The Keystone XL Pipeline: The Best Inadvertent Renewable Energy Campaign of the Last Five Years

By: Chandler Copenheaver, Communications/Digital Strategy Committee Member

keystone14It’s a bit of an understatement to say that global warming, green energy, and environmental protection are polarizing topics. Despite a roughly 97 percent consensus of scientists determining that Global Warming is a result of human activity [1] and 99 percent of Americans acknowledging the existence of global warming [2], fossil fuels are still used to meet 82 percent of the United State’s energy needs [3]. However, it’s projected that over the next three years, renewable energy will make up an entire third of energy for the United State’s energy grid [4], and a certain oversized oil pipeline might be a yet-unrealized perpetrator for the surge in progress.

First proposed in 2010 by TransCanada, the pipeline was set to increase U.S. crude oil accessibility for the refinery process by upwards of 830,000 barrels per day, providing a significant competitive edge economically for U.S. oil refineries and production corporations as opposed to international producers [5]. Over the five years of it’s planning and execution, an average of 65 percent of Americans approved of the new pipeline [6].

While all of this was occurring, the U.S. began seeing a cultural shift in renewable energy, with many praising the growing economic accessibility for electric cars from Tesla motors as well as renewable energy making up a significant margin of new jobs over fossil fuel industries [7]. So while it may seem that those factors seemed to play a more significant role in America’s changing view of renewable energy than the Keystone XL Pipeline, there’s a key factor the pipeline can lay claim to over these statistics hidden away in reports on barely viewed corporate websites; controversy.

Over the last four or so years, it was almost impossible to go a week without hearing a news pundit or politician discuss the Keystone XL Pipeline. Debates got dirty, and became a hard-hitting campaign issue towards the beginning of the presidential election race. Where groups like Greenpeace have made small progress to push for discussion on these topics, nothing raises attention for an issue better than Fox and Friends ranting (with a little bit of raving, for good measure) on the subject. Protests against the pipeline grew as large as 50,000 people on such occasions as the Feb. 17, 2013, protest at the Washington monument [8].

Obama’s final veto of the pipeline on Nov. 6 has left the country in further debate, questioning the future repercussions oil and fossil fuels might have on the environment and economy. While some may see it as further proof of the US Governments inability to compromise on important issues, the publicity and discussion sparked by the Keystone XL Pipeline may have inadvertently been the best environmental campaign that TransCanada never intended to run.


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