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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Keystone XL Debate Pits Environmentalists Against Unions

Demonstrators from the 350 group hold signs as they stand on an original Keith Haring statue before President Obama's appearance in downtown San Francisco, Tuesday. (AP)

Demonstrators from the 350 group hold signs as they stand on an original Keith Haring statue before President Obama's appearance in downtown San Francisco, Tuesday. (AP)

On Sunday, thousands of protesters are expected to lock arms outside the White House and try to influence President Obama’s decision on Keystone XL, the proposed, 1,700-mile oil pipeline that would stretch from Alberta, Canada, through U.S. mountain and plains states, to the Texas Gulf Coast.

This week, the president said that while the State Department is reviewing the decision, he alone will make it and no matter the outcome, it will likely divide the president’s base.

Unions are fighting for the pipeline, which they say will provide 20,000 jobs. Environmentalists oppose it because of potential oil spills and the greenhouse gases they say the process would cause.


  • Juliet Eilperin, environmental reporter for the Washington Post

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    From the author of the JournalCetera blog:

    Take Darrin Goode’s Politico article this week entitled “On Keystone XL Pipeline, Democrats slow to probe.”  Goode writes:

    “Labor unions — an important constituency for Obama and a
    lot of other Democrats — are backing the pipeline and the jobs it could

    Goode’s statement is inaccurate. Early today, I wrote the following
    to Mr. Goode and requested a correction in his Politico article.

    “You did not note that large labor unions also oppose the
    Keystone XL pipeline. They include the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU)
    and the Transport Workers Union (TWU). The two unions represent more
    than 300,000 workers in the U.S.
    These unions are calling for “New Deal” type public investments in
    infrastructure modernization and repair, energy conservation and climate
    protection as a means of putting people to work and laying the
    foundations of a green and sustainable economic future for the United
    I ask that you add this correction to your story for the sake of fair and balanced journalism.”

    I will let you know if Mr. Goode agrees with my clarification and
    makes a correction. I should note that the Politico article is not the
    first to make the false assumption that labor stands unified in favor of
    the proposed pipeline.

  • Anonymous

    Not only does it take a lot of natural gas that has to be fracked out of the ground to get this *stuff*, it also takes a lot of water (millions and millions of gallons) that have to be drilled and pumped, getting the natural gas also takes a lot of water, AND  the *stuff* will take lubrication and a lot of energy to pump it through the pipeline, because it is so sticky.  The *stuff* is pretty caustic and it will wear the pipeline, requiring more maintenance.

    As Ms.  Eilperin mentioned the *stuff* will take more energy to refine and it will yield less fuel and more low quality products, like tar. The amount of overhead energy and the amount of water that is used to get this *stuff* is almost criminal.


  • BHA in Vermont

    How much does it cost to buy the land and build the pipeline?
    How much does it cost to build a refinery specifically designed for tar sands oil?

    If the oil is going to be extracted, build the refinery near the source of the crude.

  • Chris

    Im always interested in a discussion about the Alberta Tar Sands and the oil that it yeilds.  Your guest today had some of the facts but missed big chunks of why the tar sands are so controversial or at the least did not offer much “more” than just the most basic points as to why the tar sands are such a disaster.  
    #1 She noted that they dont have to remove as much forest as they use to….? Really?  How is that?  The most fundamental element of how you get the oil out of the sand begins with the removal of the covering forest, you cant remove less of it or some of it, you remove all of it.  What is left in the wake of what once was ancient Boreal Forest is dirt, sand and lots of salt.  This area was once a seabed and thusly the sand is very saline making it impossible for the churned up crud to grow anything on its surface other than grasses that are resistant or enjoy a very poor, sandy, salty soil.  The biological layer on which the boreal forest once grew has been churned up (it was a thin layer, relatively) and replaced with mostly sand.  When you hear of the efforts to reclaim what has been “mined” what they mean is they are planting grass.  This Boreal Forest will never return to northen Alberta, its gone forever.
    #2  There had been a proposed route from Alberta (Grand Prairie) to Prince Rupert, BC, the home of a large and extremely underutilized port facility that was, in part designed to receive and ship oil and natural gas to Asia.   
    #3  Yes, extracting the oil from the tar sands is not efficient as far as the energy required to steam the sand, heat the oil and refine this thick, viscous sludge but she did not mention that in reality the amount of natural gas and steam (produced by burning natural gas) represents more energy expended than all of the oil that is refined and burned, yes, you put in two units of energy to get it out and you get one unit in return, a net loss of 100%, its criminal at the very least.

    My partner spends extensive time working on soil projects in Northern Alberta out of Fort McMurry, the center of the oil sands projects.  Not that it is any surprise but as a scientist who works on the ground up there he tells many stories of the horrors that extracting oil from the tar sands perpetrates on the environment.  Not only are we loosing hundreds of thousands of acres of valuable Boreal Forest we are unleashing a staggering amout of CO2 that has been locked in the permafrost and discontinuous permafrost of that part of the world.  The Arctic holds a tremendous amount of the CO2 that is currently NOT in the atmosphere and it is being released all the time as the Arctic summers get longer and warmer but instead of the tens or hundreds of years that this process would take if left alone, we are now engaged in releasing tens of thousands of tonnes of CO2 every day into the atmosphere.

    If anyone thinks that Canada is more environmentally conscious or have better regulations than the US, think again.  Alberta would gladly eat itself alive in exchange for billions of American cash, they have absolutely no problem destroying their own province for the money it brings in.  Shame on them, shame on us.

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