One-hundred-fifty years ago, a man named Samuel Van Syckel built the nation's first commercial oil pipeline in the rugged terrain of northwestern Pennsylvania.

His pipeline transformed how oil is transported — and it would change the modern world, too — but not before a battle that makes the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline look meek by comparison.

Drive down gravel Road 22 in Nebraska's York County, past weathered farmhouses and corn cut to stubble in rich, black loam soil, and you'll find a small barn by the side of the road.

Built of native ponderosa pine, the barn is topped with solar panels. A windmill spins furiously out front.

Known as the Energy Barn, it's a symbol of renewable energy, standing smack on the proposed route of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline — a project of the energy giant TransCanada.

The Keystone XL pipeline remains a major point of contention within the Democratic Party, as green voters pull President Obama one direction and pro-energy senators and labor unions pull the other. It looks as though the "comment period" for the project will be extended, delaying a decision past the November elections.



The Keystone XL oil pipeline may be closer to being built. The U.S. State Department's released an environmental impact statement that says the project would not make climate change any worse, and it's now up to President Obama to decide the fate of the pipeline. NPR's Jeff Brady reports that environmental groups and many Democrats want the president to reject the review's findings.

The State Department says that production of Canadian tar-sand crude, which has a bigger greenhouse gas footprint than other types of oil, is unlikely to be increased if the Keystone XL pipeline goes ahead — and therefore would do little to contribute to climate change.