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February 14 2014

00:43

Refuting the 9 Reasons Why the Keystone XL will be Approved

Despite all of the efforts being made to resist the construction of the Keystone XL, it will likely gain the approval of U.S. President Barack Obama. Supporting evidence for the notion that we will move ahead with the Keystone XL comes from the corporate sector. Powerful corporate interests have considerable resources that often enable them to ascertain the outcome of political decisions well ahead of the general public. Berkshire Hathaway has made a move that indicates that they believe the pipeline will be approved. Berkshire controls BNSF which is comprised of nearly 400 different railroad lines that merged or were acquired. Despite its rail holdings, since the end of 2013, Berkshire has been greedily buying shares of Phillips 66 Pipeline Flow Improver in a stock deal valued at about $1.4 billion.

Will the Keystone XL pipeline be approved? If so, it's for all the wrong reasonsThe logic to move forward will be based primarily on nine major points:

First is the way the question was framed in the State Department’s most recent report. When faced with the choice between pipe and rail, the former is the better option from a total carbon emission point of view. Rail takes far more energy to move oil compared to a pipeline. Oil moved by rail increases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 27.8 – 39 percent and if the oil is transported to the Gulf of Mexico, GHG emissions would rise to about 41.2 percent. What this assessment does not factor is the issue associated with the increasing exploitation of tar sands oil, which has a far worse emissions profile than conventional crude.

The second issue concerns safety and when presented with the false dichotomy between pipe and rail, the former is once again the better option. As explained by the Manhattan Institute, pipe is the safest way to move oil. While pipe is superior from an environmental safety point of view, this is another false choice, as moving oil by any means is not safe.

Third is the economic argument, moving oil through a pipeline is more cost effective than rail. The State Department has indicated that there will be as many as 42,100 (direct, indirect and induced) jobs from the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. However, a number of independent analysis, including one from Cornell University, have refuted this number. The President himself has rebuffed the economic and jobs benefits of the Keystone XL and he stated that very few permanent jobs would be created. Some have even suggested that the pipeline will have a harmful economic impact due to increased fuel costs. In the final analysis, the costs of climate change will utterly eclipse any short term economic gain.

The fourth rational has to do with political considerations. The Keystone has been a fund raising bonanza for pro-oil Republicans and some Democrats, so this issue is at the forefront of their midterm campaign strategies. As we head into the 2014 midterms, denying the Keystone would be political suicide for many Democrats up for reelection. Despite the President’s go it alone strategy, there is only so much he can do with Executive Orders. He cannot afford to lose control of the Senate or lose ground in the House. However, there are times when a President must lead rather than succumb to the the short-sighted math of political equations.

A fifth reason is President Obama’s “all of the above” energy strategy which he reiterated in his most recent State of the Union address. The President has repeatedly stated that he seeks energy independence and the Keystone XL may be construed as a means of achieving this objective. Climate activists would prefer that he abandoned his all of the above strategy and adopt a “best of the above” approach.

The sixth reason is the demand for oil and heavy bituminous oil in particular. Heavy bituminous oil is critical for operations at U.S. refineries because light crude does not have the carbon content to make anything other than diesel and gasoline. Bituminous oil is used to make a far larger number of products. Currently, heavy oil is being shipped to the U.S. from Venezuela, but those reserves are expected to be depleted in the next five years. What this argument does not factor is that tar sands oil is far more environmentally destructive and demand needs to be curtailed rather than expanded.

A seventh reason arises from the claims that suggest if this oil is not used by the U.S. it will be shipped to China. The fact is that this is not accurate. The Canadian government has not been able to gain approval for the Northern Gateway pipeline which would ferry the bitumen to the west coast for transport to China. Further, the U.S. should not be phased by investment groups invovled in Alberta’s tar sands as they are driven by profits that will be generated from shipping the oil to the U.S, not moving tar sands oil to China.

An eighth reason involves the fact that because oil is already being moved by pipelines across the country, one more will not make a difference, even if it traverses the Ogallala aquifer. Proponents of the Keystone point to the pipelines, gas stations and chemical plants that are already on top of the aquifer. What this assessment ignores is the vast number of massive oil spills that have occurred and the fact that pipelines inevitably spill oil. A pipeline as large and as dangerous as the Keystone XL represents an unacceptable level of risk. At a time when we should be scaling back fossil fuel pipelines, we should not build another simply because this is what we have done in the past.

A ninth factor and perhaps the most salient issue involves the fact that shutting down the Keystone XL would be a blow to the fossil fuel industry, the most powerful and lucrative industry on earth. The fact remains that we cannot be held hostage to an industry that threatens to destroy our civilization. If we are not be able to curb our consumption of petrochemicals, we will not be able to reduce our GHGs. The result will be runaway climate change. Simply put, we cannot afford to ramp up oil production, particularly oil as destructive as that which comes from the tar sands.

As Bill McKibben pointed out early last year,

“Physics…takes the carbon dioxide we produce and translates it into heat, which means into melting ice and rising oceans and gathering storms. And unlike other problems, the less you do, the worse it gets.  Do nothing and you soon have a nightmare on your hands. With climate change, unless we act fairly soon in response to the timetable set by physics, there’s not much reason to act at all.”

McKibben concludes by saying that we cannot afford to wait for President to reign in the fossil fuel industry, “we’re not waiting for him. We can’t.”

While it may be tragically unfortunate, the Keystone will likely win the approval of the President, albeit for all the wrong reasons. Those who understand the environmentally perilous course of expanding Alberta’s tar sands know that the Keystone XL pipeline fails the President’s own climate test, which he outlined in his speech at Georgetown last year.

The large body of climate science clearly tells us that we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels, particularly not oil as destructive as that which comes from the tar sands. It would be far better to shut down the Keystone XL and allow the combination of government regulations and market forces to wean America off of fossil fuels. This could in turn drive massive investment in renewable energy which is both clean and abundant.
——————-
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Shannon Ramos, courtesy flickr

The post Refuting the 9 Reasons Why the Keystone XL will be Approved appeared first on Global Warming is Real.

