Marcia McNutt, a scientist who headed the U.S. Geological Survey under President Obama until early 2013, announced Thursday that she now supports approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
McNutt is now the top editor at Science magazine. In an editorial published there Thursday, McNutt describes how she has come to back the project that she previously opposed, and does not believe it would worsen greenhouse-gas emissions.
"This position may seem incongruous with my personal crusade to minimize fossil fuel use, a desire rooted in scientific understanding that climate change is a real threat and that tar sands oil produces higher GHG emissions than many alternatives," writes McNutt.
But McNutt goes on to say she's now convinced that building Keystone would not speed up oil sands development, and notes that developer TransCanada changed the initial proposed route to avoid an ecologically sensitive region of Nebraska.
"No"¨ method for moving hydrocarbons can be considered completely fail-safe. At least the current permitting process can, and should, be used to ensure that Keystone XL sets new standards for environmental safety. There is no similar leverage on the truck and rail transportation options, which produce higher GHG emissions and have a greater risk of spills, at a higher cost for transport," she writes.