Pipeline contruction

ShutterstockSo many pipelines are being built and expanded in the U.S. that refiners have stopped caring whether Keystone XL gets the OK.

We’ve heard from the Canadian oil industry that the Keystone XL pipeline is essential for the expansion of tar-sands operations. But here in America, oil refiners are now saying they don’t much care whether the damned thing ever gets built.

The U.S. has its own oil boom going on, thanks to fracking, and a lot of that oil is being transported by railcar. Meanwhile, existing pipelines from Canada to the U.S. are being expanded, a process that doesn’t require new federal approvals.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a Valero executive saying that if the industry “just sat around and waited for Washington” to approve Keystone, “we’d never get anything done.” More from that article:

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U.S. companies that refine oil increasingly doubt that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline expansion will ever be built, and now they don’t particularly care. …

[R]efiners are moving ahead with other plans. Valero Energy Corp. had signed to receive oil from Keystone XL when the project was first announced and spent billions of dollars upgrading some of its U.S. Gulf Coast refineries to turn heavy Canadian crude into gasoline and diesel.

But it says it no longer considers the pipeline critical to its business. The company is now expanding rail terminals at its refineries in Benicia, Calif.; St. James, La.; and Quebec to receive more crude oil shipments, including heavy Canadian crude. Part of the reason is the long wait for Keystone. …

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Refiners along the U.S. Gulf Coast are also taking advantage of the boom in light, sweet crude coming out of Texas and North Dakota. That oil is easier to process than heavy oil from Canada, Venezuela and Mexico, and as the supply has increased, the demand for heavy crudes at many refineries has diminished.

Enbridge, TransCanada’s cross-town rival, plans to spend $2.4 billion to expand several pipelines in its Lakehead system by 2014.

Is this is a good development for the environmental community, or a bad one? The news here is mixed.

Opposition to the pipeline has helped stall it to the point where the domestic oil industry is giving up hope on it ever being built, and that could reduce the amount of tar-sands oil that get mined from Alberta. Then again, the oil industry has found so many workarounds and new sources of oil that there are now scores of new battles to fight in the war against fossil-fuel domination and climate change.