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Does Keystone XL report let Obama off the hook on climate pledge?

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Accompanying TransCanada’s proposal to build the pipeline were promises of job creation and improved American energy independence that make blanket opposition to the project more politically costly, perhaps, than approving it.

The State Department report, released late Friday, did not endorse a final decision on the matter. Instead, it concluded that, no matter how the oil is delivered to US markets, including by rail or tankers, the environmental impact from tar sand extraction remains relatively the same.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the US. Limitations on pipeline transport would force more crude oil to be transported via other modes of transportation, such as rail, which would probably (but not certainly) be more expensive,” the report read.

The report also says that denying the permit will “likely result in actions by other firms in the United States (and global) petroleum market” to transport the oil through alternative means.

Those conclusions are seen as providing Obama political cover should he approve the project.

The State Department is saying, “we agree with history,” Kevin Book, an energy analyst with ClearView Energy Partners in Washington, told NPR this weekend.

“They’re saying the oil would have gone to market anyway. The facts are the oil is in the ground in Canada isn’t going to stay there if there’s a buyer,” Mr. Book said. “And there is a buyer. The buyer’s here in the US right now, and the oil is coming here by train, by truck and in some cases by barge.”

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