The Russian Bear and the American Pipeline

Michael Whatley

4/1/2014 10:20:00 AM - Michael Whatley

If there were any doubt about the importance of pipelines to national security, it ought to have been erased by recent events in Crimea and Ukraine as the Russian Bear has pawed away the former from the latter. Europe is vulnerable because 16% of its natural gas comes through Ukraine. It is a powerful reminder of why the Keystone XL Pipeline is critical to our own national security.

The Keystone XL Pipeline will deliver 830,000 barrels of oil per day to the Gulf Coast and reduce American dependence on oil from rapidly deteriorating and unstable Venezuela and the ever volatile Middle East by up to 40 percent.

Consider the implications of this. If the 830,000 barrels of oil per day were refined into gasoline, the yield would be 15 million gallons of gasoline per day according to the Energy Information Administration.

The Environmental Protection Agency indicates the typical passenger car uses an average 498 gallons of gasoline per year, while a light-duty truck will use 694 gallons. Apply a little math and this means the Keystone XL Pipeline could fuel approximately 11.6 million passenger cars or 8.3 light-duty trucks per day.

Taking the argument a bit further, the oil delivered by the Keystone XL Pipeline, if converted to diesel fuel or fuel oil at 10 gallons per barrel would yield 8.3 million gallons; enough to power 262,000 combination tractor-trailers per year at 5.9 miles per gallon. Using it to heat homes, this fuel would be enough, at an average of 550 gallons per household, to heat 5.5 million homes.

These various uses of the crude oil the Keystone Pipeline will deliver are not mutually exclusive. The 830,000 barrels of oil that will be transported by the Keystone XL Pipeline, in fact, have the potential, on a daily basis, to simultaneously:

Power 11.6 million cars,

Heat 5.5 million homes,

Fly 110,000 people across the US in a 747 jet,

Fill 636,000 BBQ propane tanks,

Supply numerous other products ranging from motor oil to plastics.

Ensuring our sources of oil to produce these goods are not interrupted is fundamental to national security. That means securing American energy independence over the long-term and, in the short-term, maintaining crude inventories that will sustain our economy during periods of unrest when overseas supplies may be interrupted.

How do we stand in this regard? Well, we are finally moving toward energy self-sufficiency thanks to positive developments on several fronts. The US only imported 40% of its oil from foreign countries in 2012, which is down from as high as 60% in earlier years. True independence is still several years away, but there is a silver lining in that our largest supplier of foreign oil is our neighbor, friend and ally Canada. It supplied 28% of our imports, while much of the rest came from Saudi Arabia (13%), Venezuela (9%) and Russia (5%).

No one wants the U.S. dependent upon those last three, all of which are opposed to U.S. interests in significant ways. Therefore, the logical thing to do is to shift more of our sourcing from those nations to the U.S. itself and Canada. The Keystone XL Pipeline is the vehicle to do this because it will serve to deliver both Bakken (North Dakota) and Canadian oil to our major refineries on the Gulf Coast.

That’s ultimately what national security is all about - keeping the American people safe, protecting our way of life and ensuring our ability to compete in the modern world. The Keystone XL Pipeline is the keystone to energy and foreign policies that do just that.