On what basis did the U.S. State Department conclude that the Keystone XL pipeline project is relatively benign in regard to greenhouse gas?

The key passage from the report's executive summary states that "approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States based on expected oil prices, oil-sands supply costs, transport costs, and supply-demand scenarios."

Here's an analogous situation: A small boat is out on mid-ocean. It has 10 holes below the waterline and is sinking fast. No one on board seriously thinks the boat won't founder if the leaks aren't promptly fixed.

Yet despite this consensus, the passengers and crew allow the water to enter unimpeded as they occupy themselves with another controversy. And what is that controversy? Whether to drill an eleventh hole.

A committee is formed to study the matter. After seemingly endless deliberation, it concludes that, with 10 holes already gushing water into the boat, one more hole won't make much difference.

Daniel Fleisher, Baltimore

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