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Keystone XL put on hold

Protesters against the construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline hold signs and stand on a Keith Haring sculpture as they demonstrate outside of the W Hotel before the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama on Oct. 25, 2011 in San Francisco, Calif.

Kai Ryssdal: Now here's something you haven't heard in a while. Environmentalists win, Big Oil loses.

The topic at hand is something called the Keystone XL pipeline. Would have run from Canada down to Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. I say "would have" because even though it's been in the works for years, late today the White House said it'll put off a decision on final approval -- conveniently until after next year's election, most likely.

From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Scott Tong has the latest.


Scott Tong: This is back to the drawing board part three for a decision on the pipeline to carry 800,000 barrels of Canadian crude oil per day to the U.S. This time, the administration wants to modify the pipeline route to protect a critical underwater aquifer in Nebraska.

Assistant Secretary of State Kerri-Ann Jones.

Kerri-Ann Jones: And we are looking at a route that we didn't look at before but which we need to look at and do more analysis of because of what we have been hearing.

The regulatory do-over will take more than a year, and delay means victory for an environmental movement that staged a White House protest Sunday, roping in the likes of Robert Redford and Darryl Hannah.

Susan Casey Lefkowitz at the Natural Resource Defense Council says it's clear the president himself responded to protests.

Susan Casey Lefkowitz: The president is listening to the many Americans who have voiced concern about climate change as they have marched in Washington D.C. -- grandmothers in Vermont and teachers and professors from North Carolina. Almost 15,000 strong.

The issue is Canadian oil sands, which takes a lot of energy to extract, so it emits 17 percent more carbon. For the industry, analyst David Yager in Calgary says today's news is a blow. As this decision came, oil investment dollars got nervous.

David Yager: The projects that are penned into start next year, I am told these are already under review if this pipeline isn't going to be built on time. If ever.

Still what's not clear is whether delaying a pipeline means the end of Canadian crude. Yager says there are other ways to get it out -- rail, existing pipelines, trucks. So long as the price of oil stays high enough, there will always be a plan B, C, D, E and F.

In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.

About the author

Scott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy.
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Can't they start building both ends leading into Nebraska?

"Yager says there are other ways to get it out -- rail..."

Rail. I always picture Warren Buffet sitting on a park bench in Omaha, eating his lunch and watching one tanker convoy after another rolling past him when he decided to buy BNSF. It's one of the few rail companies that goes through the Bakken shale territory of North Dakota and owns trackage rights all the way to the Texas refineries. A setback in pipelines means dollar signs for the Wizard of Omaha. I'm surprised he's not outside with Robert Redford and friends.

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