Every pipeline is ugly, intrusive and potentially dangerous, no matter how barren the land that it crosses. In the best of all worlds, we would be charging our car batteries with hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electrical power from solar panels or wind turbines. That day isn't here yet, so the controversial TransCanada XL Keystone pipeline, which is set to run from Alberta to Texas, is a necessary economic evil, like all pipelines.
With more than 1,711 miles of 36-in.-dia steel pipeline, there is much that could go wrong, beginning with between one or two spills a year greater than 2,100 gallons, according to the State Dept.'s draft environmental impact statement. Crude oil and bitumen could be pumped out of any break under high pressure. Land and water—including the Northern High Plains Aquifer system, which supplies almost eight out of every 10 gallons of water to Nebraska—could be exposed to toxicity from a spill.