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Keystone pipeline would be good for the environment: Former BP CEO

Daily Ticker

Hundreds of students and youth organizers were arrested protesting the Keystone Pipeline XL outside the White House Sunday, CNN reported, acting out a human oil spill while expressing climate and environmental concerns over the proposed pipeline.

Related: Keystone Pipeline Is an “Atrocity” and President Obama Will Reject It: Al Gore

Meanwhile, billionaire investor Warren Buffett in an interview with CNBC Monday said he thinks "probably that the Keystone pipeline is good for the country," even though it could take some business away from the rail subsidiary Berkshire Hathaway owns, which transports oil.

The Obama Administration continues to weigh approval of the $5.3 billion pipeline that would bring tar sands oil from Canada through six states. President Obama has said climate change needs to be at the forefront of the government's decision.

Meanwhile, John Browne, former CEO of British Petroleum (BP) from 1995 to 2007, tells The Daily Ticker in the accompanying video, "Keystone would be good for the environment." Browne is author of the new book "Seven Elements that changed the World: An Adventure of Ingenuity and Discovery." 

For context, Browne left BP years before the Deep Horizon oil spill in April 2010 and was known for calling on the oil industry to face up to climate change, according to The Wall Street Journal.

But as opponents worry that extracting tar sands oil emits 17% more of the carbon pollution that contributes to climate change than conventional oil production, and reinforces U.S. dependence on fossil fuels to the detriment of green alternatives, how does Browne make this case?

His point is that people find ways of getting oil where it needs to go, whether it be trains or other forms of transportation.

"Getting a simple pipeline, which works safely and securely and doesn't require lots of movements of different vehicles … that will be very good for the environment," he contends.

On that note of safety, Warren Buffett acknowledged to CNBC when it comes to his rail subsidiary BNSF,  they "have found in the last year or so that it's more dangerous to move certain types of crude certainly than was thought previously." He said that rail cars carrying the oil will need to be made safer.

CNBC reported late last year that a North Dakota town had to be evacuated after a BNSF train transporting Bakken crude derailed and caught fire.

In addition to safer transport, Browne also tells us, "if we really want to change the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, we have to look at how much coal we burn every single day -- that's the culprit. It's not oil or natural gas."

Related: Chevron's 'pizza and soda' apology turns tragedy into farce

For that reason, he favors hydrolic fracturing or "fracking" to extract natural gas, as he believes it can be done safely while increasing supplies of natural gas.

Related: The frackers have won: WSJ's Greg Zuckerman

"Burning natural gas produces less carbon dioxide than burning any other hydrocarbon, so it's a very efficient way of producing electricity," he argues. "We need more, not less, and if there were a choice of leaving something in the ground, we should leave coal in the ground."

While the best option when it comes to energy would be renewables, Browne says costs need to come down for renewables to truly compete with oil and natural gas. He does see that happening and says technology needs to continue to improve in order to see a real change.

In other news, as the conflict between Russia and the Ukraine continues, one tool that Moscow could reportedly wield against Ukraine is natural gas supplies. Check out the video to hear Browne's thoughts on how this move would impact Ukraine, Europe and energy markets.

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