Adee Braun

Construction workers at a Detroit refinery. It's being converted to process more Oil Sands crude piped in from Canada

The future of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline won’t be decided until after next year’s Presidential election, the Obama administration announced Thursday. This is the $7 billion, 1,700 mile pipeline that would carry crude from the Canadian Oil Sands (also known as tar sands by its detractors) down to refineries in the US Gulf. TransCanada, the firm hoping to build the pipe, plotted a route through states like South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma, on its way to Texas.

This has been one of those no-win decisions for the President, with critics of the pipeline arguing it will harm the environment and health of those along its path, and the energy industry touting the thousands of jobs that could be generated from the construction and operation of the pipeline. This week, the Obama administration delayed any decision until new routes can be devised—bypassing an environmentally at-risk region of Nebraska.

What does this have to do with the Upper Midwest? As I reported over the summer, pipelines carrying crude from the controversial oil sands come into the Great Lakes region as well. With the oil sands now financially viable, there’s been a frenzy to convert Midwest refineries to process this heavy, tar-like crude. It’s meant more jobs in cities like Toledo and Detroit, but also raised concerns about potential oil spills. Oil sands crude is thought to be more corrosive than conventional crude, and some think it contributed to the Marshall, MI pipeline spill in 2010. Click here to hear our reporting on costs and benefits for our region of this growing energy source.