Keystone Pipeline: Problem or solution?

Skyrocketing gas prices have taken a toll on the family budget. Finding the solution is one of the key issues in the presidential race.

It even brought President Barack Obama to Oklahoma a couple of months ago.

The president says he is fast tracking the southern leg of the Keystone Pipeline.

Wednesday we take a look at what that pipeline will and won't do for the state's energy problem.

"The price of gas is what has changed," said Robert Aldridge.

Aldridge is in his seventh decade now. He know a little about life, a lot about cars and a thing or two about gas prices.

When he started driving gas was cheap.

"Seven or eight cents a gallon," said Aldridge.

His favorite car to drive these days is his 1930 Ford Model A.

When this car was new, it didn't take cost much to top off the tank.

"It's got a 12-gallon tank, so probably a dollar to fill it up when it was new," said Aldridge.

That was then and this is now.

Aldridge lives on the outskirts of Cushing. It's the pipeline crossroads of the world. It's also the source of a major problem.

With oil prices up, the oil patch is as busy as ever.

So much oil is being pumped these days that oil is flowing into Cushing faster than it can be moved out.

The president came to Cushing in March to address that problem.

"There is a bottleneck right here cause we can't get enough oil to our refineries fast enough," he said.

He also says he's fast tracking the construction of a new pipeline. The southern leg of the Keystone will take a year to build. Construction should start by mid-summer and be completed in the summer of 2013. It will send oil 484 miles from Cushing to the Gulf Coast. But critics say the president is taking too much credit.

"I think when President Obama came here to talk about the Keystone Pipeline, he said he was going to expedite the southern part, but that was going to happen in spite of him," said Congressman John Sullivan.

He says if the president would have approved the full Keystone pipeline starting in Canada, it would have created 20,000 jobs with 1.2 billion dollars invested in our state.

Sullivan says the president is giving an appearance he is working on the energy crisis, but he says it's not enough.

"What is interesting is the week before he lobbied the Senate to not approve the northern part of the Keystone Pipeline. The most important part that brings the oil down here from Canada and the Bakken in North Dakota," said Sullivan.

At an energy summit in Oklahoma City put on by Oklahoma State University, experts examine the oil and gas industry.

OSU Professor Betty Simkins says the new pipeline is a good start.

"It's going to alleviate a situation that needs to be alleviated," said Simkins.

But some experts say in the short term, that pipeline could actually have a negative effect on Green Country.

In northeastern Oklahoma, we have benefited from the oil glut in Cushing. While oil can't get to the coast fast enough, it has been easy and cheap to move oil to the refineries in Tulsa. That means we have been paying slightly less for gas than other places in the country, but when the southern leg of the Keystone opens, and the oil moves out of Cushing, our prices could go up closer to the national average.

But Simkins thinks that will only be temporary. Long term experts don't expect much change in the price of gas. Global supply and demand, and political climate drive prices.

"Long term, I think six years from now, I don't think we are going to see higher prices than we are seeing right now. I think they will be slightly lower," said Simkins.

Back in Cushing, that's not great news for people like Aldridge, who is hoping for more of a drop.

He will still drive his Model A, but with gas prices still well over $3 a gallon, he will not as much as he would like too.

"It's got to change someday because we are going to hit an end before long I think," said Aldridge.

 

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