Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Keystone XL Pipeline Must Still Be Stopped!

The primary problem with resorting to rhetoric alone when it comes to warning of the costs of climate change, is that at some point you will be called upon to not only talk the talk, but walk the walk. In the case of President Obama, despite his inspiring declarations (at his Inaugural and the SOTU) on halting the climate catastrophe before us, the time has now come for single-handed action on his part. That means nixing the Keystone XL pipeline - all the critics and naysayers be damned.

As noted in an earlier blog:

Climate scientist Bill McKibben has developed models disclosing mathematical limits showing we have roughly 550 gigatons (gT) left of carbon we can deposit anthropogenically into the atmosphere before earthly Hell is unleashed. That “hell” includes the runaway greenhouse effect, to turn our planet into an endlessly burning pile of ash and refuse. Give a current 30 gT/year deposition rate - and assuming we don't add to it, don't increase its rate - that leaves us roughly 18 years- give or take a fraction, before we end up in a likely runaway greenhouse world. It's a world no one or their offspring would want to inhabit.

Prof. McKibben in his November appearance on Chris Hayes’ UP', noted the major contributor to push us into this hothouse hell is none other than implementation of the Keystone XL pipeline because of the concentrated carbon it will unleash over years. To remind readers, this pipeline will deliver tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to Gulf Coast refineries for export to an international market. The pipeline would have an initial capacity of 830,000 barrels per day and would leave a carbon footprint equivalent to building more than seven new coal-fired plants. By the time it reaches full capacity the enhanced carbon deposition will be nearly 3 gT/yr. In other words accelerating the timeline to reach the 550 gT maximum carbon load the planet can bear.

Despite misleading claims of “benefits” by TransCanada, the downsides of this ill-conceived project remain the same and include:

1)  Building a future of dirty energy,  hastening our pace toward an uninhabitable world. The fact is the Keystone XL is a massively detrimental dirty energy project that would open a major export artery for toxic tar sands oil across the U.S. for at least 50 years. In that interval, massive spills and contamination of our water supply (already threatened by fracking) will accelerate cancers and other endemic health problems.

2)  It’s an unnecessary risk. The U.S. itself doesn’t need this crap oil especially since we’ve reduced our oil consumption by nearly two billion barrels per day over the past five years. This stat will continue to improve with the growing number of electric and hybrid cars.

3) Water pollution: A planned Keystone XL pipeline would pass through Nebraska’s Sandhills region, endangering the Ogallala Aquifer, which forms the drinking water for millions as well the water source for one third of American agriculture. In other words, a massive tar sands oil spill could pollute not only the water but crops used for food consumption. 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.

4) Higher gas and food prices: TransCanada has admitted one of its goals is to raise oil prices in 12 midwestern U.S. states thereby increasing revenue to the Canadian oil industry by $2b to $4b. Meanwhile, U.S. farmers, who’ve already spent $12.4 b on fuel (in 2009) could see expenses rise to $15b  if the pipeline goes through,  a cost which will surely be passed on to Americans as higher food prices.

5) Increased respiratory disease and cancer: The pollutants released by mining and refining tar sands will incept acid rain, smog and haze as well as other effects associated with lung disease and cancer. The solid or semi-solid waste, embedded in the toxic sludge, will unleash astronomic rates of kidney, breast, colon, pancreatic and liver cancers by the ingestion of the water soiled by the tailing ponds.

6) Climate disaster: Any future tar sands development – say via Keystone XL- will mean “game over” for the planet according to NASA climate scientist James Hanson. I already noted earlier how much extra load of carbon will be added and how it impinges the 550 gT critical threshold.

To his credit Obama has so far 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 occur. Now, Obama must use his full authority (which no repug can stop) to kill this project once and for all.

Just WHO is pushing this abomination on us? Giant oil corporations invested in Canada's tar sands and who have, as Bill Moyers stated last April in 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.

If Obama’s recent rhetoric on climate change and global warming mean anything, then he has no other option than to kill the Keystone pipeline once and for all.

Still, It's up to all of us to do everything we can to urge President Obama to reject Keystone XL. To do your part, readers,  Will you pick up the phone today, and make a quick call to the White House?

Be polite, but be firm: NO Keystone XL deal!

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