The Koch-Keystone connection: Brothers are the largest lease holders in Canada’s oil sands

It's getting harder for the Koch brothers to insist that they have no financial stake in the pipeline

Topics: Keystone XL pipeline, Koch Brothers, koch industries, tar sands, Oil and Gas, ,

The Koch-Keystone connection: Brothers are the largest lease holders in Canada's oil sandsDavid Koch (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

UPDATE 3/20/2014 7PM: An earlier version of this post misstated the previous report’s findings. The Koch brothers were first estimated to hold 2 million acres, an amount of land potentially worth $100 billion. 

The Keystone XL pipeline isn’t just about oil and gas companies. It’s also about the Koch brothers and their vast influence over the Republican party. That influence extends as well to Canada’s oil sands, the the Washington Post reports: a subsidiary of Koch Industries, owned by bros Charles and David, is the land’s largest lease holder.

The parcel of land controlled by the Kochs covers 1.1 million acres, according to the International Forum on Globalization, a liberal think tank. That’s an area roughly the size of Delaware, and more than what’s owned by Royal Dutch Shell, Conoco Phillips, Suncor, Exxon Mobil, Chevron or any of the Chinese companies that have invested in the oil sands.

An earlier report from IGF put the Koch’s land holdings at nearly 2 million acres, an amount, it estimated, that put them in a position to reap as much as $100 billion from Keystone. This new report revises down the estimate, but an oil sands expert at the University of Alberta who was contacted by the post called the holdings “significant.” The Kochs, for their part, continue to insist that they have no financial stake in the pipeline — but it’s getting a lot harder to believe them. Here’s more from the Post:



The link between Koch and Keystone XL is, however, indirect at best. Koch’s oil production in northern Alberta is “negligible,” according to industry sources and quarterly publications of the provincial government. Moreover, Koch has not reserved any space in the Keystone XL pipeline, a process that usually takes place before a pipeline is built.  The pipeline also does not run anywhere near Koch’s refining facilities. And TransCanada, owner of the Keystone routes, says Koch is not expected to be one of the pipeline’s customers.

Still, the activist group that is publicizing the figures about Koch holdings in the oil sands – the International Forum on Globalization – is arguing that Koch will benefit indirectly. The IFG contends that the Keystone XL pipeline will create competition among rail and other pipelines and lower transportation costs for all oil sands producers, bolstering profit margins and making additional reserves economically viable.

…“The biggest way Koch could benefit from Keystone is by the pipeline’s acting as the ‘keystone’ of oil industry strategy to increase the ‘takeaway’ capacity for producers of Canadian crude, whereby getting more oil to more lucrative markets, and ending the deep discounts on Canadian crude currently glutting markets,” said IFG’s [Victor] Menotti.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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