Monday, November 17, 2014

The Keystone XL Pipeline is NOT about the Need for Oil

The beautiful Athabasca river runs through the Alberta tar pit (in he background) and is at risk of becoming a dead river.

One of the most important facts that is missing in the national debate surrounding the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is this – Keystone XL will not bring any more oil into the United States.

The idea that Keystone XL will improve U.S. oil supply is a documented scam being played on the American people by Big Oil, its friends in Washington DC., and especially the Koch Brothers, who will benefit the most by it's approval, own oil leases to 1.5 million acres of the Canadian tar sands. 

Keystone pipeline: Obama bashes project while in Myanmar

Speaking at a press conference while in Myanmar, Obama offered perhaps his harshest assessment to date of the controversial pipeline.

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf [Coast], where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn’t have an impact on U.S. gas prices,” the president said. 

“If my Republican friends want to focus on what’s good for the American people in terms of job creation and lower energy costs, we should be engaging in a conversation about what are we doing to produce even more homegrown energy. I’m happy to have that conversation.”

The U.S. doesn’t need Keystone XL or tar sands

As Congress takes up legislation that would force approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, there are countless reasons why this is a bad idea starting with the fact that there is still no established route for the pipeline. 

Tar sands oil is not conventionally drilled but strip mined
This tar sands oil pipeline would allow some of the world’s dirtiest oil flows through the United States, threatening water supplies to hundreds of thousands of people.  And burning the additional tar sands oil would needlessly worsen climate change. By forcing the pipeline’s approval, the law would override presidential  authority and bypass the National Interest Determination process.  In the wake of new polling just released by the Pew Research Center demonstrating support for the pipeline is waning, a rush to force approval is disservice to the American public who deserves an a final assessment of whether the pipeline is truly in America’s national interest.

After the tar sands has been removed, a black, dead, toxic surface is exposed
Millions of gallons of toxic sludge is released back onto the landscape, into rivers and aquafers after extracting the tar oil. Once contaminated the water, about 2.4 million barrels per day, does not "un-contaminate" itself. It's simply a waste product of the process. Gone.

Here is what we know:

On Jobs:  Proponents of the Keystone XL project say it will create over 40,000 jobs.  The State Department found that the construction of Keystone XL would generate 1,950 jobs for two years – giving the project the job creation potential of a medium sized mall. Once completed, it will only require between 35 and 50 permanent jobs. 

If our politicians are concerned about jobs creation, or job killing, they should be focusing on the robot and automation industry. Businesses like UPS and FEDEX have eliminated thousands of jobs due to automation. But that's considered "progress."  Or how about all the jobs lost to "outsourcing?" No mention of ending that anytime soon. But billions have been spent on political campaigns selling a handful of unsustainable jobs in the antiquated, toxic fossil fuel industry. It's not about job creation, or the need for oil. It's all about the usual suspects: money, greed and power.  
On Climate: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would enable a significant increase in carbon intensive tar sands production and undermine efforts to address climate change. At a time when decisive action on climate change is urgently needed, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would make the problem of carbon pollution worse – enabling the production of some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.
On Water:

Water waste and pollution
During the tar sands oil extraction process, vast amounts of heat, water and chemicals are needed to separate the tarry substance (known as bitumen) from sand, silt, and clay and to flow up the pipeline. The water used in the process comes from rivers and underground aquifers. It takes three barrels of water to extract each single barrel of oil. Ninety-five percent of the water used to extract the oil, which is about 2.4 million barrels per day, is so polluted that the water must be stored in large human-made pools, known as tailing ponds. As the heavy bitumen sinks to the bottom of these ponds, the toxic sludge, full of harmful substances like cyanide and ammonia, works its way into neighboring clean water supplies.
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During the tar sands oil extraction process, vast amounts of heat, water and chemicals are needed to separate the tarry substance (known as bitumen) from sand, silt, and clay and to flow up the pipeline. The water used in the process comes from rivers and underground aquifers. As the heavy bitumen sinks to the bottom of these ponds, the toxic sludge, full of harmful substances like cyanide and ammonia, works its way into neighboring clean water supplies.

A spill of tar sands from Keystone XL would put nationally recognized water resources, such as the Ogallala aquifer, at unacceptable risks along the route.  We already know the terrible consequences of tar sands pipeline.  The tar sands spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan has become the most expensive onshore oil spill in U.S. history. After over four years and a billion dollars spent on clean up, large segments of the Kalamazoo River are still contaminated with tar sands.  

Forest Destruction
The tar sands oil are underneath the world’s largest intact ecosystem, the Boreal forests of Alberta. The forests not only serve as an important carbon sink, but its biodiversity and unspoiled bodies of water support large populations of many different species. They are a buffer against climate change as well as food and water shortages. However, in the process of digging up tar sands oil, the forests are destroyed. This valuable forest and its endangered caribou are both threatened by the pipeline. 

Pipeline spills
The Keystone XL pipeline would traverse six U.S. states and cross major rivers, including the Missouri River, Yellowstone, and Red Rivers, as well as key sources of drinking and agricultural water, such as the Ogallala Aquifer which supplies water to more than one fourth of America’s irrigated land and provides drinking water for two million Americans.

The probability of spills from this pipeline is high and more threatening than conventional spills, because tar sands oil sinks rather than floats, making clean ups more difficult and costly. TransCanada's first pipeline proves that this threat is real, as it spilled a dozen times in less than a year of operation. Experts warn that the more acidic and corrosive consistency of the type of tar sands oil being piped into the U.S. as well as the risk of external corrosion from higher pipeline  temperatures makes spills more likely, and have joined the EPA in calling on the State Department to conduct a thorough study of these risks.

In the summer of 2010, a million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from a pipeline run by another Canadian company, Enbridge. Although nearly one billion dollars have been spent over the past three years to clean up the spill, almost 40 miles of the river are still contaminated.

In April 2013, a 22-foot crack in an Exxon pipeline caused a devastating tar sands oil spill that began in a residential neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas and into Lake Conway, a drinking water source and popular fishing spot. Residents of the community were unaware of the pipeline under their town until this massive spill.

On Energy Security: Keystone XL is an export pipeline through the United States, not to it. Over half of the crude from Keystone XL is forecast to be exported internationally after it is refined and the pipeline is not necessary to transport domestic crude.  With only small quantities of tar sands crude reaching the Gulf Coast, tar sands producers have already filled several tankers of raw tar sands crude in Texas ports and exported it to be refined internationally.

Tar sands crude is three times more carbon intensive than conventional crude. Just the additional emissions from the tar sands in Keystone XL — above average emissions from producing non-tar sands oil — are equal to Americans driving more than 60 billion additional miles every year when we need to be reducing our carbon emissions.

The U.S. doesn’t need Keystone XL or tar sands.  Thanks to strong fuel economy standards, increasing access to alternative fuels and reduced vehicle miles traveled, U.S. demand has fallen by 4.5 million bpd relative to where it was projected to be in 2006. 

Keystone XL would significantly add to carbon pollution that’s driving climate change, undermine the nation’s climate leadership and imperil the health and drinking water of millions of Americans.  

With climate change already harming our communities and pocketbooks across America now is the time for clean energy, not expansion of dirty energy such as tar sands.  There is substantial evidence that Keystone XL is not in our national interest but is a profit scheme for big oil that needs to be rejected.

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