August 24 2012

22:41

Voices Against Tar Sands: South Dakota Rancher Resists Eminent Domain Threat from TransCanada


South Dakota rancher John Harter speaks out against the Tar Sands Keystone pipeline and their threat to seize land under eminent domain. One of a series of videos from NRDCFlix and the Natural Resource Council’s Voices Against Tar Sands initiative.

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February 03 2012

21:00

Warren Buffett Exposed: The Oracle of Omaha and the Tar Sands

On January 23, Bloomberg News reported Warren Buffett's Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF), owned by his lucrative holding company Berkshire Hathaway, stands to benefit greatly from President Barack Obama’s recent cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline

If built, TransCanada's Keystone XL (KXL) pipeline would carry tar sands crude, or bitumen (“dilbit”) from Alberta, B.C. down to Port Arthur, Texas, where it would be sold on the global export market

If not built, as revealed recently by DeSmogBlog, the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side, and could include increased levels of ecologically hazardous gas flaring in the Bakken Shale, or else many other pipeline routes moving the prized dilbit to crucial global markets.

Rail is among the most important infrastructure options for ensuring tar sands crude still moves to key global markets, and the industry is pursuing rail actively. But transporting tar sands crude via rail is in many ways a dirtier alternative to the KXL pipeline. “Railroads too present environmental issues. Moving crude on trains produces more global warming gases than a pipeline,” explained Bloomberg.

A key mover and shaker behind the push for more rail shipments is Warren Buffett, known by some as the “Oracle of Omaha” — of "Buffett Tax" fame — and the third richest man in the world, with a net worth of $39 billion. With or without Keystone XL, Warren Buffett stands to profit enormously from multiple aspects of the Alberta Tar Sands project. He also, importantly, maintains close ties with President Barack Obama.

read more

January 18 2012

23:24

Without Facts on Their Side, Oil Shills Try to Buy Keystone Support on Twitter

As the internet reacts to the State Department's bold decision to deny the Keystone XL pipeline proposal, you're likely to come across the moans and cries of the stumbling Goliaths of Big Oil. 

Having lost the Keystone XL battle, the oil industry and its shills in Washington are falling back on that old reliable strategy to spin the decision. That old reliable strategy is, of course, "spending money" to pollute the public conversation with misinformation.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Republican Congressional Committee want to make sure that no matter what your opinion of the decision, and no matter who you follow, that you won't be able to avoid their political spin. Both groups are paying for "Promoted Tweets" on various Twitter streams relating to the Keystone XL decision.

My TweetDeck column that tracks anything tagged #nokxl has had this propaganda sitting atop it for the last couple of hours.

Likewise, a search of the term "Keystone XL," which was trending on Twitter around 3:30 pm Eastern, turned up this gem from the NRCC.

Playing politics? Playing politics is using the Keystone XL proposal to sabotage, as Congressional Republicans did, a payroll tax cut that would've immediately helped 160 million working Americans.

Twenty thousand jobs? How many times do we have to debunk this completely baseless stat?

So while Big Oil doesn't have the support of the Twitterverse, they have the money to fall back on the Promoted Tweet.

What is a "Promoted Tweet" anyways?

From Twitter:

  • Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets purchased by advertisers who want to reach a wider group of users or to spark engagement from their existing followers.

And, "Where do users see Promoted Tweets?" :

  • At the top of relevant search results pages on twitter.com. Promoted Tweets from our advertising partners are called out at the top of some search results pages on Twitter.com and through select ecosystem partners.


Big Oil may have the money to try to "buy" popular opinion, but they don't have the facts. The truth remains that Keystone XL, if built, would be an export pipeline that would do nothing to increase American energy security, would actually increase the cost of oil in the Midwest, and which would create no more than, according to TransCanada itself, 6,000 temporary jobs on any given day. And that's questionable, since in the long run, this pipeline could kill more jobs than it creates [PDF of Cornell study].

19:11

Keystone XL Pipeline Would Increase Oil Prices in Midwest

Twitter is ablaze with the news that the State Department will announce today that the original TransCanada presidential permit application is dead in the water. Details are murky, so stay tuned for more, but what this likely means is that the State Department will allow TransCanada to re-apply for the permit with a new route that avoids the heart of Nebraska's Ogallalla Aquifer.

While it's good to see that President Obama is standing up to oil industry bullying and Republican pressure to fast-track the permit, this still means Keystone XL is very much in play. If it's ever built, Keystone XL will allow the expansion of the Alberta tar sands that climate scientists worry will send us down a dangerous path of global warming pollution. 

What's more, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, if built, would increase oil prices in the American Midwest. That’s the shocking takeaway point from a bombshell report about Keystone XL as an export pipeline released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Oil Change International.

We’ve reported time and time again here on DeSmogBlog, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would not improve America’s energy security, but never has that reality been more clearly conveyed than by this one real-world point that is worth repeating. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would increase oil prices in the Midwest.

To understand how, exactly, an increased supply of oil to America could increase oil prices domestically, you have to understand two things about the Keystone XL pipeline.

First, Keystone XL is is an export pipeline, funneling foreign crude through American soil to Gulf refineries that will profit most by processing the low-grade tar sands crude into diesel to sell to the booming international market.

If there was any doubt that Keystone XL will essentially operate as a bypass through America, TransCanada’s president Alex Pourbaix put it to rest last month in his testimony before Congress. As the report’s authors explain:

TransCanada recently refused to support a requirement that oil from Keystone XL be dedicated for use in the United States in a recent Congressional hearing.26 In December 2011, Representative Edward Markey asked TransCanada’s President, Alex Pourbaix, to support a condition that would require the oil on Keystone XL to be used in the United States. Mr. Pourbaix refused, saying that such a requirement would cause refineries to back out of their contracts.

So by diverting the oil that would have otherwise poured out into Midwestern refineries, the pipeline would actually reduce American oil supply, thereby increasing prices.

The second important point to understand is that the completion of Keystone XL will suck capacity off of existing pipelines (because Canada already has a huge excess of pipeline export capacity), and would be more expensive to operate than existing pipelines. This point is a little confusing, so I’ll leave it in the hands of the report’s authors.

