Former President Jimmy Carter joined a group of fellow Nobel Peace Laureates Wednesday in stating his opposition to TransCanda's Keystone XL Pipeline. If approved, it would carry oil from Canada, through South Dakota to the Texas Gulf coast.
In a statement to President Obama, Carter said: "You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced - climate change."
Carter goes on to urge the president to make the difficult, but bold choice and deny TransCanada's permit. On this issue, the Nobel Laureates share a common goal with Native American tribes and environmental groups.
On the other side, business leaders and lawmakers from both parties, including a group of Senate Democrats, say approval is long overdue.
TransCanada spokesperson Shawn Howard says the need for oil is undeniable and it comes down to where American refineries want their supply to come from, "The reality is, we need oil. Especially for the transportation of all kinds of goods and services that we all use. Where would you rather get that oil from? Canadian and American oil fields or places like Venezuela and the Middle East and other places that don't share America's interests or values?"
The potential environmental impact isn't the only issue pipeline opponents have raised. One widespread belief is it will have little to no domestic benefit. Howard says that is not true.
"It's to create products that are consumed domestically. Gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuel. All sorts of products that come from petroleum," said Howard, "There's also up to 250,000 gallons per day that come from the Bakken formation in Montana and the Dakotas and that's one of the few oil fields in the U.S. where you have production growing today. And they need a pipeline to move that product down to refineries."
Howard says roughly one third of the oil transported from the pipeline would be from the Bakken, which could alleviate pressure on rail companies and South Dakota farmers dealing with a transportation shortage.