A Nearly Identical Keystone XL Pipeline Just Got Built - and No One Noticed

We've reached Keystone XL pipeline veto day, as the Republican-controlled Congress sends its bill approving the project to President Barack Obama this afternoon (Wednesday).

The TransCanada Corp. (NYSE: TRP) Keystone pipeline project would bring Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. Cross-border projects require presidential approval following a State Department review. The president has already promised to veto it.

Keystone XL

But this is not the first international pipeline project seeking approval...

In fact, in the six years since TransCanada first applied for a Keystone XL permit, the State Department has approved permits for several other cross-border pipeline projects. That adds to the dozens of cross-border pipelines that have been approved over the decades.

According to a 2013 Congressional Research Service study, 46 oil and natural gas pipelines operate across the U.S.-Canada border. If you include Mexico, the United States has 70 cross-border oil and gas pipelines.

Of course, the Keystone pipeline veto is more to appease critics who are concerned about climate change and damaging spills.

The Keystone project in question, however, would make up a tiny fraction of the U.S. pipeline miles.

Just how tiny? Take a look...

Keystone Pipeline Just a Blip on U.S. Map

According to the Association of Oil Pipelines, the United States had 60,911 miles of crude oil pipelines as of the end of 2013. The additional portion of the Keystone that needs approval would be just 1,179 miles.

And crude oil isn't the only hazardous liquid in our pipelines. Including liquid natural gas (LNG) as well as refined petroleum products such as gasoline and jet fuel, the United States had 192,396 miles of dangerous liquids pipelines as of 2013. And that doesn't count more than 300,000 miles of natural gas pipelines.

They're everywhere. Just look at this map:

keystone xl pipeline

That's not all. If you include transmission pipelines - the ones that go through neighborhoods and supply individual homes - the U.S. has 2.5 million miles of hazardous liquid pipelines.

The Keystone pipeline would add 1,179 more miles. That would be:

  • A 1.94% increase in crude oil pipelines
  • A 0.61% increase in hazardous liquid pipelines
  • A 0.047% increase in energy pipelines of all kinds

But what's most absurd about this controversy is that an almost identical project just went operational last month.

And virtually no one noticed...

A Project Just Like the Keystone Pipeline That You Never Heard About

Just weeks ago, on Jan. 16, Canadian dignitaries joined the CEOs of Enbridge Energy (NYSE: EEP) and Enterprise Product Partners (NYSE: EPD) in Freeport, Texas. The occasion was the opening of the last leg of a pipeline carrying Canadian crude from the oil sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast.

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Just like the Keystone pipeline.

Freeport is the southern terminus of the newly expanded Seaway pipeline. It can carry up to 850,000 barrels of crude oil a day from a hub in Cushing, Okla. (Keystone would carry 830,000 barrels.) There it connects to another Enbridge pipeline, Flanagan South, which started operating in December.

Flanagan South runs north to Flanagan, Ill., where it connects to Enbridge's "Line 61" pipeline. And Line 61 connects to the "Alberta Clipper" pipeline that crosses into Canada on its way to the Alberta oil sands.

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When Enbridge ran into trouble getting a permit to expand the capacity of the Alberta Clipper, it simply re-routed the oil to an adjacent pipeline at the border. None of the other projects required presidential approval.

State and local news media covered the Seaway event. But the national media ignored it. They were too busy obsessing over the Keystone XL mania in Congress.

And nary a peep was heard from the politicians.

No impassioned speeches from the likes of Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: "What does XL stand for? To me it stands for extra lethal."

No bloviating from House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio: "President Obama is now out of excuses for blocking the Keystone pipeline and the thousands of American jobs it would create."

It just goes to show how totally political the Keystone pipeline is.

Even oil industry experts are over the drama.

"Keystone is kind of old news," Sandy Fielden, director of energy analytics at consulting company RBN Energy, told Bloomberg last November. "Producers have moved on and are looking for new capacity from other pipelines."

The Bottom Line: There's nothing special about the Keystone pipeline. Elements on both the left and right simply saw value in politicizing it. Both have used it as a tool to whip up support among the party faithful.

Now How to Profit from a Keystone Pipeline Veto: Over the past month, President Obama has vowed to veto the Keystone XL pipeline. He'll soon get his chance. But while some companies won't be happy about the veto, others stand to benefit. President Obama is about to make these stocks winners...

Join the conversation on Twitter using #SecretPipeline.

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About the Author

David Zeiler, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, has been a journalist for more than 35 years, including 18 spent at The Baltimore Sun. He has worked as a writer, editor, and page designer at different times in his career. He's interviewed a number of well-known personalities - ranging from punk rock icon Joey Ramone to Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Over the course of his journalistic career, Dave has covered many diverse subjects. Since arriving at Money Morning in 2011, he has focused primarily on technology. He's an expert on both Apple and cryptocurrencies. He started writing about Apple for The Sun in the mid-1990s, and had an Apple blog on The Sun's web site from 2007-2009. Dave's been writing about Bitcoin since 2011 - long before most people had even heard of it. He even mined it for a short time.

Dave has a BA in English and Mass Communications from Loyola University Maryland.

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