Keystone XL Pipeline – Economics and Environment Quiz Answers

Giant Pipeline across Road Welcomes Visitors to Cushing, OK - Photo: AP / Matt Strasen
Photo: AP / Matt Strasen

The last post challenged readers to test their Keystone XL Pipeline knowledge by taking a quiz. This post reveals the answers and provides backup information.

If you didn’t take the quiz yet, click here.

Check your answers against the answer key below and then continue reading to learn more about the Keystone XL Pipeline quiz topics.

Quiz Answer Key: (1. b, 2. c, 3. d, 4. a, 5. b, 6. c, 7. a, 8. c, 9. b, 10. d)

Keystone Pipeline System

The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is just one pipeline in the Keystone Pipeline System owned by TransCanada. If completed, the 3,861-mile Keystone Pipeline System will have the capacity to transport 1.3 million barrels of crude oil a day from Canada, Montana, and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma, and Texas. 1

The existing 1,853-mile Keystone Pipeline leg runs from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada, through Saskatchewan and Manitoba; crosses the U.S.-Canada border in Cavalier County, North Dakota, continues through South Dakota and Nebraska to Steele City, Nebraska where it branches off to oil refineries in Patoka and Wood River, Illinois. It also connects to the 298-mile Cushing Extension Pipeline that carries oil from Steele City to Cushing, Oklahoma, and from there to Nederland, Texas via the recently completed 485-mile Gulf Coast Pipeline1, 2

Like the Keystone Pipeline, the proposed 1,179-mile Keystone XL Pipeline would also originate in Hardisty, Alberta, Canada and terminate at Steele City, Nebraska. The difference is the Keystone XL would cross the border at Morgan, Montana and then continue diagonally through South Dakota and Nebraska to Steele City. 1,3

TransCanada Keystone Pipeline System Map 2014-02-25
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline System Map 2014-02-25

Keystone XL Pipeline Presidential Permit

A Presidential permit is required to authorize the Keystone XL Pipeline to cross the U.S.-Canada border. The Department of State is responsible for evaluating the project to determine if it serves the national interest of the United States and if so, issuing the permit.

Boreal Forest in Albert, Canada - Photo: Ken Ilgunas
Boreal Forest in Albert, Canada – Photo: Ken Ilgunas

TransCanada originally submitted a Presidential permit application for the Keystone XL Pipeline project in September 2008. The permit was denied in 2011. 4

Subsequently, TransCanada reworked the project to exclude the Cushing Extension and Gulf Coast pipelines, which do not cross the border and thus do not require Presidential permits. A new application was submitted in May 2012. 4

As of May 2014, the project is still under review. To learn more read, Keystone XL Pipeline – Presidential Permit.

Keystone XL Pipeline Carrying Capacity

If built, the Keystone XL Pipeline would carry up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day. 730,000 bpd (barrels per day) has been allocated for heavy crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Canada (British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba), and 100,000 bpd for light crude oil from the Bakken Shale Formation in Montana and North Dakota. 5

Market Impact of Keystone XL Pipeline on Extraction of Oil Sands

The Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for the Keystone XL Project Executive: Summary dated January 2014, concluded that oil from Canadian oil sands will be extracted and will find its way to market one way or another.

The FSEIS states, “…the proposed Project is unlikely to significantly affect the rate of extraction in oil sands areas (based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios).” 6

Lac-Megantic Train Explosion in Quebec, Canada - Photo: BBC / Reuters
Lac-Megantic Train Explosion in Quebec, Canada July 6, 2013, Killed 47 People – Photo: BBC / Reuters

Transportation alternatives mostly focus on getting oil to U.S. oil refineries that already have the technology and capacity to refine heavy crude oil from Canada and domestic light crude oil. Options include increased shipment by rail (which is already occurring), other pipeline routes, and building pipelines to the west or east coast of Canada combined with tanker transport to the Gulf of Mexico (or perhaps to other countries). 6

Although U.S. regulations preclude exporting domestic crude oil in most cases, refined products like gasoline and diesel are not as restricted and are currently being exported (at a low rate). 7

The Keystone XL Pipeline would transport crude oil owned by both foreign and U.S. companies. The owners would decide whether to sell the oil in the U.S. or overseas.