Keystone XL will increase the cost to move crude oil by pipeline through the United States. TransCanada has acknowledged that because there is excess export pipeline capacity from Canada, Keystone XL will take oil off of existing cost-of-service pipelines, which will in turn be forced to recover their operating costs from a smaller volume, increasing the per barrel cost of moving oil.34 TransCanada estimated the cost to move the same amount of crude into the United States would increase by $1.37 billion in 2013. However, TransCanada pointed out that oil companies would recover these increased costs and make a profit because the U.S. market would be paying higher prices for Canadian crude.

Rather than providing the United States with more Canadian oil, Keystone XL will simply shift oil from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast, wher emuch of it can be exported to international buyers —- decreasing U.S. energy supply and increasing the cost of oil in the American Midwest.

Once again, the Keystone XL would do nothing to improve American "energy security." In fact, it would do quite a bit to undermine it. In the words of retired Brigadeer General Steven Anderson, who was in charge of logistics in Iraq, speaking at a press conference this morning, the pipeline "would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, and do absolutely nothing to move us off Middle East oil.”

January 08 2012

20:14

January 04 2012

15:16

The Year in Review: Popular Efforts to Combat Climate Change in 2011


Popular efforts to fight global warming increased in 2011Last year saw a significant increase in popular efforts to combat climate change. From protests against the Keystone XL pipeline to campaigns that pressure businesses to engage more sustainable practices, people are standing up in support of efforts to combat climate change. Last year, we also saw an unprecedented number of people getting involved with environmental events, protests and social activism. Although the Occupy Movement may have lacked a clear environmental focus, it did underscore the growing popularity of grassroots protests.

Keystone XL Pipeline

According to the Guardian, the Keystone XL pipeline protests that took place from August 20th to September 3rd were, “the largest act of civil disobedience for the climate in US history.”  Thousands of people, including 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen protested at the White House, demanding that President Obama reject the tar-sands oil pipeline.

On Monday August 28th, more than 60 religious leaders made their voices heard in front of the White House. Nine recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, also joined the protest against the Keystone XL.

Weeks of protest and the arrests of 1,252 peaceful protesters did not deter people from opposing the pipeline in Washington. McKibben reportedly said the pipeline galvanized U.S. action on climate change.

On Sunday, November 6th, another protest was held to stop the tar-sands pipeline. As many as 15,000 Americans encircled the White House to tell President Obama to reject the Keystone XL project. This was described as a historic defining moment in the push to move beyond oil.

On November 10th, President Obama announced that he would put the future of the planet ahead of Big Oil. Citing climate change, Obama sent the Keystone XL pipeline project back for review until at least 2013.

Even though Republicans are resorting to blackmail to get the Keystone XL pipeline back on track, the success of the anti-pipeline protests represent an important victory for those involved in the struggle against climate change.

Arab Spring

Corruption and misuse of natural resources were some of the factors that fueled the uprisings in Arab states. The Arab world is facing numerous environmental problems including air pollution, water scarcity, desertification, waste management, loss of arable lands and marine degradation. Popular movements in the Arab world succeeded in changing the political landscape in the Middle East and North Africa in 2011. There are early indications that the environment could benefit from the Arab Spring.

The Arab Spring has attracted a $550 billion investment that promises to bring sustainable energy to the region. The world’s most ambitious solar project could start producing energy as early as 2015 in the region.

Paul van Son, the managing director of the Desertec Industrial Initiative (DII), told Reuters that interest in the project to turn sunshine into energy has grown with the spread of democracy across North Africa and the Middle East.

Before the Arab Spring, there were concerns about the political stability in the region. “We like the Arab Spring because it has opened up a lot of ideas and generated support for the project,” van Son said. “We’re very supportive. The democratic structures fit very well with ours.”

Renewable energy projects could help the economy and create jobs in the country and throughout the region. van Son said he hopes Desertec can help bring Mediterranean nations closer together. “I believe large infrastructure projects like this can contribute to stability. It’s about the development of new industries in the region, investment, job creation and the transfer of knowledge and know-how,” he said.

The first 150 megawatts power plant will be built in Morocco and it could be generating power by 2015 or 2016, with further projects planned in Tunisia and Algeria.

COP 17 

On Saturday December 3rd, 2011 in what was called the “Global Day of Action,” about 20,000 people from all over the world took to the streets calling for action in Durban. Protests, marches and rallies around the world demanded “climate justice.”

“We march today to show our outrage. We want to give the ministers…a clear message: You cannot continue to make excuses,” said Action Aid international climate justice coordinator Harjeet Singh.

“We demand urgent and strong action on climate change. We can’t just keep talking and keep wasting time,” Singh said. And Greenpeace said, “it is time to listen to the voices of ordinary people not polluters.”

Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, told the protesters in Durban: “You know where we stand, here with you.”

Although expectations for COP 17 were low, people came together and helped to force governments to sign-on to a binding agreement.

Local Protest Goes National

Michigan State University (MSU) students have been protesting the fact that they have the largest on-campus coal plant in the nation.

“Coal is harmful to our environment and us, but not everyone knows. I think it is important to raise awareness of the problem so it can be fixed and the damaging effects of coal can be stopped,” said student activist Kendra Majewski.

Even though three students were arrested at a sit-in, MSU activists have indicated that they are going to keep demanding clean air for their campus. In October, hundreds of campuses across the nation joined in on the demonstration against the university to show support for the Quit Coal campaign known as 100 Actions for 100% Clean Energy.

Students across the country are now engaged in telephone protests directed at the MSU president’s office. They are requesting that the president reconsider her position and commit to using 100 percent clean energy at Michigan State. This campaign illustrates that local issues can quickly gain national support.

Although MSU has not yet agreed to close its coal plant, the university has taken other steps to become more sustainable, including plans to have all new buildings become LEED-certified.

Environmental Events

There have been a number of environmental events in 2011, which were supported by an ever growing number of people. Global Green’s I Am Fighting Climate Change video contest asked people to document their individual actions to fight climate change. Global Green asked people to come together to help stop climate change and demand that leaders invest in green technologies and green jobs.

The League of American Bicyclists sponsored an event in the US and Canada that promoted the bicycle as an option for commuting to work. In 2011, Bike to Work Week was held on May 16th through the 20th. On June 5th the annual World Environment Day (WED) event became the largest and most widely celebrated WED event ever.

