Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Keystone XL Pipeline Scam: Be Glad Obama Scuttled It!

In a number of op-eds in today's papers (WSJ, Denver Post) President Barack Obama was ridiculed for not allowing himself to fall for the "Keystone XL" pipeline scam of bringing "energy and jobs" to 'Murica. Okay, in fairness let me rephrase that: for not allowing this pipeline to go through which would bring an abundance of energy and jobs to the nation without much of any environmental cost.

To his credit Obama nixed this odious deal, which will only bring jobs for the very few (maybe 21,000 if that) and major hellacious environmental costs that would be a hundred times greater than the Exxon Valdez disaster if major leaks of this crappy tar sands-based stuff leached out to the surrounding environs, or - god-forbid- the damned thing burst in one or more places.

Make no mistake, this stuff isn't called "tar sands oil" for nothing. It's god-awful nasty stuff and already there've been some small leaks that have sent this crud into small streams and lakes in Michigan, but no where near the scale of a major pipeline rupture. In addition, this isn't the high benefit EROEI ('Energy returned on energy invested') oil we've been using since the 1970s or so, with EROEI's of at least 8 or 9, but rather low grade stuff of maybe EROEI 1.3, very optimistically.

During the tar sands oil extraction process, vast amounts of water are needed to separate the extracted product, bitumen, from sand, silt, and clay. It takes three barrels of water to extract each single barrel of oil. At this rate, tar sands operations use roughly 400 million gallons of water a day. Ninety percent of this polluted water is dumped into large human-made pools, known as tailing ponds, after it’s used. These ponds are home to toxic sludge, full of harmful substances like cyanide and ammonia, which has worked its way into neighboring clean water supplies.

And when you add in the energy that would be required to mount major clean up operations - all the machines and oil-intensive devices that would have to be used, than that EROEI of 1.3 would rapidly descend to maybe 0.5 if that. In other words, having to use a gallon of oil to obtain a half gallon of energy benefit.

Are we overly worried here about such clean ups and possible ruptures? I don't think so. We already know TransCanada attempted to cut corners by seeking a safety waiver to build the pipeline with thinner-than-normal steel and to pump oil at higher-than-normal pressures. Thanks to the pressure exerted by Friends of the Earth and allies, the company withdrew its safety waiver application in August 2010. We also have NO assurance, none ...nada...that this pipeline if it ever does come through won't also have pressure-wall thickness issues.

In summer 2010, a million gallons of tar sands oil poured into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from a pipeline run by another Canadian company, Enbridge. The spill exposed residents to toxic chemicals, coated wildlife and has caused long-term damage to the local economy and ecosystem.
In his criticism of Obama in today's Denver Post ('Obama's Zigs and Zags', p. 5B), Llewellyn King assures that he (King): "spoke with Canadian Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver shortly before Obama's first decision to delay the pipeline. Oliver said that if the decision wasn't favorable, Canada would build a pipeline across the Rockies to British Columbia and export it to China."

Well, let them go ahead! For one thing, anyone who's been to that region of Canada knows its mainly populated by Grizzlies and some ducks, and moose, but relatively few humans. Hence, the potential for impacts on human communities and health are not so great as the planned pipeline through the States (check out the map) which would conceivably affect up to 50 million people and their communities. So, we are talking chalk and cheese here.

King goes on to assert Obama's latest decision has "infuriated Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government which now says it will no longer rely entirely on the U.S. for its hydrocarbon sales."

Uh....let's not forget Harper is another conservative nimrod and douchebag and so is his government. So his being exercised at Obama or the U.S. is no biggie, and easily something we can all live with. What Americans need to do is to ask themselves what they want: additional energy at a possible astronomical cost to their health and welfare ....with polluted water, estuaries, and tens of thousands of new cancer cases per year...or a better environment and LESS energy use by themselves! It's a Hobson's choice but there it is!

And just WHO is pushing this thing on us? Giant oil corporations invested in Canada's tar sands and who have, as Bill Moyers stated last night on Bill Maher's Real Time, already contributed more than $47 million of campaign donations to Repukes and lobbying money to try to make it so. They are hoping that Americans will be too dumb or dense to see the hidden (and not so hidden) costs that will be extracted.

As for the abominable Repukes, they simply want to force a totally artificial deadline on Obama in return for cutting a deal on his proposed payroll tax cut as well as the prevention of cuts in payments to Medicare docs. If this Keystone XL pipeline is the price to be paid for those deals then it is a price too high, and hopefully Mr. Obama and the Dems will not give in. Let the Repukes, the conservative Harper government in Canada along with TransCanada and U.S. oil interests seeking to make a buck all go straight to Hell.

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