A New Keystone XL Paper is Probably Wrong
Michael Levi – Council on Foreign Relations – August 13, 2014
I’ve been trying to avoid two things lately: Keystone XL and picking on shaky scientific papers. But a new paper on Keystone XL in Nature Climate Change has been generating a lot of buzz and requests for comment, so a post on it seems worthwhile.
The paper claims to show that the State Department has underestimated the emissions impact of the pipeline by as much as 83 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually. The authors say that the State Department “did not account for global oil market effects” that would lead to greater world oil consumption – and therefore emissions – as a result of higher Canadian oil sands production. They claim that, by now including those effects, they have produced the correct emissions number.
The authors are on reasonable grounds to argue that State should have been less confident in assuming no impact of higher oil sands production on world oil consumption – an issue that scores of analysts (myself included – see, for example, this 3+ year old blog post or my 2013 book) have long understood is real. But their estimate of that impact is thoroughly unpersuasive and almost certainly too high. Let me explain why in three pieces.