On June 15th, Global Wind Day raised worldwide awareness about wind energy. Thousands of public events were held in the US and around the world.  On Saturday June 18th, Canada, the US and the UK (November 19th in Australia) celebrated SolarDay. The 2011 SolarDay events were held by cities, non-profits, companies and the solar industry.

On August 15th through the 19th, the EDF led a campaign titled Voices for Clean Air to help remind political leaders that clean air is something that the majority of Americans support. The EDF sent a message to political leaders in the U.S. in support of strong clean air standards.

Beginning on September 13th, the Climate Reality Project hosted a live streaming event. The event was known as 24 Hours of Reality, it involved a global broadcast about the reality of the climate crisis. This global event was designed to help people make the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and the need to push the planet beyond fossil fuels. ZeDay was an event that took place on September 21st, it was a day for people all over the planet to strive for zero emissions and encourage the use of renewable energy.

On September 24th Bill McKibben and the 350.org team launched the “Moving Planet” campaign. It inspired over 2000 events in more than 175 countries. In South Asia, the 350.org coordinator indicated that their goal was to encourage grassroots activism against coal fired power emissions, as well as redefining development. African initiatives urged people to take to the streets to demand climate jobs. All regions including, the Pacific and Europe, pushed for renewable energy laws and sustainable transportation.

On October 26th, college campuses across North America celebrated the 9th annual Campus Sustainability Day (CSD), a day which highlighted the green accomplishments and initiatives of staff, faculty and students.

On March 26th, 134 countries and turned out their lights for WWF’s Earth Hour. In 2011, Earth Hour called on businesses and other organizations to show leadership by committing to lasting action for the planet beyond shutting off their lights for one hour. Climate Care Day is an event that takes place on the same day as Earth Hour; however this initiative is intended to encourage global businesses to replace all corporate travel with remote meetings.

On Earth Day (April 23rd), the Billion Acts of Green® campaign became the largest environmental service campaign in the world. In 2011, it included an increasing number of commitments from businesses to measurably reduce carbon emissions and support sustainability.

On Monday, April 18th, thousands of people came together for a rally outside the US Chamber of Commerce in Washington DC. The rally was the culmination of Power Shift 2011, which took place between April 15th and 18th. 350.org launched a campaign entitled “The US Chamber of Commerce Doesn’t Speak For Me,” where more than a thousand businesses abandoned the climate denying Chamber, including corporations like Apple, Nike, Microsoft, Levi-Strauss, Best Buy, and General Electric.

Businesses are Listening

Businesses are increasingly reckoning with the power of popular pressure. Individuals are pushing corporations to cleanup their supply chains, which are causing some businesses to change the way they source commodities. Public pressure has forced companies like Nestle, Unilever, Nestle, Kraft, Burger King, and General Mills to adopt more sustainable business practices.

In 2011, it became increasingly obvious that the risks associated with unsustainable business practices are a serious threat which cannot be ignored. Rather than incur such risks, an increasing number of businesses are cooperating with environmental groups. For example, Xerox has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to promote sustainable forestry, preserve biodiversity and help minimize forest loss and degradation that contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.

Non-profits are putting their expertise to work guiding businesses on sustainability. Carbon Trust has published a Green Guide for SMEs, the WWF-UK has launched its Green Game-Changers initiative and the EPA’s Green Power Partnership program has yielded impressive results.

People around the world are increasingly united in their demand for action on environmental issues. The events of 2011 demonstrate that the public can influence decision making at the highest level. This is a testament to the power of citizens to effectuate meaningful change.

——————-

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, a leading sustainable business blog and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.

Image credit: Sky News

November 10 2011

21:27

Breaking: State Department Delays Keystone XL Decision Until 2013

The State Department announced today that they would “seek additional information” about the Keystone XL pipeline, meaning that they will take another 12 months at least to re-review the proposed pipeline route. This new review will build on (or make up) for the woefully-incompletely Environmental Impact Statement.

Here's the State Department's official language:


…given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska. …
Among the relevant issues that would be considered are environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy.

The decision comes in the immediate wake of a massive protest at the White House on Sunday, as roughly 12,000 anti-pipeline activists circled the White House in a “solidarity hug.” The action was the latest in a series of protests and events staged by opponents of the proposed TransCanada pipeline that would funnel tar sands crude from Canada down to the Gulf Coast in Texas, much of it bound for export to other nations.

The decision to delay is a clear testament to the power of public engagement in the political process and good old-fashioned protest. But the battle isn't over yet.


Since the first of the civilly disobedience activists was arrested in August, a steady stream of negative news has betrayed the proposed TransCanada pipeline project.

There was the scandalously cozy relationship between TransCanada and the State Department. TransCanada got booed out of Memorial Stadium, as sacred a place as exists in all of Nebraska. A report (PDF) revealed Valero and other refineries’ plans to export the tar sands crude that would flow through Keystone XL, casting doubt on pipeline proponent’s claims that Canadian tar sands would contribute to American “energy security.” The State Department admitted to losing tens of thousands of public comments about the pipeline. Industry’s claims of Keystone job creation were found to be inflated through fuzzy math and outright fabrication.

I believe that it’s safe to say that none of this would have happened — or at least wouldn’t have been exposed and covered by the mainstream media — without the ongoing attention that the #noKXL movement has been bringing to the pipeline issue.

Bill McKibben of 350.org explained it like such, on behalf of TarSandsAction:

Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone. One month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by the National Journal found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end.  As late as last week the CBC reported that Transcanada was moving huge quantities of pipe across the border and seizing land by eminent domain, certain that its permit would be granted. A done deal has come spectacularly undone.

Responding to the (then potential) delay, TransCanada’s chief executive Russ Girling took a threatening tone to the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, hinting that any delay could kill the pipeline plans altogether. "How long will those customers wait for Canadian crude oil to get to the marketplace before they sort of throw up their hands and say this is just never going to happen?"

The decision is far from final, and the political manuevering was certainly to put the decision off until after the election. But, for now, what started as incredibly long odds (McKibben himself has said that they were 1,000-to-1 when this campaign started back in the summer), is now totally up in the air.

For now, the delay itself is a victory for pipeline opponents. Every month the decision is deterred, TransCanada loses money and the possibility of abandoning the Keystone XL entirely goes up.

