New pipelines are also being resisted because they make no sense in the context of climate change. Take the now iconic Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry tar sands, some of the most carbon-intensive oil. According to a 2015 study funded by the Department of Energy, Canadian tar sands emits 18 percent more greenhouse gases when processed into gasoline compared to conventional crude. This exacerbates climate change at a time when a rapid transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy is urgently needed.
Given the narrowing carbon budget, which is the amount of carbon that can be emitted before breaching the 2°C degree limit to avoid dangerous climate change, two thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves must not be consumed. Under the more stringent 1.5 C degree target, 83 percent of fossil fuels must remain unburned and underground, according to a 2016 article. These numbers mean that any new fossil fuel infrastructure is simply incompatible with urgent climate goals.
Despite the ubiquity of spills and the scientific evidence that new fossil fuel infrastructure is inconsistent with climate action, regulators continue to approve new pipelines. In November of last year TransCanada’s existing Keystone pipeline spilled 9,700 barrels of crude oil in rural South Dakota making it the 7th largest oil spill in the US since 2010.