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President Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline brought protests from opponents who say it will not benefit the U.S.
Every day the equivalent of 830,000 barrels of oil will flow through 1,200 miles of pipeline from Canada to Nebraska.
"I’ve opposed the Keystone strategy for a long time because it is an export strategy," Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, told the Press-Republican newspaper in Plattsburgh. "It doesn’t even have any oil for America to make our gas prices cheaper."
"It’s literally oil from Canada taken through America, so we take all the risks of any kind of spill or any kind of problem, and then it exports it to Mexico and then straight to China or other places," she said.
PolitiFact rated a similar claim from then-President Obama Mostly False in 2014. We checked with a few experts to see if anything has changed.
Is Gillibrand right? Will the crude oil that flows through the pipeline immediately leave the U.S.?
What gets exported
The Keystone XL pipeline will transport crude oil from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska. The oil will then flow through another pipeline to Gulf Coast refineries, where it will be refined into petroleum products like gasoline.
Gulf Coast refineries export about two-thirds of their products, according to a U.S. Energy Information Administration report in January. The rest is sold in the U.S. That is a marked shift since 2012, when refineries exported about 38 percent of their products.
The Gulf Coast exports of crude oil -- oil that has not been refined into everything from butane to gasoline -- spiked during the same time period. Companies exported about 280,000 barrels of crude oil every day last year, compared to 4,000 in 2012.
What gets imported
The Gulf Coast imported more than 3.3 million barrels of crude oil a day in 2016.
Most of that oil came from Latin America and the Middle East. Only 9 percent of the crude oil imported to the Gulf Coast came from Canada.
The Keystone XL pipeline was designed to transport oil to the Gulf Coast because refineries in the region are already equipped to process heavier crude oils, like those found in Canada’s Alberta province. The same kind of crude oil comes to the region from Latin America.
If the pipeline transfers as much crude oil to the Gulf Coast as the federal government expects, total imports would increase by about 25 percent.
The State Department view
The U.S. State Department did not respond to most of Gillibrand’s claim but did comment on how the pipeline could affect gas prices.
"As the final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement makes clear, gas prices throughout the United States are primarily driven by global market factors," a spokesperson said. "The amount of Western Canada Sedimentary Basin (WCSB) crude that makes its way to the Gulf region does not change this dynamic. Any impact on prices for refined petroleum products resulting from the approval and construction of the Keystone XL pipeline would be minimal."
What experts say
Gillibrand suggests the crude oil imported through the pipeline would be immediately exported to other countries once it reaches the Gulf Coast. Experts say that is not the case.
"I don't believe that she is correct," said Mark Bateau, Director of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan. "In general, refineries designed to handle heavier crudes are the ones most likely to utilize this oil, in some cases instead of heavy crudes imported from places like Venezuela."
"I would say it doesn’t accurately describe the likely outcome," said Stanley Reynolds, an environmental economics expert from the University at Arizona. "It’s true that the oil would come from Canada and then mainly go to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refining."
TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, confirmed in an email that the pipeline was designed to reach refineries in the Gulf Coast region.
Experts also say it’s unlikely that none of the refined products will be sold in the U.S. once the pipeline is built.
"That refined oil product, gasoline or whatever, could be just as easily consumed in the United States as somewhere else," said Barry Rabe, an expert on environmental policy from the University at Michigan. "There’s nothing on the oil coming through a pipeline from Canada that requires all of that to be sold somewhere else."
Gillibrand said the Keystone XL pipeline "doesn’t even have any oil for America."
Experts say the oil will not be exported straight to other countries, as Gillibrand said.
It is true that exports of petroleum products from Gulf Coast refineries have increased considerably in recent years. That’s part of why PolitiFact rated a similar statement by Obama Mostly False in 2014. While the trend adds a grain of truth to her claim, it does not mean all of the oil that will come from the Keystone XL pipeline will be immediately exported.
We rate Gillibrand’s claim Mostly False.
"Gillibrand denounces Trump policies", Plattsburgh Press-Republican March 27, 2017
PolitiFact: Obama says Keystone XL is for exporting oil outside the U.S., experts disagree, Nov. 20, 2014
Email conversation with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office
Email conversation with Jonathan Cogan from the U.S. Energy Information Administration
Email conversation with the U.S. State Department
Email conversation with Michelle Foss, Chief Energy Economist at the Bureau of Economic Geology’s Center for Energy Economics at the University of Texas
Email conversation with Stanley Reynolds, Eller Professor of Economics at the University at Arizona
Email conversation with Mark Bateau, Director of the Energy Institute at the University of Michigan
Email conversation with Eric Smith, Professor of Practice specializing in energy specialization at Tulane University
Phone conversation with Barry Rabe, Professor of Public Policy at the University of Michigan
Gulf Coast Exports of Crude Oil and Petroleum Products, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
U.S. Net Imports by Country, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Crude oil domestic production by region in the U.S., U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Crude oil imports by country of origin (by region), U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Crude oil imports by country of origin (U.S.), U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Crude oil imports by area of entry, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Refinery net production by region, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Crude oil and petroleum product exports by region, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
Visual representation of crude oil and petroleum product exports from the Gulf Coast, U.S. Energy Information Administration, Accessed Apr. 7, 2017
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