Remember the Keystone pipeline?
WC wrote about it a while ago. It’s the proposed pipeline that would transport the Canadian tar sands oil – the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet – from Canada to the refineries on the Gulf Coat of the U.S. Such a pipeline would cross critical wildlife habitats, irreplaceable freshwater reserves and the grain belt of our country. A leak from such a pipeline – and all pipelines leak – would be catastrophic. Not just because of the resources that would be risked. Also because tar sands oil is grossly inefficient, requiring 30 times as much energy to produce. The energy in one barrel of oil produces an average of 117 barrels of oil using traditional technologies. The energy in one barrel of oil produces just 3-4 barrels of bitumen from tar sands.
Extracting tar sands oil is a messy nasty business. It devastates the landscape. It takes three barrels of water to produce one barrel of tar sands oil. In the process, the water is badly contminated, and must be stored in immense ponds. The contaminated water isn’t just dangerous in ponds; it’s transported in pipelines, which themselves leak and spill. That’s already happened in northern Alberta.
Just as bad, the “tar sands oil” isn’t crude oil, it’s bitumen. When it is spilled, it is much more hazardous and dangerous than crude oil. And there has been just such a bitumen spill; in the Kalamazoo River in Michigan, in 2010. The transhipment pipeline split along six feet of its length, gushing tar sands oil – bitumen – into the country.
As a result of the Kalamazoo spill, we know exactly how disastrous and difficult such a spill is, and the long-term damage that it wreak on groundwater. Cleanup, still incomplete, of the Kalamazoo River spill cost more than $1 billion. Four years later, portions of the Kalamazoo remained closed to fishing and drinking. Dredging the river has reduced, but not removed, the contaminants.
This horrible stuff, produced through a starkly, incredibly wasteful process, is what the Keystone Pipeline is all about. And the Keystone Pipeline is before Congress again, in an attempt to do an end run on the existing environmental and regulatory process.
Why? Because Senator Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) thinks she needs its approval to save her U.S. Senate seat in a run-off election next month.
It’s not even about keeping the Senate in Democratic hands; that battle is lost. No, it’s about on Senator, who apparently views her personal success or failure as more important than the safety of the Ogalla Aquifer. Most political pundits don’t think it would even save her seat.
We don’t need the oil; well, oil-like substance. We don’t need the additional CO2. We don’t need the degradation of the Canadian boreal forest. We don’t need the contamination of billions of gallons of water, or the jeopardy of a pipeline through the American Heartland. We especially don’t need to build this incipient disaster in a likely-futire attempt to save a politician’s seat.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.