Environmental Activists Protest Keystone XL Pipeline Outside Obama Fundraiser

Opponents of TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline have numerous complaints about the project, and one that remains front and center in the debate is that it would lead to faster development of Canada’s oil sands.  But TransCanada chief executive Russ Girling, in an interview with The Hill, has made the case that the future of the Keystone XL pipeline will have minimal impact on the rate of development of Canada’s oil sands.

“The production decision is driven off … global oil prices, not off pipeline infrastructure. As long as global prices support the development of the resource, it is going to get developed, and then it is going to get to market one way or another,” Girling said.

“I don’t think there is … any evidence anywhere globally that the building of infrastructure, building of a pipeline leads to increases in [oil] consumption.”

And as long as producers and refiners in the US and Canada can earn better returns on crude shipped by pipeline, they will continue to demand new pipeline capacity to get their oil to market.

“We have just been through a process again, not the first time obviously in five years, where we have had to go back to our shippers and say ‘OK, is everybody still in? Has anything changed in your minds?’ Every one of those shippers, including the Bakken shippers, have not given up their space on the pipeline, even though they are all railing, they have ordered 19,000 rail cars,” Girling said.

“If you have got 20, 30, 40, 50 years of reserves, and you have got a refinery that you have made multibillion dollar investments in to run the heavy oil, and you can save $4 or $5 five a barrel by putting it into a pipeline, irrespective of whether that happens tomorrow or three years from now, that is a pretty easy decision to make,” he added.