Obama announced today that he’s not going to give approval to the Keystone XL Pipeline before the 2012 election, claiming that after three years and billions of dollars spent on study, the pipeline needs yet more study.
But there may be a more practical motivation to Obama’s decision. One of the largest oil plays in America, and almost certainly the fastest growing, is North Dakota’s Bakken oil fields. The Keystone pipeline, if built, would have taken 100,000 barrels per day of oil from those fields. But without the pipeline, oil producers in the state are going to be forced to rely more heavily on rail transport to bring the oil to market (the state’s roads are already running at maximum capacity).
The Burlington Northern/Santa Fe railroad serves North Dakota (along with Canadian Pacific), and guess who has a majority stake in BNSF these days?
As oil production ramps up in the Bakken fields of North Dakota, plans to use the pipeline to transport it have been dashed.
As a result, North Dakota’s booming oil producers will have to rely even more on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad, which Buffett just bought, to ship it to refineries.
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has agreed to buy Burlington Northern Santa Fe in a deal valuing the railroad at $34 billion. Berkshire Hathaway already owns about 22% of Burlington Northern, and will pay $100 a share in cash and stock for the rest of the company.