The recent decision by Canada’s National Energy Board to approve the Northern Gateway oil sands pipeline, owned by Enbridge Inc., could open the possibility for eventual approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, said former U.S Energy regulator Brigham A. McCown on Dec. 23.

"The approval of (Canada’s Northern Gateway) pipeline blows a major hole in anti-Keystone theories, paving the way for certain approval of Keystone," McCown said. He is former head of the U.S. federal Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Energy Board.

Keystone opponents have argued that stopping Keystone would prevent excess carbon emissions. Without Keystone, tar sands oil will not be developed, thus drastically reducing carbon emissions. McCown picks apart this argument.

"The carbon-emission argument for Keystone is no longer valid," McCown said. "In fact, by discouraging the construction of Keystone, activists are accepting higher carbon emissions due to longer transport routes and less-efficient modes of transportation," he said.

"Canada will now be able to directly transport oil to the Canadian Pacific coast for overseas export. By blocking the construction of Keystone, activists are merely redirecting the beneficiaries of this product," he added.

McCown once oversaw two-thirds of all energy products consumed in the U.S. as head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in Washington, D.C.

Enbridge Inc. is an energy services provider based in Alberta. Its Pipeline will run from Bruderheim, Alberta, to Kitimat, British Columbia. It can carry up to 525,000 barrels of oil per day running west. Running east, it can carry 193,000 barrels per day of condensate, according to the project's official web site, GatewayFacts.