Two years ago, I talked to Tim DeChristopher (aka Bidder 70) after he had been arrested for “disrupting” a government oil and gas lease auction in Utah’s wildlands. One of his responses carries serious resonance through these Keystone XL actions today. DeChristopher told me:
  

You know how Gandhi said you have to “be the change you want to see in the world.” Well the change that most of us wish to see is a carbon tax, but our leaders aren’t doing that for us, so Gandhi’s call is then for us to be the carbon tax. What does that mean — to “be the carbon tax?” To cost the fossil fuel industry money in any way that we can. Getting in their way, slowing them down, shutting them down. Doing whatever we can to be that tax.

Everyone participating in this ongoing Tar Sands Action is “becoming” that carbon tax. They're slowing down TransCanada, slowing down the movement of that crude, slowing down development of the tar sands, and costing the extractive fossil fuel industries money. It might not break the bank, but in the absence of an “official” price on carbon, it’s the best course that climate activists can take.

Now climate hawks have to remain vigilant to ensure that the Keystone XL pipeline is never built, and none of the other proposed efforts to expand the tar sands development for export markets can be tolerated either.  With the news today from the International Energy Agency that the world is headed for irreversible climate change in the next five years unless we rapidly change our energy system, the planet can't afford the development of the tar sands.

Don't take my word for it, here it is in the words of the IEA's chief economist:

"The door is closing," Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, said. "I am very worried – if we don't change direction now on how we use energy, we will end up beyond what scientists tell us is the minimum [for safety]. The door will be closed forever." 

November 09 2011

14:00

Valero Positioning To Export Tar Sands Oil, Guarding Pot of Gold at End of Keystone XL Pipeline

In the heated Keystone XL debate, the Canadian company TransCanada, which is attempting to build the line, and the Koch brothers, who are throwing their considerable weight behind it in the interest of their Koch Industries’ subsidiaries, receive a lot of attention.
 

But there are other benefactors that are worth a closer look, as nobody stands to benefit as much in the longer term (if the Keystone XL pipeline is ever built) as the companies that operate the refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Let’s step back and review what the refineries actually do. The diluted tar sands bitumen (or “DilBit”) that would flow through Keystone XL is an ultra-acidic, highly viscous mess, that doesn’t at all resemble the refined petroleum products like diesel or gasoline or even jet fuel that are sold on the commercial markets. DilBit is, in the words of Keith Schneider, ”thick as peanut butter and more acidic, highly corrosive, and abrasive” than typical crude.

This tar sands DilBit needs to be refined before it can be sold. But only certain refineries are capable of handling the corrosive DilBit.

Refiners along the Texas Gulf Coast, where the Keystone XL pipeline would ultimately deliver tar sands DilBit from Canada, are eager to accomodate. The company that appears positioned to receive and refine more of TransCanada’s crude than anyone else is the Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO).

Valero "Dedicated" To Keystone XL - And Ready To Profit From It
Valero is the world’s largest independent refiner, with 15 refineries that have a collective capacity to process 2.9 million barrels per day. While their commitments to TransCanada are confidential, Valero is publicly “dedicated” to the Keystone XL project, and their 310,000 barrels per day Port Arthur, Texas refinery would receive the Alberta-born crude. Valero has invested heavily to upgrade the Port Arthur plant to handle “heavy” “sour” crude (a.k.a. tar sands DilBit) for the past few years, anticipating the pipeline’s completion.

The company has long hoped for a steady supply of Alberta’s tar sands crude, first signing on to Keystone in July of 2008. In 2010, when the Texas company was pouring money into California’s Prop 23 battle, spokesperson Bill Day urged that Alberta is “a tremendous potential supplier for us.”  

While their involvement with Keystone XL has largely flown under the radar, Valero was exposed in the bombshell “Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed” (PDF) report by Oil Change International in September. The report found that, despite constant claims by TransCanada and other Keystone supporters of increased “energy security,” much of the crude that flows through Keystone XL would be exported. Valero was held up as a prime example of how and why. From that report:

Valero, the top beneficiary of the Keystone XL pipeline, has recently explicitly detailed an export strategy to its investors.  The nation’s top refiner has locked in at least 20 percent of the pipeline’s capacity, and, because its refinery in Port Arthur is within a Foreign Trade Zone, the company will accomplish its export strategy tax free.


Shell’s subsidiary Motiva and Total, both “shippers” with long-term contracts with TransCanada, also operate in this Foreign Trade Zone, meaning that they are exempt from customs duties on imports and exports, and also from state and local taxes.

In other words: they can sell the Keystone XL crude overseas without paying American taxes. Combine that with the fact that the Port Arthur plants are conditioned to take low-grade tar sands crude and refine it to diesel—which has much higher demand overseas— and the incentive for Valero to export the Keystone XL crude is huge.

The Oil Change International report caused quite the stir, and put Valero on the defensive. Company spokesperson Bill Day told Platts EnergyWeek that "the vast majority of products that Valero makes in the US are sold in the US…As far as I know, we've never said anything about exporting products to China, nor do we have plans to.”

On China, Day was referring to a statement by Sierra Club president Michael Brune, which was technically inaccurate. Despite Brune’s error, Valero’s overall export strategy is clear and obvious to anyone who takes the time to read their September report to investors.

Here are two telling slides.

This map shows clearly the company’s strategy to export diesel from the Gulf Coast refineries (like Port Arthur) to European, Mexican, and South American markets, while importing gasoline from overseas.




And here is a slide showing explicitly Valero’s plans to export diesel to the strong European market.

Finally, here's their slide on the Port Arthur plant, which is ready "to process over 150,000 barrels/day of high-acid, heavy sour Canadian crude," and which produces "high-quality diesel and jet fuel for growing global demand for middle distillates, and is "located at large, Gulf Coast refinery to leverage existing operations and export logistics." (Emphasis mine.)

If there's any doubt that Valero intends on exporting the tar sands crude that Keystone XL delivers, this investor presentation should put that to rest.

September 19 2011

22:04

EnergyNOW! Tackles Keystone XL, And Talks To Me About Pipelines

On Sunday, energyNOW! news tackled the Keystone XL debate in a wide-ranging half hour program that covered the controversial pipeline in typically comprehensive fashion.

