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Timothy K.
Democrat VA

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  • Keystone XL Pipeline Act—Motion to Proceed

    by Senator Tim Kaine

    Posted on 2015-01-12

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    KAINE. Madam President, I am happy I was here for the comments of my colleague from Indiana on the Keystone Pipeline and, similar to the Senator from Indiana, I am also happy to finally have this debate. The comments he made are very sincere and passionately believed. I accept that. I only challenge one aspect of the comments, which is the suggestion that opposition of Keystone is feeble or only for political reasons.

    I am a pro-energy Senator. The first bill I introduced in the 114th Congress was a bill I am cosponsoring with Senator Barrasso of Wyoming to expedite American exports of liquid natural gas, but I am an opponent of Keystone on environmental and economic grounds, and I wish to spend a few minutes describing why.

    To begin with, it can probably be summed up in a question: Why embrace dirty energy when America is in the midst of a clean energy revolution? That is a primary reason I oppose Keystone. The United States, thank goodness, is on a clean energy roll. Not only are we on a clean energy roll, we are on an energy production roll that is helping our economy, helping our trade deficit, and hurting some of our most significant global adversaries, notably Russia and Iran.

    We have embraced over the last few years a set of conservation and efficiency investments, probably most notably the increased CAFE standards that have saved energy use in the vehicle sector as well as helped the American auto industry significantly rebound. Our natural gas revolution, of which I am a strong supporter, has enabled American industry and consumers to get lower priced energy, and it has enabled us to lessen our dependence on dirtier fuels in the production of electric power and other aspects of our power usage. Wind and solar and other noncarbon energy developments have rocketed ahead. Nearly one- third of the energy that has been added to the American electricity grid since 2005 has been in the wind and solar area. We are one of the few nations in the world that in the period from 2005 to 2012 actually saw a reduction in our carbon emissions.

    We are on a clean energy roll. We are innovating for the world and we are selling technologies to the rest of the world and that is good for our economy as well as good for the environment.

    We are also asserting American energy leadership not just in the advances in clean energy but also in the significant advances in American energy production. I think we should feel [[Page S142]] good about the fact that we are a country that has gone from being one of the greatest net importers of energy in the world to now a country that is going to be one of the greatest energy producers in the world, and in many energy areas we are now a net exporter. So emissions are going down. Production and exports are going up.

    The other thing that is great for Americans is that prices are going down. A barrel of oil right now is in the $50-a-barrel range, which is putting about $1,000 a year back into the pockets of an American family. It is helping American businesses, and it is imposing, as I mentioned earlier, some significant harm upon two of our most persistent global adversaries--Iran and Russia--that rely on energy exports to drive their economy.

    This energy revolution--higher production, greater economic efficiency, greater cleanliness--has all been happening without the Keystone Pipeline. It has all been happening without the United States embracing tar sands oil. We are going in the right direction now. I oppose the Keystone Pipeline because accelerating the use of tar sands oil turns us around. Instead of going in the right direction to more production, more national security and greater emissions control, the Keystone Pipeline accelerates tar sands oil and takes us in the wrong direction. Simply put, tar sands oil and the exploitation of that resource is a bad bet for the environment and, I believe, a bad bet for the economy.

    Last month, December 2014, a magazine I really like that normally has a lot of articles about the outdoors, Outside magazine, ran a lengthy article on the area of Canada in Alberta where tar sands are mined. The article is called ``The High Cost of Oil.'' To anyone who is interested in this debate--pro, con or undecided--go online to Outside magazine, December 2014, ``The High Cost of Oil,'' and read what the mining of tar sands oil does to this part of Canada and to this planet.

    Tar sands oil is not like conventional gas or petroleum. Tar sands oil, the mining and refining and production of it, produces about 15 to 20 percent more greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy than conventional petroleum. Natural gas produces dramatically less CO2 than conventional petroleum, but tar sands oil produces dramatically more. If you care about the emissions of CO2-- and I think we should all care about the emissions of CO2 because I accept the science that says CO2 emissions cause significant climate effects--if you care about CO2 emissions, then tar sands oil is absolutely the worst thing that can be done.

