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Extracting of oil from tar sands is most polluting form on earth

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,
How would you describe the difference between modern war and modern industry — between say, bombing and strip mining, or between chemical warfare and chemical manufacturing? The difference seems to be only that in war the victimization of humans is directly intentional and in industry it is "accepted as a "trade-off."  — Wendell Berry

WHAT ARE TAR SANDS? I needed to know just what the Keystone Pipeline would transport. I learned that the extraction of tar sands is the most polluting form of energy extraction on earth. I also learned that the Keystone Pipeline won't aid us in gaining independence from foreign oil, and it won't create the thousands of jobs advocates told us it would. These are just "PIPEDREAMS". I hope to share with you what I learned about this dirty, nasty, polluting form of energy that is too dangerous and costly for us to let the Keystone Pipeline carry tar sands across our heartland.

Producing synthetic crude oil from tar sands generates THREE TIMES the global warming pollution of conventional crude production. Extracting tar sands bitumen — a low grade, high sulfur crude oil — that must be extensively refined to be turned into fuel uses a vast amount of energy and water.

Tar sands oil is not only difficult and costly and energy intensive to produce but also the DIRTIEST and more corrosive than conventional oil. Leaks and spills threaten rivers, aquifers and communities along the route.
Raw tar sand is nearly solid at room temperature and must be diluted with toxic natural gas liquid condensates to create a thick sludge that travels in high-pressure pipelines. The sludge is 50-70 times as thick as conventional crude oil. When spilled, the light natural gas liquid condensates-vaporize, creating a toxic flammable gas that poses a health hazard to emergency responders and nearby landowners. The bitumen which is heavier than water, sinks into rivers and mixes with sediment. Bitumen contains significantly more HEAVY METALS than conventional crude oil and does not biodegrade.

Tar sands extraction:
1. Requires 2-5 barrels of water for each barrel of bitumen extracted.
2.Hhas created over 65 square miles of toxic waste ponds. (no plan for disposal)
3. Threatens the health of downstream indigenous communities.
4. Is likely to cause the loss of millions of migratory birds that nest in the forests and wetlands.

The proposed Keystone Pipeline would transport raw toxic tar sands oil right through the American heartland from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas — and threatens to wreak environmental havoc on both sides of the border and to be exported to anywhere in the world.
What's at risk? Here is a big one, the Ogallala Aquifer as an example. The proposed Keystone Pipeline crosses the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world's largest freshwater aquifers that provides 30 percent OF THE GROUND WATER used for irrigation in the United States, and drinking water for millions of Americans. The Aquifer covers areas in South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas.
One resident whose ranch would be crossed by the Keystone Pipeline said, "I just don't understand why we'd put our aquifer at risk. If oil gets into the water we're done. You can't drink oily water and you can't irrigate crops with it. "
There have been many spills. Here is a story of a tragic spill which occurred on July 25, 2010. An Enbridge Energy pipeline carrying Canadian tar sands burst near Talmadge Creek, which feeds into the Kalamazoo River that empties into Lake Michigan. Over a MILLION GALLONS spilled into the creek and quickly made its way into the Kalamazoo River contaminating river banks and sediments. Costing $700 MILLION and counting. The cleanup is the MOST COSTLY in U.S. pipeline accident in history. Thousands of people still are affected by the tar sands spill some forced to move, their businesses were hurt and continues to threaten their health. There is no end in sight. Along the waterways, red and white signs warn people the water is closed to fishing, boating and swimming. A constant reminder of the danger of a pipeline carrying toxic Canadian tar sands south into the U.S.
The first "PIPEDREAM" is that the pipeline is about jobs for Americans. Cornell University Global Labor Institute concluded the project would employ 2,500-4,600 construction workers." Most jobs created will be temporary and non-local." Keystone Pipeline will not be a source of jobs nor will it play a substantial role in putting Americans to work. To CNN, Robert Jones, vice president of TransCanada told that the project would create only hundreds of permanent jobs. Cornell University Global Labor Institute stated, "it is our assessment-based on publicly available data, that the construction of Keystone Pipeline will create fewer jobs than proponents claimed and may actually destroy more jobs than it generates." Cornell University stated it would kill jobs by reducing investment in clean renewable energy and efficiency gains.
What about reducing our dependence on foreign oil? Here is another "PIPEDREAM". Advocates of the pipeline fail to mention tar sands oil to be refined on the gulf coast is destined for export. Six foreign companies have already contracted for three-quarters of the oil. Keystone would have diverted Canadian oil from refineries in the Midwest to the gulf coast where it could be refined and exported. Many of these refineries are in Foreign Trade Zones where oil may be exported to international buyers without paying U.S. taxes.
Quoted by James Hansen, who directs the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies: "The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen from 280 parts per million to 393 parts per million over the last 150 years. If we turn to these dirtiest of fuels, instead of finding a way to phase out our addiction to fossil fuels, there is no hope of keeping concentrations below 500 parts per million — a level that would as earth's history shows, leave our children a climate system that is out of their control." Mr. Hansen further states, "The cost of acting goes far higher the longer we wait — we can't wait any longer to avoid the worst and be judged immoral by coming generations."
Please do not support the keystone Pipeline there is no "trade-off" worth the risk to the United States and the planet.

Judith A. Rothemund