An overview intro segment looks at the "impact on America," from the alleged reduction of imports of OPEC crude to potential for pollution. Reporter Thalia Assuras' trip to Nebraska to talk to local 'Huskers — landowners and politicians alike — is fascinating.

The show then travels up to Alberta, whose Athabasca tar sands reserves would feed the Keystone XL pipeline, funneling filthy DilBit crude down to Gulf Coast refineries.

The last segment features an exclusive interview with Energy Secretary Steven Chu, which they teased a few weeks back. (And which, you might recall, I responded to at the time, calling his claim that Keystone XL would increase our national "energy security" cynical politics.)

If you're able to spend a half hour learning about this urgent hot-button issue, this show is a great place to start. If you can't see the embedded video below, you can watch on energyNOW's website.

As a supplement to their Keystone XL program, and part of their ongoing Reporter's Notebook series, yours truly sat down and talked to energyNOW! about energy pipelines in general. If you've been reading my ongoing series about energy pipelines, you've likely heard most of this. But you haven't seen me talk about it awkwardly into a webcam!

 

September 02 2011

21:16

Reality Check: New Keystone XL Report Blows Up Steven Chu's "Energy Security" Claim

Earlier this week, in an interview with EnergyNow!, U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu hinted that the administration would likely approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The controversial pipeline, which would carry filthy diluted bitumen (or DilBit) crude 1,700 miles across six Great Plains states, 1,904 waterways, and the nation’s largest freshwater aquifer, needs State Department approval to cross the international border. Opposition to the pipeline is fierce — over the past two weeks over 1,000 activists have been arrested at the White House in a massive act of civil disobedience — as environmentalists, Great Plains landowners, scientists, and public health activists alike warn of the inevitable oil spills and immense carbon pollution that would result from Keystone XL’s construction.
 
Proponents of the pipeline have been pushing the claim that building this pipeline will improve our energy security and reduce our dependence on oil from Venezuela and the Middle East. Companies like TransCanada, the Canadian energy company hoping to build the pipeline, and Valero, the Texas-based refinery company that stands to profit the most from the DilBit crude that it would deliver — have been more than happy to help perpetuate that myth, even if their internal discussions and the economics of the oil industry don’t back it up.  

Unfortunately, Secretary Chu’s interview on Wednesday revealed that the administration is going to use this false claim as political cover if (or, more realistically, when) they approve the construction of Keystone XL. Here’s the interview:




This is terribly cynical politics, as surely Secretary Chu — a Nobel-winning physicist and truly one of the world’s premier energy experts — knows the folly of this “energy security” argument.

A report released earlier this week by Oil Change International highlights just how wrong the claim is. In “Exporting Energy Security: Keystone XL Exposed” (pdf), the authors look at Energy Information Administration data, corporate disclosures from TransCanada and Valero Energy, and oil market analyst reports, and conclude that “the idea that Keystone XL will decrease America’s dependence on foreign oil is demonstrably false.”

The report, which is worth reading in full, draws three stark conclusions:
 
  1. The Keystone XL pipeline is an export pipeline.  The Gulf Coast refiners at the end of the pipeline’s route are focused on expanding  exports, and the nature of the tar sands crude Keystone XL delivers enhances their capacity to do so.
  2. Valero, the top beneficiary of the Keystone XL pipeline, has recently explicitly detailed an export strategy to its investors.  The nation’s top refiner has locked in at least 20 percent of the pipeline’s capacity, and, because its refinery in Port Arthur is within a Foreign Trade Zone, the company will accomplish its export strategy tax free.
  3. The oil market has changed markedly in the last several years, with U.S. demand decreasing, and U.S. production increasing for the first time in 40 years. Higher fuel economy standards and slow economic growth have led to a decline in U.S. gasoline demand, while technological advances have opened up new sources in the U.S. Increasingly, U.S. refiners are turning to export.

Earlier this week, Glenn Hurowitz, senior fellow at the Center for International Policy, made a similar, tangential case. Hurowitz argued, in fact, that “Drilling in North America is the single greatest threat to our nation’s energy security.”

He continues:
Here’s the reality: Protecting the United States’ energy security means keeping our continent’s oil in the ground for when we need it in an emergency. The United States and Canada combined hold less than 5 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Thanks in part to expanded domestic drilling during the Obama administration, we’re depleting those reserves at a high rate. That means we have far less oil to fall back on in the event of true emergency, like an oil embargo or a major war when access to foreign oil supplies becomes difficult or even impossible. If we’re really concerned about security, tar-sands oil should be a last-gap, man-the-barricades option — something we as a society hope we never have to use….

It’s important to contrast this depletion reality with the old canard that the oil industry and its backers continue to push: that drilling domestically somehow reduces the flow of money to the Middle East and other unstable oil suppliers. In practice, basic oil-industry economics show the opposite. Because Middle Eastern and Venezuelan oil is so much cheaper to produce and more plentiful than remaining domestic oil reserves, those countries can almost always outcompete domestic U.S. competitors and still maintain their enormous profit margins and high levels of production. Saudi and Iraqi oil, for instance, costs just $4-$6 per barrel to produce with another $2-$3 tacked on for transportation costs (costs are similar for Iranian oil). Production costs for tar-sands oil clock in at a minimum of $30 per barrel; costs for other domestic sources are similar

DeSmogBlog has been all over the Keystone XL story. For some background, check out this post on how the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement was woefully incomplete, this post on the many problems with tar sands pipelines, and this great infographic on how TransCanada’s Keystone pipelines are “built to spill.” Also, this Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Action page has links to just about every resource you could ever possibly hope to find.

 

August 03 2011

13:15

U.S. Chamber Of Commerce Launches Campaign To Lobby For Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline

Last Friday, after applauding the House's vote to rush a decision on TransCanada Corp's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a new campaign to boost the controversial project. The Partnership to Fuel America is run out of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, and seems positioned to be the U.S. Chamber's main influence channel to drum up support for Keystone XL. Supportive comments aside, it's also the first time the U.S. Chamber has so publicly and overtly aligned with the Canadian company's project.