    Over the 2 years now that I have been in the Senate, I have had a lot of folks come to me and talk to me about Keystone. They never say a word about greenhouse gas or CO2 emissions--not a word. Senator Coats didn't say a word in his comments about CO2 or greenhouse gas emissions. I ask individuals, when they come and talk to me about Keystone: What do you think about CO2 emissions? What do you think about the fact that tar sands oil is significantly more carbon dense than normal petroleum? The response I find myself getting is: I don't know; I am not a scientist. In fact, I heard that from an energy CEO who employs tons of scientists in his organizations: I don't know; I am not a scientist.

    The scientific consensus I believe is very clear. We have to do what we can--not drastically and dramatically but in an incremental way-- every day to bring down our CO2 emissions. I believe we need to do that in smart ways. Yet, from an emissions standpoint, tar sands oil goes exactly in the wrong direction. It is not just CO2 emissions. Tar sands oil also involves the mining of it. I would encourage you to read this article. It involves scraping up vast acreages of an arboreal forest in Alberta to get to the tar sands underneath. So far, an area about the size of the State of Rhode Island has been completely despoiled to look like a moonscape to get to tar sands, and this will significantly accelerate the more tar sands are built.

    In the area of Alberta where the mining and refining is taking place, there has been a dramatic increase in respiratory illness and other illnesses associated either with airborne emissions or with the contamination of the area's water supply.

    Probably one of the most powerful things about the article is not the lengthy analysis, not the words, it is the pictures. The pictures in that article are staggering. When you see what has to be done to these arboreal forests to mine tar sands oil, you come back to this question: Why would we embrace a dirtier technology when America is on a clean- energy revolution that is driving down prices, driving up production, and also driving down emissions.

    Tar sands oil takes us in the wrong direction. It is not so much about the pipeline. We rely on pipelines in this country, but it is about the acceleration of the development of a resource that, frankly, just doesn't need to be developed.

    I will conclude and say this. Some say--and I made this argument-- well, look, it is going to be mined anyway and refined anyway. If the pipeline doesn't go through the United States, it will go westward or eastward through Canada or another direction. I am not completely sure that is correct. The article in Outside discusses the fact that Canadians, who know this better than anybody because they live in the neighborhood, are fighting against pipelines being built in Canada. There is also the matter with oil now at a significantly lower price than it has been. Even the economics of this tar sands oil, which is pretty expensive because of what you have to do to refine it, may not make any sense. But even if we set those arguments aside and somebody says to me, why shouldn't the United States just give the big green light to tar sands oil because somebody is going to get it, the reason I think we shouldn't is the United States is showing the world right now what it means to be an energy leader.

    With increased production, lower emissions, lower prices through innovation--through American innovation--we are showing the world what it means to be an energy leader. We are a leader because we have embraced a simple effort.

    I am not an engineer, but as I look at what happened in innovation in the last decade, the ethic we have embraced is: Let's do it cleaner tomorrow than today. That is pretty simple. Let's do it cleaner tomorrow than today--not dramatically cleaner. It doesn't have to turn day and night from today to tomorrow. Let's just get a little bit cleaner tomorrow than today.

    That is what we have been doing as a Nation. It has been increasing supply. It has been driving down demand. It has been driving down prices. It has been helping us control emissions. That is what we should keep doing. I am a pro-energy Senator, but I am a deep skeptic about the use of tar sands oil. For that reason, I am glad we are going to have the debate. I think we should finally be at it. But I am going to oppose the Keystone Pipeline because tar sands oil is going backwards and not forwards. We are showing the world what it means to go forward, and that is the direction we should continue to go.

    I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The clerk will call the roll.

    The bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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