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The Keystone XL Pipeline: A Tar Sands Folly

Hillary Clinton is within the tar sands sizzling seat. Is she asking the appropriate questions
The U.S. State Division is in the rare position of having to resolve on an environmental issue. TransCanada desires to develop an existing pipeline to convey tar sand oil from Alberta, Canada, to Texas. Because it is a world undertaking, the State Department must evaluation and approve it, a course of anticipated to be completed by 12 months’s finish however that might be prolonged to finish a “thorough evaluate course of.”

The evaluate course of requires, among different things, “disclosure of potential environmental impacts (helpful and opposed) and the consideration of possible options.” To date, two environmental influence drafts have been prepared — the latest released on April 15. Each have been roundly criticized [pdf] by the Environmental Safety Agency for not adequately assessing oil spill dangers and potential alternate pipeline routes. Until this is done, the company warns that it’ll characterize the mission with “environmental objections — insufficient data.”

In the meantime, some in the Home, in hopes of increasing the likelihood of a inexperienced gentle from the State Department, are throwing their weight behind a measure, to be voted on Tuesday, to chop off the pipeline’s environmental evaluation by November 1 ($ub req’ed).

The Keystone Scoop
The story starts with western Canada’s tar sands — also identified colloquially as oil sands. The stuff is a far cry from what we normally think of as oil. First, the bitumen — a heavy viscous, tar-like hydrocarbon locked up in these deposits — is extracted. If mined, it’s separated from mining clay and sand, then “upgraded” and diluted so it may possibly “movement” like oil.

Tar sand oil typically receives a low score among environmentalists for vitality sources.
It is among the many dirtiest of petroleum fuels with regards to greenhouse gases; and
Bitumen extraction is energy- and water-intensive.

In fact, bitumen extraction has significantly degraded Canada’s boreal forests and created vast wastelands of tailing ponds which have been linked to river contamination. (See right here and here.)

However Canada’s bought plenty of tar sands and we’d like a number of oil, so there’s strong desire to maneuver the stuff to American refineries and in the end into our automobiles. How In a phrase, Keystone.

The Keystone XL represents the final two phases of a $thirteen billion, 3,800-mile pipeline system owned and operated by TransCanada. (See map and description.) Its proposed U.S. path would enter Montana and lower across South Dakota and Nebraska earlier than becoming a member of with Phase II in Steel City, Kansas — crossing a few of our wildest and most productive lands, including our agricultural heartland and the Ogallala Aquifer, which helps an enormous a part of our nation’s breadbasket.

And there’s the rub for the environmental community — issues that pipeline leaks and spills will damage these unique and valuable resources have sparked opposition. The new York Instances has known as the undertaking “the wrong pipeline for the fallacious oil.” And EPA, as noted above, has “environmental objections.”

Now, one would like to think that with all of the precautions we take, oil and gas pipeline leaks and spills can be rare, quite small or shortly contained. In reality, they do happen with out such qualifiers. Does the Yellowstone River ring a bell After which there are these from the past year, not in any approach an exhaustive checklist:

BP pipeline leak in Alaska,
Keystone pipeline leak in Kansas,
Marathon pipeline spill in Michigan,

a ruptured pipeline in Texas Metropolis, TX,
a pipeline failure near Vinton, LA, and

Enbridge oil pipeline spill in Kalamazoo River.
As for TransCanada’s Keystone system, since Could 2010, it’s had 12 leaks — mostly from pumping stations and largely minor except for the one that spilled a whole bunch of barrels (see here and right here).

And sending bitumen down a pipeline is especially problematic and damaging — it is a extra acidic type of petroleum that requires extra heat and pressure than typical oil (which increase pipeline stress) to keep it transferring.

So objections to the mission are not without benefit.
But on the other aspect people just like the Wall Road Journal’s editorial board, citing national security and economic points, maintain that Keystone XL would “reduce U.S. reliance on oil from dictatorships” and create jobs.

And here’s where I start to scratch my head. I totally appreciate the need to make our nation much less dependent on oil from anti-American interests. But why do we need Keystone XL to do this

Canada’s tar sand oil is already getting here. Simply look at crude oil prices november 6 2014 TransCanada”s interactive map again.

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The pipeline’s Part I, which opened in June 2010, zigzags across 1,853 miles, reducing eastward across Canada then south into North Dakota. by Steele Metropolis, Kansas, after which east into Illinois. Part II, which opened February crude oil prices november 6 2014 2011, prolonged the pipeline from Steele City south in a straight shot to a serious pipeline hub in Oklahoma pretty close to Texas refineries. Keystone XL (Phases III and IV) would make the trail much less circuitous, connecting the tar sand oil to Texas refineries, however it isn’t needed to maneuver tar sand oil into the country. chemical tower manufacturing installation Just look at the map here.

An analysis [pdf] ready for the Power Department last December found that Keystone XL’s capacity wouldn’t be needed until sometime after 2020 at the earliest and perhaps not until after 2030.

So I should ask: Why this pipeline Why now And is Secretary Clinton asking these same questions