The launch comes at a pivotal moment for Keystone XL. The Obama administration has the final say in approving the pipeline, and they've said the decision will be made by the end of the year. The new House legislation declared that the Obama administration must make the call by November 1st. A final environmental review of the prospective project is expected from the State Department in August. (To learn more about how tar sands pipelines like Keystone XL are a much greater risk than normal crude pipelines, see my earlier post.)

Which is all to say: the next couple months will determine whether or not Keystone XL is approved and built. Given the U.S. Chamber's long history of support for all things fossil fuel -- and long history of fighting against any sort of pollution controls -- it's no real surprise that the Chamber is throwing its considerable weight behind Keystone XL. But until now, the nation's largest lobbying group (which spends more money than the next five lobbying groups combined, and which receives the majority of its funding from 16 anonymous corporate donors) hadn't done more than release comments in support of the Keystone XL project. (Well, publicly, that is. They've probably done quite a bit behind closed doors.)

So what more do we know about the Partnership to Fuel America? According to the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, it will be "comprised of American businesses and industries that understand the need for more energy in the United States and believe that Canada's significant resources can help achieve that goal." Their site makes numerous references to "North American energy," but the only North American sources of energy listed are Canada's tar sands, and every news item listed on the site is specifically about the Keystone XL project.

Though you won't find him anywhere on the official site, the "partnership" is being led by a gentleman named Matt Koch, who is vice president for Oil Sands and Arctic Issues at the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy. And, no, I couldn't find any evidence that this is some long-lost Koch brother of the Koch Industries clan, but lately he's been earning his living off of fossil fuels just the same.

Before working for private industry, Matt Koch served in George W. Bush's White House, as an Associate Director of Cabinet Affairs, and also in the Department of Energy. Before settling into the capital, Koch served as Natural Resource Policy Director at the Texas Office of State-Federal Relations, securing the Lone Star State's oil interests inside the Beltway.

Immediately before joining the U.S. Chamber's payroll, Koch was Director of Federal Relations at the American Petroleum Institute, and one of their chief lobbyists. According to the Institute for 21st Century Energy, Koch was "API's chief advocate and issue manager for all downstream and refining-related issues affecting the oil and natural gas industry."

What's more, he was "responsible for initiating and managing API's ongoing, multifaceted oil sands strategy and campaign." Now he's running that very same strategy for the U.S. Chamber, and the big tar sands battle of the moment is the Keystone XL.

It's worth noting that this Partnership to Fuel America launch -- the overt and very public alignment between the U.S. Chamber and TransCanada's Keystone project -- comes at the very moment that both the Chamber and the Keystone XL are being acutely targeted by various activist campaigns. 350.org just launched the clever and timely "U.S. Chamber of Secrets" website as part of their ongoing campaign to expose the organization as a front group for fossil fuel corporations and other big polluters. (Check out their impressive infographic about the Chamber, which tells a pretty startling story.)

Meanwhile, a whole slew of activists are gearing up for the Tar Sands Action in late August, which is specifically targeting the Keystone XL pipeline, which organizers describe as "a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent."

But, now, there's no need to speculate about a possible link between the U.S. Chamber and the Keystone XL project. That connection is now public and crystal clear. So it must be asked: why is the U.S. Chamber spending so much energy and resources supporting a project that will be built, operated, and profitted from by a Canadian company, one the U.S. Chamber isn't supposed to represent? Perhaps that answer lies in those other, more renowned Kochs, who stand to make a killing off of Keystone XL if it's completed, and who are known to have shady ties to the U.S. Chamber.

July 29 2011

19:14

The Many Problems With Tar Sands Pipelines

Note: This post is part of an ongoing series about North American pipelines. For an introduction and links to the wide-ranging coverage--from safety to legal issues to the business and economics to vulnerabilities--see this regularly-updated intro post.

On Monday, the House passed a bill that would force the Obama administration to make a final decision on TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline by November 1. The Keystone XL project (which regular DeSmogBlog readers should be familiar with) would funnel tar sands oil from Alberta's massive reserves down to Gulf Coast refineries in Texas.

This isn't the place to discuss in too much depth the various and plentiful problems with Alberta tar sands itself -- from extraction to transportation to refining to combustion, it's the dirtiest oil on the planet. From a climate perspective, the Alberta tar sands contain enough carbon to lock the planet into climate chaos. In the words of NASA climatologist Jim Hansen, "if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over."

Because Keystone XL is so controversial, and because its construction could be such a tipping point in the climate fight, a broad and diverse coalition of scientists and activists are digging in their heels for a big fight, and planning a multi-week action at the White House. (Here's more on how to get involved.)

But since this is a post about pipelines, I'm going to focus on how tar sands pipelines are different than those that carry conventional crude, how they're much more prone to leaks and spills, and how those spills are particularly bad for the environment.

First, you need to understand what -- physically and chemically --  tar sands actually is. According to the Bureau of Land Managment, tar sands

...are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.

Once upon a time, the tar sands oil that flowed through North American pipelines was in the form of a synthetic crude. In other words, the sticky, viscous tar sands bitumin was upgraded to a more free-flowing form of crude before entering the pipes. But recently, the industry has found it cheaper and easier -- if not as safe or stable -- to dilute the bitumen with liquid natural gas, creating a substance called diluted bitumen, or "DilBit."

A joint report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Pipeline Safety Trust, the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, released in February, spotlights the specific hazards of pipelines carrying this tar sands "DilBit."

The report describes DilBit as "a highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable blend of thick raw bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate."

Testifying this past Tuesday in front of the House Energy and Commerce's Energy and Power Subcommittee, NRDC expert Anthony Swift laid out the specific risk of this DilBit to the pipelines themselves:

By itself, bitumen is virtually solid at room temperature - to move it through a pipeline, producers must diluted it with light, highly volatile natural gas liquids. The thick, abrasive mixture, called diluted bitumen, is then pumped through pipelines at high pressure - generating enough friction to reach temperatures of 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

Besides the heat, both Swift's testimony (PDF) and the joint pipeline report warn that DilBit has higher sulfur and chloride salt contents, both of which can lead to corrosion and cracking. There's also high levels of quartz, rutile, and pyrite particles, all of which are highly abrasive. The "Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks" report specifies that diluted bitumen:

  • is more acidic, thick, and sulfuric than conventional crude oil;
  • is up to seventry times more viscous than concentional crudes;
  • contains fifteen to twenty times higher acid concentrations than conventional crudes and five to ten times as much sulfur as conventional crudes, and that "the additional sulfur can lead to the weakening or embrittlement of pipelines."