Keystone XL Pipeline Contribution to U.S. Economy

Crowd with Signs For and Against Keystone XL Pipeline in Lincoln, NE - Photo: AP / Nati Narnik
Photo: AP / Nati Narnik

The Keystone XL Pipeline project, if built, is expected to contribute $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy during the anticipated two-year construction period. 8

The 42,100 jobs the project expects to support temporarily during construction may or may not be new jobs. Of those jobs, 3,900 are construction jobs. After construction, there would be 50 long-term U.S. jobs (35 permanent, 15 temporary). 8

Keystone XL Pipeline Environmental Issues

The disruption and damage to the land along the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline route pales in comparison to the destruction that would result from crude oil extraction by strip-mining, steam injection, drilling, and fracking. No amount of remediation could ever replace the loss of boreal forest in Canada and grasslands in the United States.

Oil spills and water pollution are genuine concerns. The proposed pipeline route crosses 1,073 surface bodies of water, several important aquifers, and is within one mile of 2,537 wells of which 39 supply public water. 9

Extracting, transporting, refining, and burning a barrel of crude oil from the Canadian oil sands emits 17% more greenhouse gases than the average barrel of crude oil refined in the U.S. 10

These are just a few of the many environmental issues associated with the Keystone XL Pipeline project.

Oil Sands Excavation in Alberta, Canada - Photo: Ken Ilgunas
Oil Sands Excavation in Alberta, Canada – Photo: Ken Ilgunas

Call To Action

The Keystone XL Pipeline catapulted from obscurity into the limelight in 2011. First, there were objections to its proposed route over the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska. Second, Congress attempted to force President Obama to approve the required Presidential permit. 11

These events and others captured the attention of the public, the oil industry, politicians, environmental groups, and the media, not just in the U.S. and Canada but also around the world. Keystone XL has been in the news ever since.

This situation presents the U.S. with an unparalleled opportunity to take the leadership role in moving the world away from fossil fuels and towards renewable energy. If President Obama were to kill the Keystone XL Pipeline project, it would put the world on notice that it is no longer business-as-usual in the United States and we are truly ready to tackle climate change.

We all need to take action by speaking out against the Keystone XL Pipeline and for clean renewable energy. Write, call, email, or tweet the President, Secretary of State, your senator, or your congressional representative. Join a or Sierra Club action. Talk to your neighbor or coworker. You get the idea.

Let’s do it!

Cowboy Indian Alliance Keystone XL Protest in Washington, DC on April 27, 2014 - Photo Jim Dougherty
Cowboy Indian Alliance Keystone XL Protest in Washington, DC on April 27, 2014 – Photo Jim Dougherty

Related Posts


  1. TransCanada – Keystone Projects Overview (new link Dec 2020)
  2. The Oklahoman – Pipeline begins moving oil out of Cushing, by Jay F. Marks, January 22.104
  3. U.S. Department of State – Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project: Executive Summary, dated January 2014, p. ES-1
  4. Ibid., p. ES-1, ES-3
  5. Ibid., p. ES-6
  6. Ibid., p. ES-9, ES-10, ES-28 thru ES-32
  7. Congressional Research Service – U.S. Oil Imports and Exports, by Neelesh Nerurkar, April 4, 2012
  8. U.S. Department of State – Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project: Executive Summary, dated January 2014, p. ES-19, ES-20
  9. Ibid., p. ES-21
  10. U.S. Department of State – Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the Keystone XL Project: Executive Summary, dated January 2014, p. ES-15
  11. Keystone XL Pipeline – Presidential Permit


Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

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