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Steyer: Keystone XL Pipeline Would Get Canada Better Oil Price


Friday on the program, we heard from Marcia McNutt, the editor-in-chief of Science magazine. After joining environment groups in their fight against the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, she switched positions and said a pipeline was the cleanest of the options.

MARCIA MCNUTT: Rather than putting the oil in a pipeline, they are now putting the oil on trucks and railway cars. And trucks and trains actually use more fossil fuels themselves to get that crude oil to market than a pipeline.

GREENE: Let's hear a different view now. Just a few minutes ago, we had a wide-ranging conversation with the billionaire liberal activist Tom Steyer about politics and climate change. We asked Steyer to respond specifically to McNutt's argument that the pipeline should be approved because oil is going to come from the tar sands of Canada one way or the other.

What do you make of that argument that this is - this pipeline might not be the safest way to bring up...

TOM STEYER: That's nonsense. That's complete nonsense.

GREENE: Why is that?

STEYER: The - well, I think that the plans that people who own the Alberta tar sands is to take the development from 1.7 million barrels a day, where it is today, to six to nine million barrels a day. The idea that they can do that by truck and rail is simply preposterous. They're actually proposing not one pipeline but they're proposing five pipelines, the largest of which is Keystone XL but which includes two to the West Coast of Canada and two to the East Coast of Canada.

They absolutely have no ability to do that from a transportation standpoint. That's number one. Number two, if this really doesn't matter, and they can just do it by truck and rail, why is this the number one goal of the Canadian government? If it really doesn't matter, why don't they just do it by truck and rail? I think that's preposterous.

And the third thing is this. They're trying to get their oil sands to the world market. They're trying to ship it to the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. They absolutely need to get this to the world and they don't have an ability to do it. Once they get it to the world they get completely different - not only transportation costs, but they get different pricing 'cause the world oil price is different from the local oil price that they're currently getting.

So they're absolutely frantic to do this. And if they don't get these pipelines - especially the Keystone - they're not going to be able to develop these oil sands.

GREENE: Another of her arguments is that by agreeing and compromising, allowing this pipeline to be built, there might be way to get some money out of this project and force that money to be spent on renewable energy in the future. Is that a viable possibility?

STEYER: I don't even know what that means. In all sincerity, every trade that's been suggested in this has been so vague that it has made no sense to me. I did spend 30 years in the private sector, I know what a trade is. A trade is when I give you something and you give me something. And so far, all the trades have been: I give you something and we're going to think about giving you something that would be really neat.

I mean substantively this makes no sense for the United States of America and the world. Absolutely no sense. And I think it's also time that we realize that we can have a much healthier economy, we can create a lot more jobs by thinking progressively about this, and starting to do a technology and innovation-based energy economy.

And that's going to be the best thing for the people of the United States. It's going to be the best thing for the economy of the United States. It's going to be the best thing for the environment of the United States. And I think it's about time that we face that.

GREENE: That is Tom Steyer. He is founder of the political organization Next Gen Climate Action. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.