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Good Question: What Is The Keystone XL Pipeline?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Earlier Tuesday evening, the U.S. Senate failed to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline by a vote of 59 - 41.

Immediately after the vote, Republicans said they'd bring up the issue again in January.

The fight over this pipeline has been a long, contentious battle that began in 2008 when TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, applied for a construction permit.

John Abraham is a professor of engineering at the University of St. Thomas.

"This frenzy is created because there are two different world views," Abraham said "One world view wants to promote jobs that can be created during the construction of the pipelines over the next few years, and the other political view says we've got to care for the environment."

About half of the entire Keystone pipeline has been built and is already up and running. The middle part -- the XL pipeline -- is something of shortcut that runs through Canada, Montana to Nebraska.

It will link the part of the pipeline that already runs from Nebraska to Texas. The idea is to transport 830,000 barrels of petroleum from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada to the oil refineries along the Gulf Coast.

Supporters say the pipeline will create 42,000 temporary jobs from construction to food services. They also say a pipeline is safer than transporting the petroleum by rail.

"This is for Americans, for American jobs to build an American middle class," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who's in a fight to keep her U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana.

But opponents say the pipeline would only create 35 permanent jobs after it's built. They also argue it would produce 17-percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil drilling.

"This isn't about the building of a pipeline, it's what's going in it -- the filthiest, dirtiest oil," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

Abraham says the sticky, oil-like substance that comes out of the oil sands in Alberta is hard to get out of the ground.

"It's a goopy, sticky tar-like substance and it takes a lot of energy to get it out of the ground and get it to your car," he said.

A study by the U.S. State Department found, even without the Keystone XL Pipeline, the oil will still likely be produced.

"Some of the oil is going to come out," Abraham said. "But the Keystone Pipeline changes the economics and it's going to increase the amount of oil that comes out."

President Obama said last week at a press conference in Myanmar that his position on the pipeline hasn't changed. He wants to wait for the State Department to finish its review before making any decisions.

The State Department must conduct a review in this case because the pipeline would cross international lines.

"Understand what this project is. It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else," said President Obama. "That doesn't have an impact on U.S. gas prices. You know what does have an impact on U.S. gas prices is the incredible boom in U.S. oil production and natural gas production that's taken place under my administration."

Abraham agrees with the president on this topic, adding that it will "just be a blip on peoples' radar screen."

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