The U.S. Department of State downplayed the Keystone XL pipeline’s environmental impact, according to the Carbon Tracker Initiative (CTI), a United Kingdom-based environmental non-profit, released a report yesterday that indicated how

At the end of January, the State Department released a report that favored the Keystone XL pipeline on the basis that the pipeline would not “significantly” increase greenhouse gas emissions. The State Department’s report noted that production, refinement, and combustion of oil projected to travel the pipeline will add between 147 and 168 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

The State Department’s report said that the pipeline is “unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.” By asserting that the Keystone XL pipeline will not affect production of the Canadian tar sands, the State Department is saying that carbon emissions will also go largely unaffected.

According to the CTI, the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) failed to fully illustrate exactly how much impact the Keystone XL pipeline would have on the development of the Canadian tar sands. The FSEIS also underestimated the amount of greenhouse gas emissions expected to be associated with the tar sands development.

The State Department initially predicted that oil companies would produce about 830,000 barrels of oil a day. However, the CTI indicated that oil companies would produce about 1.35 million barrels daily, about 525,000 barrels more. The CTI said that through 2050, the increased production of tar sands would dump 5.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. This estimate remains within the State Department’s estimate, but the CTI puts the estimated emissions into perspective.

Over the next 35 years, the State Department’s estimated amount of emissions is equal to building 46 coal-fired power plants, about the same amount of CO2 emitted by the U.S. annually. Emissions associated with the Keystone XL pipeline would result in the U.S. failing to cut emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, which was set to slow down the onset of global warming.   

The CTI report indicated that Keystone XL’s impact was considered insignificant by the State Department because it did not fully take into account how the pipeline would affect tar sands production, according to the CTI report.

Former climate change strategist for Deutsche Bank and report co-author, Mark Fulton, said “In my view, ‘significance’ is in the eye of the beholder.” The group called this disparity the “significance gap.” The CTI’s report, on the contrary, illustrated an increased, “significant amount of [oil] production.”

Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.