What's more, due to an unfortunate quirk of DilBit's chemical composition, underground leaks can be much more difficult for monitors to detect. (If you're curious about the finer points of this chemistry, check out the joint Tar Sands Pipeline Safety Risks report (PDF).)

So enough with the unfortunate chemistry of DilBit; we also have some empirical evidence to look at. With even a relatively short history, there are already plenty of spills and leaks involving DilBit, many of which have been covered here on DeSmogBlog.

The Keystone I pipeline (the first in TransCanada's Keystone system that could eventually include Keystone XL) has infamously spilled 12 times in under a year of operation. (This despite assurances from the company that leaks would occur from Keystone only "once every seven years.")

A May breach at a North Dakota pumping station spewed over 500 barrels, like a geyser, into the air. Local landowner Bob Banderet noted the discrepancy between TransCanada's predictions and the reality: "They said this couldn't happen," Banderet said. "It's a once in a thousand year occurence, and here it is right in front of you."

There's more. In 2006, corrosion in Alberta's Rainbow pipeline caused over 343,000 gallons of oil to leak near Slave Lake, as Emma Pullman reported earlier here. Almost exactly a year ago this week, roughly 800,000 gallons of DilBut spilled into the Kalamazoo River in Western Michigan from a pipeline owned by the Canadian company Enbridge. In fact, in 2010, Enbridge's Lakehead system spilled over a dozen times, accounting for more than half of all crude spilled in the United States last year.

Even that recent, awful Exxon Mobil spill that spoiled the "last great river," the Yellowstone River, has ties to tar sands. Exxon Mobil officials admitted earlier this month that the Silvertip pipeline "routinely transported" tar sands oil. 

Finally, after the tar sands oil does inevitably spill, cleanup is a heck of a lot harder than normal crude spills. There's proof in Western Michigan. Reporter Kari Lydersen traveled to Marshall, Michigan to report on cleanup efforts a year later that Enbridge spill. Her report for OnEarth is sobering:

When that combination, known as DilBit, spilled out of the ruptured pipeline, the benzene and other chemicals in the mixture went airborne, forcing mandatory evacuations of surrounding homes (many of which were later bought by Enbridge because their owners couldn't safely return), while the thick, heavy bitumen sank into the water column and coated the river and lake bottom, mixing with sediment and suffocating bottom-dwelling plants, animals, and micro-organisms.

Surface skimmers and vacuums were no help, and a full year later, EPA officials and scientists are still working on a plan to remove submerged oil from about 200 acres of river and lake bottom. EPA officials had given Enbridge an August 31 deadline to get all the oil out, but they now say a full cleanup could take years.  "Where we thought we might be winding down our piece of the response, we're actually ramping back up," said Mark Durno, one of EPA's on-scene coordinators. "The submerged oil is a real story -- it's a real eye-opener. ... In larger spills we've dealt with before, we haven't seen nearly this footprint of submerged oil, if we've seen any at all."


Setting aside all the other threats and hazards posed by tar sands, there remains the basic, physical truth that contemporary pipelines simply cannot safely and securely transport its diluted bitumen form. And when the DilBit does spill, it is a much bigger problem than the already devastating impacts of spilled crude. 

Still, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers' numbers, American imports of DilBit have increased five fold over the past decade. If the Keystone XL project is approved and built, that number will only rise, and so will the number of spills, and the public costs of dealing with them.

MAPS OF TAR SANDS PIPELINES IN THE U.S.

Here is a map put together by NRDC of the existing and proposed tar sands DilBit pipelines:
NRDC Tar Sands DilBit Pipelines

For a closer look at the network of existing and proposed tar sands pipelines and refineries, download this map [PDF] put together by NoDirtyEnergy.org.


Photo credit: National Transportation Safety Board

June 01 2011

06:36

TransCanada says Their Eleventh Leak Proves Keystone is Safe

UPDATE: The 1,600 figure we reported yesterday was an early and apparently erroneous estimate. The most recent figure, from The National Response Center, is closer to 8,000 litres. According to the Montreal Gazette, over 110,000 litres of oil have spilled along TransCanada's Keystone line in the last year alone.

Today, TransCanada shut down its Keystone oil pipeline following its second pump station leak in less than a month. The most recent spill dumped nearly 1,600 litres of oil at a pumping station in Kansas over the weekend. With two spills in the last month, and ten more over the course of the last year, how can TransCanada convince U.S. authorities to trust the safety of its controversial expansion plans?  

As DeSmogBlog recently reported, spills are far more common than industry would have us realize. A 2007 report by the Alberta Energy Utilities Board recorded a whopping 5,000 pipeline spills between 1990 and 2005 in Alberta alone

The string of spills over the past year have only heightened public worries about the safety of North America’s vast pipeline network, and provide evidence that the proposed Keystone XL and Northern Gateway lines should be blocked.

The Montreal Gazette reports that over 110,000 litres of oil have spilled along TransCanada's Keystone line in the last year.

To top it all off, TransCanada has somehow managed to spin its treacherous spill record and suggest - and you're not going to believe this - that it's doing a great job. <!--break-->

How do they figure? Simple.  

"We’ve demonstrated we have built a very safe pipeline system because we haven’t had a leak on our pipeline," says Terry Cunha, a spokesperson for TransCanada. Apparently "oil releases" at pump stations mean the pipeline is safe.  

I know I don't buy it, but others do. 

Steven Paget, an analyst with First Energy Capital Corp., argues that TransCanada’s string of spills will not hinder its chances of regulatory approval to extend the line to refineries in the Gulf Coast.

Paget likens these spills to "new car issues" - petty and small. 

I hardly think we can liken environmentally devastating oil spills to car problems. But if my car leaked eleven times in one year, you'd better believe I'd get a refund. 

Head on over to the Canadian Press and Globe and Mail to read more. 

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