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Senate Vote Favors Big Oil But Does Not Approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline

Danielle Droitsch

Posted March 22, 2013

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A symbolic and non-binding vote by the Senate in support the approval and construction of the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline favors Big Oil over the American people.  The Senate approved a non-binding amendment introduced by Senator Hoeven that supports but does not approve the Keystone XL pipeline, nor does it direct the president to approve it.

Peter Lehner, Executive Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, issued this statement on the measure:

 “The Senators supporting this amendment made the wrong choice by bowing to Big Oil. Their symbolic vote doesn’t change the law or the truth about this dangerous project.  

“The President will still make the ultimate decision about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline after the current public process is completed evaluating whether it’s in the national interest. And it’s time to stop grandstanding and to get the facts: the tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward to the American people.

“It's still true that the Keystone XL project would pipe some of the world's dirtiest oil through the heartland for export through the Gulf of Mexico. It’s still true Midwestern oil prices will go up. It's still true that it would threaten American homes, farms and ranches with spills, and worsen climate change by enabling tar sands development. These facts demonstrate that the Keystone pipeline is not in the national interest and should be denied.”

This Senate vote will not the change the environmental review process led by the State Department.  This review is critical to determine the impact of the pipeline as well as whether the pipeline is in the national interest.  This process is not complete - the public comment period hasn’t even ended - and any effort to push approval of the pipeline before that process is finished is irresponsible and counter to the interests of the American public.

All Risk

There is plenty of evidence the pipeline would have tremendous risks to climate and water. The draft State Department review confirmed that tar sands are up to 19 percent more greenhouse gas intensive than conventional oil. But the draft falsely concluded that Keystone XL will not lead to an expansion of tar sands development. In fact, the evidence suggests otherwise.  There is plenty of evidence that the delay so far has in fact slowed development and cooled investor confidence.  Approval would be a shot in the arm to the tar sands industry and would carry so much tar sands oil into the U.S. and other countries that the climate impacts would be the equivalent of putting 6-9 million new cars on the road. Claims that rail will proceed in lieu of Keystone XL have no basis in reality.

The draft review also acknowledged the difficulties in cleaning up a tar sands spill. Three years after the tar sands spill in Michigan – where nearly 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River are still contaminated by tar sands after nearly a billion dollars in cleanup activities – the significant risks posed by tar sands spills are clear. But despite the fact that Keystone XL could spill almost 8 times what was spilled into the Kalamazoo, the draft State Department found the project would not have a significant impact.

No Reward

This is not a pipeline for US economic or energy security, but a project to spur tar sands expansion, raise oil prices and help the international oil industry. An expedited the decision will close out landowners and communities along the pipeline’s path.

Two powerful Huffington Post blogs make it clear Keystone XL that is not in America's best interest.  Actor and director Robert Redford said the Senate has an obligation to share the truth about this pipeline with their constituents including:

1) It's GREAT for Big Oil. BAD for America. And REALLY BAD for climate change, producing three times more global warming pollution than conventional crude production, and using vast amounts of energy and water, causing significant pollution to both air and water.

2) Canadian citizens are against tar sands pipelines too, fighting the Gateway Pipeline to their west coast -- and through British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest -- and the Trailbreaker pipeline to carry tar sands to east to Maine.

Michael Northrup with the Rockefellers Brothers Fund said there are over a dozen reasons why the pipeline is in Big Oil’s interest and not Americas including:

...if we wait too much longer, Americans will realize this has nothing to do with U.S. energy security. In reality, only a small portion will be used in the United States. Oil companies can get a higher price for these fuels in Asia.

The draft review confirmed what industry has been saying that the pipeline’s main purpose is to serve as an export pipeline to fuel international markets rather than U.S. consumers.

The draft review also showed Keystone XL is not a job creator and found it will create only 35 permanent jobs and 3,900 construction jobs – a fraction of the exaggerated job claims made by proponents of the tar sands pipeline.

