The Keystone XL pipeline is an energy policy issue that has proven to be highly polarizing.
Proponents of the pipeline point to a U.S. Department of Energy report which indicates that Keystone XL will allow the US to substantially reduce its imports of Middle Eastern oil. Furthermore, it is claimed that the pipeline will “create 20,000 high-paying jobs for American families and inject $20 billion in to the U.S. economy.” In addition to the influx of oil from the Athabasca oil sands in Canada, the pipeline provides an avenue for transporting up to 250,000 barrels of oil per day from U.S. sources in Montana, Texas, and North Dakota. The economic and energy implications of the pipeline have garnered a significant number of supporters who are urging the President to approve TransCanada’s application to continue with the project.
While the proponents of Keystone XL focus on economics, the opponents focus on the local and global environmental impacts. The “global impacts stem primarily from concern regarding the lifecycle of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with the development of Canadian oil sands.”  Critics point to the “fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.” However, this concern should not impact our government’s decision to allow construction of the pipeline as Canada is committed to exploiting their tar sands and the GHG emissions will continue regardless of US involvement. Thus, preventing Keystone XL in no way diminishes the total emissions and only serves to prevent America from utilizing the oil derived from the project. Furthermore, abstention from the Canadian oil market provides an opening for other countries and the oil will “just get bought by China and other countries looking for cheap and plentiful energy. And TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, is already working on contingency plans to do just that.”
Even if one rejects the global environmental criticisms, the local environmental effects must still be considered. The primary local complaints center on potential side effects of the pipeline on Nebraska’s Sand Hills and the Olgallala aquifer. “Potential impacts to the Ogallala Aquifer and the Sand Hills identified in the final EIS for TransCanada’s original permit application included groundwater contamination after an accidental spill or leak of crude oil during the construction or operation of the proposed pipeline.” In response to these concerns, TransCanada has proposed several alternative routes that will entirely skip the Sand Hills region, although the new routes still cross a portion of the Olgallala aquifer. While the possibility of aquifer contamination remains frightening, the probability is remote as the government’s own Environmental Impact Study claims that there will be “’no significant impacts to most resources along its proposed corridor if the company follows through on environmental protection measures.”
While the most common objections to Keystone XL center on environmental concerns, there is a steadily growing opposition to the pipeline due to property rights considerations. In a chilling outgrowth of the broad eminent domain powers established in Kelo v. City of New London, TransCanada has leveraged the power of the courts to force landowners to grant easements. TransCanada has engaged in 56 eminent domain cases in Texas and South Dakota and has begun the process in Nebraska.  Furthermore, there is no way of determining how many property owners sold land or easements to TransCanada due to the simple threat of eminent domain seizure. As Keystone XL is not a public works project, but rather a profit driven venture of a foreign corporation, it seems to stretch even the logic of the Supreme Court’s controversial decision in Kelo v. City of New London. 
Clearly, many political, economic, environmental, and ethical issues must be weighed when considering the course of action for this project.