Keystone XL Debate Update November 2014

Matthew DeGraw
December 10, 2014

Submitted as coursework for PH240, Stanford University, Fall 2014


Fig. 1: Map showing the proposed additions to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the Ogallala Aquifer that the pipeline would pass through. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

The Keystone XL Pipeline is an oil pipeline in the U.S. and Canada. The pipeline is currently incomplete and will remain that way unless TransCanada, a Canadian company that builds and operates energy infrastructure across North America and owns the pipeline, can get approval. The final vision for the pipeline is a connection from the oil sands in Alberta, Canada to the ports on the Gulf Coast that can carry up to 830,000 barrels per day. The project was started in 2008 and the system is about half-way finished but because building is suspended indefinitely it is unclear when, if ever, the project will be completed. [1] The debate over whether the bill allowing for additions to the pipeline should be passed has taken over U.S. energy discussion and become an extremely polarizing issue. Activists and environmental groups fight the additions citing environmental impact and potential for disaster while those in favor argue that the pipeline will create jobs and make the U.S. less reliable on oil from the Middle East. [2] This report will serve as an update for what is happening surrounding the Keystone XL debate to date.




On November 19, 2014 the U.S. senate ruled against the passage of the bill that would allow for the Keystone XL to be completed. The decision fell one vote shy of being passed in a 59-41 outcome. [2] Because the decision was so close this debate and project roar on. Despite the bill being rejected multiple times before and speculation that the project has reach its expiration date, the Republican Party still vows that the bill will get passed eventually. Because the GOP will take two-house control of Congress in January, this bill will almost certainly be revived. [5]


As has been for the past couple of years, the future of this project rests almost entirely in the hands of the passage of this bill being passed. If the bill does end up getting passed the project will be completed and the hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil per day will begin to flow. The more interesting scenario is if the bill gets denied again. Eventually, TransCanada has to give up on the Keystone XL project and cut their losses. Recently, TransCanada applied for a $10.7 billion dollar link between Alberta’s oil sands and Canada’s Atlantic Coast, presumably the backup plan for Keystone XL. This project has been called the Energy East Pipeline and would be North America’s largest crude pipeline carrying as much as 1.1 million barrels a day within Canada. [6]

© Matthew DeGraw. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] C. Davenport, "Keystone Pipeline Pros, Cons and Steps to a Final Decision," New York Times, 18 Nov 14.

[2] M. Patton, "The Truth About The Keystone XL Pipeline," Forbes, 24 Nov 14.

[3] M. B. McElroy, "The Keystone XL Pipeline," Harvard Magazine, November-Decemebr 2013, p. 37.

[4] S. Elbein, "Jane Kleeb vs. the Keystone Pipeline," New York Times, 16 May 14.

[5] D. Espo and D. Cappiello, "No on Keystone Pipeline - but GOP Vows Replay," Associated Press, 18 Nov 14.

[6] R. Penty, "TransCanada Applies to Build Energy East Oil Pipeline," Bloomberg Businessweek, 30 Oct 14.