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline threatens American homes, farms, and ranches with tar sands oil spills.  And it threatens all of us by driving the expansion of the giant tar sands reserve and worsening climate change. It would raise oil prices. It would provide few jobs and derail continued growth in clean energy jobs. And it would funnel money to foreign oil corporations. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward and has no place on the budget resolution.

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Michael BerndtsonMar 23 2013 10:29 AM

If our sensible centrist (windsock) president decides to OK the pipeline, at least we should be up to speed with what's being sent down the belly of our country. Tar sands is currently and going to be in situ mined (or extracted) at about 50/50 in situ/surface for awhile (maybe 20+ years). With the building of the Keystone XL, the total production rate will vastly expand - basically so in situ can become profitable. It presently isn't really at current production rates - surface mining is kind of subsidizing the process.

In situ mining apparently generates almost 3 times the greenhouse gas emissions as surface mining - using steam-thermal heating/collection techniques - so this is why in situ is kind of a big deal.

Info from the Province of Alberta:

In situ mining (extraction) a consortium of who's who in the fossil business:

from the Pembina Institute, a environmental group who's heart may or may not be in the right place, i.e. promoting "environmentally responsible oil sands development." They kind of sound like the Canadian EDF:

Alternative in situ methods has been and are being testing, developed and commercialized. One fairly advanced alternative technology is electric resistance heating (ERH). E-T Energy has been up in Alberta developing its method and will begin a scale up operation in the Poplar Creek area of the tar sands region of Alberta.

E-T Energy indicates on its website its technology is not electric resistance heating, but something called dynamic stripping process DSP.

Some background based on my fuzzy and dimming memory:
My guess is that ET Energy has to emphasis the difference, since electric resistance heating was brought to both the tertiary oil recovery and environmental remediation businesses by the tax payers of the United States via the Department of Energy (DOE). I believe Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratories was the contractor for DOE back in the day. ERH for oil recovery may have been done by Lawrence Livermore. Hanford was mostly interested in using electric resistance for in situ vitrifaction of nuke waste at first and later for soil remediation in areas impacted by VOCs and semi-VOCs. The brand name for soil remediation was Six Phase Soil Heating(TM). E-T got the technology nuts & bolts via mutual ownership. The president of ET is Bruce McGee who is also of McMillan-McGee, an in situ soil remediation business that got its start in electric resistance heating just after Battelle commercialized the technology.

Maybe this alternative would be a more environmentally friendly in situ extraction technique over steam-thermal. I don't know. What's being done now for in situ extraction of tar sands seems kind of curious. To say the least.

So in summary - whatever happens with Keystone and tar sands exploitation by situ or surface mining techniques - at least we should be aware of what's being fed through our national spaghetti bowl of buried pipelines. And we'll be as a country partnering with one of the biggest climate change accelerators on the planet.

James Singmaster, III, Ph.D.Mar 23 2013 02:57 PM

For Human survival on earth, we have to MAKE THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY SOURCE. Otherwise nature will be turning on us to burn, pollute or bury our descendants off earth with the wastes created by using fossil and nuclear energy or by the biowastes that we mishandle to be letting toxics escape. Those biowastes end up getting mishandled at great cost with much CO2 being released needlessly along with heat energy being wasted.. I have posted many comments on this and other blogs and in e-mails to NRDC staff stating that BIOWASTES including sewage solids can be made into the KEY resource for sustainability. Biowastes are sun generated that can be pyrolyzed to recover some expelled organic chemicals to use as fuel renewably, and are a part OF MAKING THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY SOURCE.
MAKING THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY SOURCE OUGHT TO BE THE NO.! ISSUE FOR NRDC. If we get that action going, NRDC won't need to be fracking around on this fracking. Or about nuclear power plants and their wastes or about fossil fuel emissions and mining messes.
Dr. J. Singmaster, III, Environmental Chemist, Ret.

rjMar 29 2013 09:45 PM

All the more reason for republicans to work with Obama, and put America back to work. If you put people back to work they woudl never know this pipeline was being constructed, because they would be to tired, and to happy with their own self well-being...

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