Did you miss the Friday afternoon document dump last week? I did – almost.
Friday afternoons in the political landscape are sort of a netherworld; they’re the sweet spot where information can be disseminated to the press without a lot of coverage, because people are getting off of work and trying to figure out how they can hustle through their weekends, with maybe, at least, one nap, before they have to get up on Monday morning – with bells on – and slog through their lives once more for another five days.
And last Friday was no exception. Yes, last Friday the State Department decided to DUMP their preliminary environmental findings on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. They chose to avoid the backlash and media scrutiny by doing it 90-minutes before the end of the business day on Friday — the black hole of news coverage. For all intents and purposes, they gave the climate-killing project the proverbial “A-Okay!”
The report, a 2,000 page behemoth that could put the Affordable Care Act to shame, posited the following:
Based on information and analysis about the North American crude transport infrastructure (particularly the proven ability of rail to transport substantial quantities of crude oil profitably under current market conditions, and to add capacity relatively rapidly) and the global crude oil market, the draft Supplemental EIS concludes that approval or denial of the proposed Project is unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands, or on the amount of heavy crude oil refined in the Gulf Coast area.
In addition, their findings indicate only 42,000 additional temporary jobs would be created over a 24-month period, 3,900 of which would be construction jobs over the course of the pipeline’s building:
Construction of the proposed Project would generate temporary, positive socioeconomic impacts as a result of local employment, taxes, spending by construction workers, and spending on construction goods and services. Including direct, indirect, and induced effects, the proposed Project would potentially support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2-year construction period (of which, approximately 3,900 would be directly employed in construction activities).
42,000 temporary jobs in exchange for killing the planet? Sorry, but consider me off-board. This is the only planet we’ve got. There isn’t a benevolent, somewhat uncomfortable and nerdy Bill Nighy-esque Slartibartfast (Planetary Engineer, I’ll have you know! Fjords! See: Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), waiting in the wings to rebuild Earth 2.0 at the mice’s behest.
This, unlike the idiot machine known as Sarah Palin, is a for-real, stop-adding-to-the-population ad nauseum, stop-consuming crap, did-you-hear-that-vinyl-record-screech-to-a-halt game changer.
Yeah, I get a little worked up about these things.
Maybe it’s because I know I’m not going anywhere – and neither are you – and I’d really rather NOT see this on America’s doorstep:
But lost in the debate are the facts. After all, what is tar sand oil and why is it so crappy?
With surface mining, huge areas are first cleared of trees, then the muskeg is drained of water and removed and then the underlying clay, silt and gravel is removed to expose the tar sands deposit. Large shovels excavate the land and load it in giant trucks that transport it to an extraction plant where heat and water separate the bitumen from the sand.
In Situ Extraction
In situ extraction is performed by drilling several wells into the tar sands deposit, using steam to heat and separate the bitumen, and then pumping the bitumen to the surface. Most in situ tar sands deposits are 350 to 600 metres below the surface.
OK, that gives me the mechanics of it. What about the consequences?
Picture this: a large, multibillion dollar Canadian corporation comes to the president of the United States and wants to build a 1,700-mile oil pipeline from Canada all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. After reviewing the project, it becomes clear that instead of reducing America’s reliance on oil from overseas, this pipeline would carry oil across America, risking spills on our land and waters, just to export the oil to other countries. In addition, the pipeline would increase gasoline prices in America, add to our air pollution, and most importantly, be a major setback in the fight to reverse global warming.
1. Oil sands mining is licensed to use twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary uses in a year. The water requirements for oil sands projects range from 2.5 to 4.0 barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced. Annual water consumption in 2011 for tar sands operations was 170 million cubic meters, which is the same amount of water used by 1.7 million Canadians.
2. At least 90% of the fresh water used in the oil sands ends up in tailing lakes so toxic that propane cannons and floating scarecrows are used to keep ducks from landing in them. Some water from in-situ mining operations is re-injected into mining wells, but the vast majority of water used in tar sands operations is not recycled back into the environment due to the high levels of contamination.
3. A 2003 report concluded that “an accident related to the failure of one of the oil sands tailings ponds could have catastrophic impact in the aquatic ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin due to the size of these lakes and their proximity to the Athabasca River.”
4. In April, 2008 a flock of migrating ducks landed on a tar sands toxic lake and died. The owner of the toxic tailings lake, tar sands company Syncrude, was fined $3 million in 2010 for the duck deaths. According to the CBC, “Syncrude lawyer Jack Marshall told the court that the company apologizes for the incident and recognizes it must do much better when it comes to protecting wildlife.”
5. Processing the oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes in Canada. Natural gas requirements for the oil sands industry are projected to increase substantially during the projected period from 17 million cubic metres (0.6 billion cubic feet) per day in 2003 to a range of 40 to 45 million cubic metres (1.4 to 1.6 billion cubic) feet per day in 2015.
6. The toxic tailing lakes are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world. The toxic lakes in Northern Alberta span 50 square kilometers and can be seen from space.
7. Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil. In 2004, oil sands production surpassed 160 000 cubic metres (one million barrels) per day; by 2015, oil sands production is expected to more than double to about 340 000 cubic metres (2.2 million barrels) per day. The
8. The oil sands operations are the fastest growing source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas in Canada. By 2020 the oil sands will release twice the amount produced currently by all the cars and trucks in Canada.
9. The Alberta Oil Sands Operation are the largest single point source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
10. By 2015, the Alberta Oil Sands are expected to emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).
And that’s from the Canadians, y’all…
Van Jones, a champion for stemming the tide of climate change, recently said:
“I think we should take the president at his word, but make him honor his word,” Jones said. “This pipeline, if it goes through—the first thing that the pipeline runs over is the credibility of the president of the United States. That’s the first thing it runs over. He said that he’s not going to let us be a generation that cooks the earth.”
But I’m telling you, be prepared for a monumental disappointment and betrayal, because the Keystone Pipeline will be approved.
I’d put my money on it, if I had any. But considering the fact that we’re about to set the planet’s cook setting to broil, I guess it doesn’t matter much anyway.