Keystone XL, Decimating the Heartland
Keystone-XL, a pipeline designed to bring Canadian tar sands (from Alberta) south to the Gulf of Mexico where it will be processed, passes through America’s Heartland.
From North Dakota and South Dakota, the wheat-growing center of the continent, down through Nebraska and Kansas (more wheat, soybeans and corn) – with a jog from the Nebraska-Kansas border through Missouri corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and all along the Missouri River – and into Illinois, just in case they missed any good cropland. Then pipeline builders plan to send a southern branch through Oklahoma and down to processing centers in Houston and Port Arthur, Texas – the only state that really wants this monstrosity.
Estimated to cost at least $7 billion, and designed to transport the dense, bituminous tar sands – with “thinning” stations piping benzene and arsenic into the bitumen all along the route – the project rivals the pyramids or the Great Wall in its sheer hubris.
The total length, not counting the Canadian portion, is 1,370 miles. The company, TransCanada, is foreign. The risks, as outlined by the Los Angeles Times, could be catastrophic. Few have forgotten the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 – the largest spill in U.S. history, killing 11, injuring 17 and releasing almost 5 million barrels of oil into an otherwise rich and varied stretch of the Gulf.
The area has not been the same since, nor have the people, who were exposed to both the crude oil and the toxic Corexit used to emulsify it. Experts later estimated that, of the two ingredients, the Corexit was likely the more dangerous to both humans and wildlife.
With that still lurking in memory, Americans were horrified to learn that, on July 1, Exxon Mobil’s Silver Tip pipeline leaked 42,000 gallons of oil into Montana’s pristine Yellowstone River – oil that Exxon-Mobil later admitted was tar sands crude and not the sweet, low sulfur crude the oil company had said it was transporting.
The revelation was news to everyone, including Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) regulators, and the political powers in Montana, who saw their tourism and fishing revenues tanking as a result.
The lie, handed out with the same chutzpah displayed by Rupert Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks while covering up the News Corp phone hacking scandal, is par for the corporate world, perhaps, but no less unpalatable to the American people, who are getting fed up with greed and corruption. Enough is enough.
In fact, the Yellowstone River (Montana) spill on July 20 prompted a Missoula County court to block the state’s Department of Transportation issuance of permits to Imperial Oil, which had asked to move 207 oversized pieces of equipment across the state and into Canada to help with tar sands extraction.
The preliminary injunction, issued by District Court Judge Ray J. Dayton on July 19, acknowledged that the state had not thoroughly reviewed the possible impact on Montana highways if the permits were issued.
The Yellowstone spill is one of two this past month, the other by BP in its Alaskan oil fields, another once-pristine area given over to the developed world’s lust for oil.
How does the oil and gas industry view its abysmal record? Marty Durbin, vice president of the American Petroleum Institute, a trade group representing 400 companies involved in various facets of oil production and distribution, uses the excuse that the U.S. oil and natural gas industry currently supports 9.2 million jobs.
For Americans struggling through a persistent but undeclared recession, with unemployment at 9.2 percent and benefits running out for about a million, Durbin’s remark is clearly a challenge. How, Durbin suggests without saying a word, can anyone attack the oil/gas industry when it is responsible for feeding about 18 million individuals?
Fortunately, Keystone XL will never happen unless approved by the State Department. Unfortunately, those currently in control of the U.S. government (and I don’t mean the seated administration) are Republicans, whose love affair with fossil fuels is legendary.
The last and most disconcerting word on the subject comes from NASA climate scientist James Hansen, who said that if tar sands were thrown into the (energy generation) mix, it was essentially game over for trying to reclaim a failing climate.