NORMAN — Oklahoma is at the center of one of the biggest environmental controversies in history.
Sen. Jim Inhofe visited The Transcript on Wednesday while in Norman and answered questions about the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and its connection to Oklahoma.
“Cushing is where all the action is,” Inhofe said. “You have your Alberta tar sands that are so productive. The idea is to get it (the crude oil) down to Houston.”
Inhofe is the chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.
Currently, the tar sands crude is part of the product shipping into Cushing, a major trading hub for crude oil. Because pipelines run into the city — not out — that oil is going into storage, rather than moving to refineries. Oil stockpiles in Cushing hit their highest levels earlier this year.
The proposed Keystone pipeline would travel from northern Alberta in Canada through the United States on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. That journey would include Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.
Inhofe said there are two phases to the approval of the pipeline. Part one is approval by the EPA.
“The EPA has to issue a certificate showing they’ve gone through all of the environmental issues,” Inhofe said. “That part is already done. It’s taken longer than it should have.”
The Keystone pipeline would send tar sands crude to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Currently, those coastal refineries are buying crude on the international market.
Whether the oil stays in the United States or is sold internationally will depend on the market, Inhofe said.
“The big issue is this — we have the largest recoverable resources in oil, coal and gas,” Inhofe said.
The second phase of approval for the Keystone pipeline lies with the U.S. Department of State and, thus, the president.
“He can stop it because it’s the State Department,” Inhofe said. “It’s the law.”
The senator said he anticipates Obama will approve the pipeline.
Inhofe remains one of global warming’s greatest skeptics.
He frequently refers to the “liberal climate change agenda” and is one of the EPA’s harshest critics.
In 2003, Inhofe called global warming the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” and he stands by that opinion today.
The president’s approval or refusal of the Keystone pipeline may be a moot point as far as carbon emmissions, however. Many who argue the need for cheaper crude say the environmentalists’ concerns about carbon emissions are not without merit.
They also say refusing to approve Keystone won’t change the end result.
If Obama does not approve the pipeline, Canada’s oil sands will continue to produce heavy crude, they say.
Canadian oil is considered to be one of the most important sources of imported oil, according to many industry reports.
That oil already flows into Cushing, Inhofe said. What is needed is a pipeline out to the coast.
While Oklahoma has its share of environmentalists, many in the Sooner state share Inhofe’s view on global warming.
Voters have kept Inhofe, rated one of the most conservative senators in the nation, in office through three-and-a-half terms.
Joy Hampton 366-3539 jhampton@ normantranscript.com