April 29, 2013

Why Keystone XL Matters

Enbridge tar sands spill in Michigan
From our friends at Massachusetts Interfaith Power and Light

Why Keystone Matters

"Game over" on Climate Change

If built, the Keystone XL pipeline would stretch 1,980 miles, from Hardisty, Alberta to Nederland, Texas. Climate scientist Jim Hansen has said that if the Canadian Oil Sands are tapped, it's "essentially game over" for any hope of achieving a stable climate. CO2 emissions from carbon intensive Keystone XL tar sands oil at the rate of 830,000 barrels a day, would be the annual equivalent of seven coal-fired power plants operating continuously or having 6.2 million more cars on the road for 50 years, according to EPA calculations. Another way to look at it is that the reductions in CO2 resulting from President Obama's pact with auto companies to raise fuel efficiency standards would be neutralized by emissions from the oil in this pipeline.

Unacceptable Safety and Public Health Risks

At full capacity, Keystone XL could carry up to 900,000 barrels per day of toxic tar sands oil across 6 states: Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. The route goes through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills region of Nebraska, a decision opposed by Nebraska's governor, its two senators and even by some supporters of the pipeline.

Strong evidence indicates tar sands oil threatens pipeline integrity. Current pipeline regulations were issued long before tar sands oil production ramped up and don't cover the unique aspects of tar sands. Tar sands oil poses more acute risks than conventional fuels because the oil is a volatile mix of raw bitumen diluted with gas condensates. This mix, called "dilbit" is a, corrosive, toxic, viscous substance with the consistency of gritty peanut butter that is moved at much higher pressures and temperatures than conventional oil. Tar sands oil contains, on average, 11 times more sulfur, 11 times more nickel, 6 times more nitrogen, and 5 times more lead than conventional oil. The metals found in tar sands are neurotoxic.

Enbridge, the proponent of the pipeline had a major leak in Michigan in 2010 which leaked 19,500 barrels of dilbit – including spillage into the Kalamazoo river. At $1 billion, that cleanup is the most expensive for an onshore spill in US history. The National Transportation Safety Board determined that Enbridge ignored pipeline cracks for years and did not detect the rupture for more than 17 hours.  In March, an Exxon pipeline carrying heavy Canadian crude breached in Arkansas spilling a yet-to-be-determined amount of crude into a residential neighborhood and almost entering a recreational lake.

Oil spill

In Whose National Interest?

In a recent blog post, the Mass. Climate Action Network persuasively argues that Keystone XL does not benefit the United States. Among the reasons:
  • Nationally Keystone XL will have a de minimus impact on gasoline prices and could actually increase prices in the American Midwest.
  • Much, if not most, of this oil will end up in the East Asian and European markets;
  • The job benefits of the pipeline are vastly overstated and will result in mostly temporary employment.
MCAN concludes, "It isn't the United States' responsibility to ensure dirty Canadian oil can reach international markets . . . Keystone XL, which will spill, which will be an economic wash for the United States, and which will further the possibility of irreversible and damaging climate change, is not in our national interest."

To learn more about Keystone go to: http://www.usclimatenetwork.org/resource-database/keystone-xl-by-the-numbers-fact-sheet.
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