Monday, January 16, 2012

Keystone XL Emergency--Risking the Wild

Dick Worm, Needle Editor

I received the following e-mail from an acquaintance who worked at the John Deere plant in Dubuque and still has citizenship in Canada. It was sent as a reply to a Wilderness Society item I e-mailed to him about the Keystone XL pipeline.

Plan to attend our Sierra program on January 24 for additional viewpoints and concerns related to the extraction and refining of this oil, dating back to 1978. I'll bring the June 2008 Canadian Geographic magazine to the meeting.

The oil-sand extraction article was title "Scar Sands" and describes five ways to begin to reduce the environmental imprint: Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), dry tailings instead of wet, reducing overall water usage, clamping down on acidifying emissions, and establishing large areas of boreal forest to be off-limits. Is all that a "fat chance" in today's politically charged energy domain?

The Wilderness Society message dated December 19, 2011 included the following:
The Keystone XL pipeline is probably the single most environmentally destructive project in North America threatening millions of trees and thousands of miles of rivers, lakes and streams as it snakes its way across the nation's heartland.

This rider abets clear-cutting the forests, strip-mining the tar sands, clearing a right-of-way from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and emitting massive amounts of carbon pollution, all so that a Canadian oil company can get a higher price on the world market for oil than it is currently getting from North America alone. The fact that the payroll tax cut for American families has been held hostage to this environmental train wreck is unbelievable.

If this pipeline gets approved, it will foster climate change conditions that will threaten every aspect of America's wild places. Our national forests, already threatened by climate-related fire and beetle infestations, will become dangerously stressed. Iconic places like Glacier National Park will lose its namesake glaciers, and places like Acadia and the Everglades will be even more threatened by rising seas.

The President still has the discretion to turn down Keystone XL. If he does, he will be siding with millions of Americans that have a right to clean air, safe drinking water, a safe climate and a clean energy alternative to digging more holes that we can't get out of.

Subject: Re: Keystone XL Emergency--Risking the Wild

Well, this issue gives me mixed feelings.

On the plus side, it does make jobs, and good paying jobs, to a lot of people. It provides a market for Deere and Hitachi as they supply some of the machines used to mine the tar sands, and to build the pipelines. And that helps support my pension.

The oils extracted supply the fuel and lubricants for those machines, and all our cars and trucks, asphalt for the roads you drive on, etc.

As to the pipeline to the gulf: I don't understand the reasoning. The oil from the tar sands is very heavy (viscous) and take extraordinary means to make it flow through pipes. That long pipeline will probably have to be heated all the way. Seems to me it would be better to build the refinery in Alberta and pipe the finished products. Maybe that is what they're doing, to some extent.

The actual strip mining operation IS making a huge mess of the tundra. But the oil is there; near the surface, instead of deep in the ground like in ND, TX, OK, etc.

What would you do? I think we need to reduce our total consumption of oil by developing other sources of energy. And by driving the most fuel efficient cars we can.

I'll bring you a copy of Canadian Geographic magazine that covers the Tar Sands operation.

- Wayne Collins

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