Posted by: terrauniversity | April 22, 2012

Layin’ Pipe

By: Zack Bailes

In fall of 2008 a company by the name of TransCanada requested permission to build a pipeline (Keystone XL pipeline) that would span from Alberta, Canada to many oil refiners along the Gulf Coast. The crude oil would be extracted from crude oil from tar sands. This has become a highly controversial issue. While the pipeline would create numerous jobs due to the construction, maintenance, and increased oil supplies, there is also a heavy negative side. The pipeline would create a whole new set of problems including possible contamination to the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest fresh water deposits in the world, the pipeline would span across an active seismic zone, and any leaks could prove detrimental to the ‘breadbasket’ of the United States.

The Pro’s:

With the construction of something this big, the obvious gain is the jobs that the construction with create. CEO of TransCanada Russ Girling stated that between manufacturing and construction over 20,000 jobs will be created in the completion of the pipeline. However, the U.S. State Department countered with a figure of 5000 – 6000 jobs being their estimate. With either number, the increased amount of jobs would be a welcome site to many people (Sherter, 2012).
In addition to the jobs that the pipeline will create, there is an estimated 100 million to 600 million dollar net income to come to the United States annually. This would come from the increased efficiency in oil refinery process and transportation benefits (Keystone, 294).

The Con’s:

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the biggest fresh water deposits in the world. The Keystone Pipeline would span across this underground water source. This is problematic due to the fact that if and when it leaks the excrement will seep into the ground and contaminate this important water source. The leaking will also affect the soil that it infects, making it less fertile therefore reducing the productivity of the crops.

In 2002 there was an earthquake with a magnitude of 4.2 that occurred along part of where the pipeline would be built, adding yet another possible problem. When, not if, there is a leak in the pipeline, the damage that it could cause is astronomical. The Ogallala Aquifer supplies water to about 20 million dollars worth of crops. While the pipeline would create a ton of jobs, are those jobs worth the possibility of harm coming to an area that produces 20 million dollars worth of income? A leaky pipe would truly prove to be detrimental (Anderson).

Another more indirect negative that the pipeline presents is that it will greatly increase the United States’ dependency on fossil fuels. The U.S. has a very good ‘green’ energy program that has been in development for years. However, if the pipeline gets completed, the hype for ‘going green’ will die down due to the surplus of oil we will have obtained.

For Educators: Discuss the pro’s and con’s to the construction of the pipeline. Talk about alternatives to the pipeline and other ways to obtain the energy that we need.


Anderson, M.. “Ed Stelmach’s Clumsy American Romance.” The tyee. Tyee News, 2010. Web. 17 Apr 2012.

“Keystone XL Pipeline Overview.” Congressional Digest 90.10 (2011): 290-295. Academic Search Premier. Web. 1 Apr. 2012.

Sherter, Alain (2012-01-19). “Keystone pipeline: How many jobs really at stake?”. CBS News.


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