Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Reasons for Americans to oppose a Canadian tar sands pipeline

[Yesterday, President Trump reopened a can of really nasty worms.]

A hand full of years ago, my wife and I went to Washington D.C. We went there with the intention of protesting and getting arrested. We did and we did.

We went there to protest the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

The Mesquite Hugger version of Where's Waldo?

If we were wealthy enough, we'd be there protesting the same thing now. From an environmental standpoint, the Alberta tar sands are an absolute nightmare. They have destroyed an absolutely beautiful and crucial wilderness area in Canada. They have destroyed a way of life for the native peoples who have lived there for centuries. They have created toxic living conditions for every living thing in the area.

Beyond that immediate area, the environmental impact is even more catastrophic. The potential for carbon release is vastly higher in tar sands than it is for standard crude. Expansion of tar sands extraction, delivery, and processing has the potential to release enough carbon to destroy the conditions for mankind to continue living.

How do tar sands differ from conventional crude?

Imagine that you are searching for drinking water. Regular crude would be a spring-fed mountain stream. Tar sands would be water drained off of buckets full of swamp mud. Crude is oil. Tar sands are just what their name says they are - a mixture of tar and sand that can be treated and processed extensively to create a very low-quality oil.

Why should Americans be opposed to the Keystone XL?

Economically speaking, TransCanada is a Canadian company that needs to get their product down to Houston so that it can be processed and sold internationally to the highest bidder. yes, building the pipeline would create a very small number of temporary jobs for a few Americans and an even smaller number of jobs for workers to maintain the pipeline. There will also be money for the refineries. But the financial winner here is a Canadian company.

On top of that, lots of American landowners are being forced off their land (you have to love eminent domain) so that a Canadian company can sell their really nasty oil to the international market. And America will be left to clean up after the oil spills so prevalent in tar sands pipelines.

Besides the environmental impact and lack of benefits for America, what is so bad about this particular pipeline?

Mechanically speaking, tar sands pipelines are also a nightmare. Tar sands are way too thick to flow through a pipeline. So, some very caustic chemicals are added to thin the nasty stuff enough to flow. Then you end up with a very caustic chemical pushing sand through the pipes. It's a very effective liquid sandpaper wearing away at the pipes and joints. These pipelines leak, spill, and spoil often.

Are tar sands spills different from crude oil spills?

Absolutely. Tar sands oil is much heavier than conventional crude and heavier than water. Therefore, tar sands spills are much harder to clean up. When they hit a body of water, they immediately sink to the bottom and into the mud. This ruins water supplies, farmland, and wilderness areas. There is ample evidence that those who live near these spills have much higher incidence of several forms of cancer.

Other than making one Canadian company and its employs considerably wealthier, the negative impacts of this pipeline drastically outweigh any advantages to building it, especially for the people of the United States.