Demonstrators carry a giant mock pipeline while calling for the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline during a rally in front of the White House in Washington, Nov. 6, 2011. (JOSHUA ROBERTS/REUTERS)

“Without the pipeline, Canada would still export its bitumen — with long-term trends in the global market, it’s far too valuable to keep in the ground — but it would go to China,” The Post editorial said Thursday.

The Post’s Juliet Eilperin said it would be more expensive for Canada to ship its tarsand oil to China but it could happen:

The Energy Department looked at this issue as part of State's environmental impact statement, and concluded that the tar sands would still be extracted even if the pipeline project fell through. Obviously, some people disagree with that analysis, but it's certainly valid to say that just stopping the project will not ensure that the oil will remain in the ground.

However, environmental writer and activist Bill McKibben, responding to questions from Washington Post readers Thursday, said the oil will stay in the ground. “The premier of Alberta said that without Keystone he'd be ‘landlocked in Bitumen,’” he wrote.

One Post reader asked McKibben if Canada would allow the pipline to go through its British Columbia province and whether Obama’s decision was “just slowing the inevitable” of eventual oil extraction.

McKibben responded:

They're trying to put a pipeline to [British Columbia], but it's run into even more opposition than Keystone. A record number of public comments, huge opposition from first nations peoples. Ironically, the Canadian gov't just announced a one-year delay for their environmental review, exactly what Obama proposed til big oil's congressional harem forced his hand.

Michael Levi, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, also thought the debate over Canadians selling their oil to China would not affect U.S. economic fortunes. In 5 Myths about the Keystone XL pipeline, Levi said that the ultimate fate of the pipeline “will be of limited consequence to either long-term U.S. energy security or climate change.” In short, Levi believes there are more important issues than the pipeline.