was advanced today by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The State Department analysis, released March 1, said that Keystone would have minimal impact on climate change because the oil sands would be mined and developed with or without Keystone XL. The environmental groups say that mining and development isn’t inevitable.

“Without Keystone XL, with strong and growing opposition to other tar-sands pipelines, and with continued decline in U.S. oil demand, America simply does not need this extreme source of oil,” the groups said. “And we do not need and cannot afford the additional climate risk of this pipeline.”

House Votes

The pipeline is designed to carry about 830,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil from Alberta and oil from shale rock formations in the U.S. The administration has previously given approval for the pipeline’s southern leg to relieve an oil glut in Cushing, Oklahoma.

In the U.S. House today, Republicans and oil-industry groups pushed for swift approval of Keystone, while opponents of the project said it continues to pose an environmental risk to the U.S.

“If the president refuses to act on this project, which is clearly in the best interests of the United States, and which will bring tremendous benefits to our country, Congress must act and must do so quickly,” said Representative Doug Lamborn of Colorado, chairman of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources.

The panel is reviewing a bill to proceed with the $5.3 billion project. The legislation, sponsored by Representative Lee Terry, a Nebraska Republican, would let the pipeline be built without President Barack Obama’s approval by expediting judicial reviews and limiting further environmental analyses.

‘Bad Deal’

Officials from Washington-based industry groups including the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers said the U.S. review has been exhaustive, determining the project to be safe.

Environmental groups say a spill would jeopardize U.S. lands and that extraction of the crude will increase carbon emissions and yield relatively few jobs after construction is complete.

“For dozens of jobs, no benefit, we accept the environmental risk,” Representative Rush Holt of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the panel said. “That sounds like a bad deal to me.”

In a separate meeting, the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Energy and Power voted 17-9 to approve Terry’s bill, sending the legislation to the full committee. Democratic Representatives John Barrow of Georgia and Gene Green of Texas joined all Republicans on the panel in supporting the measure, according to Charlotte Baker, a committee spokeswoman.

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