Keystone XL

Keystone XL and Why We Should Care 083111

As the last decades of the hydrocarbon era draw to a close, a public addicted to cheap energy drives corporations to use more and more dangerous and obviously foolhardy means to squeeze the last of the oil from the earth.  Floating platforms with pipes hanging miles down through the sea dot the off shore waters; rock is pulverized and chemicals pumped into the ground to force gas and oil out.  Tar sands, particularly Canadian tar sands, are full of impurities and take a lot of energy to get from the ground and refine.

Most readers are aware of the protests in Washington, in which some protestors are congressmen and government scientists, against the extension of the Keystone pipeline.  Keystone XL would pump Canadian tar sands crude into the U.S. for refinement and use.  Total length is 2100 miles.  Ultimately, the pipeline could terminate in Texas.  The 36 inch pipeline will move 590,000 barrels a day by 2012, provided there is that much oil to move.  There is already a complaint that there are too many redundant pipelines, that many will be half-empty.  There are complaints about the environmental cost of oil sand mining, and about the carbon footprint of oil from sands which is fifty percent or more higher than a barrel of regular crude.  There is the money spent in a dying technology while the replacement technology waits to be developed.

Protests on the pipeline began in Canada, where processing tar sands depletes water and creates “settling ponds”.  It takes between 2 and 5 gallons of water to produce a gallon of oil from tar sand.  Four tons of earth are removed for each barrel of oil, and the mining and leaching processes produce huge amounts of sulfur and other chemicals and minerals which are toxic in the high amounts produced.  The material itself is rich in polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, liver poisons and carcinogens.

Below is a photo, thanks to Wiki

This shows the Syncrude tar sands mine.  Here is the description:
English: This is a picture of Syncrude's base mine. The yellow structures are the bases of pyramids made of sulphur - it is not economical for Syncrude to sell the sulphur so it stockpiles it instead. Behind that is the tailings pond, held in by what is recognized as the largest dam in the world. The extraction plant is just to the right of this photograph and most of the mine is to the left.

Protest has moved to Washington D.C., where big names in science, government and entertainment have stood against Keystone and oil sands in general.  

The Fringe Editor’s perspective:  Think rationally for a moment.  Our need for a diminishing resource has become so great that we’re willing to do just about anything to get the last bits of this resource out of the ground and into the air.  We’ll pollute the waters of Canada and risk the Ogallala aquifer, across which Keystone XL would run and which supplies ag and drinking water to eight states, just to get the last stinky, cruddy drop of tar.  But, the age of oil is going to end anyway, and when it does, part of the legacy it will leave is toxic pits in the northern forests and a spiderweb of rusting, dangerous pipelines across the Heartland.  It costs nearly as much to pull down an industrial feature like a pipeline as it does to build it, but there isn’t the profit motive to tear it down.  

Pipelines.  Map originally from Allegro.  We did not find the map on their site,
and it was not copyrighted where we found it.

The biggest problem with Keystone XL are the two effects it has on our society.  It not only encourages us to waste the last bits of oil, it prolongs our addiction to oil and delays our rehabilitation to more green alternatives.  We’re like heroin addicts sucking up the last of the morphine that really sick people are going to need.  We gotta change, even though it’s going to suck, and even though I personally can’t afford better gas mileage, I have to drive the smoking heaps I own and be grateful they run well enough to guzzle gas.  

Even so, I’ll sign on with the congresspeople, scientists, Splash kitten Daryl Hannah and over 500 other people and tell Obama: Don’t call yourself an environmentalist if you approve Keystone XL.

Treehugger has something to tell you about tar sands.

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