Thursday, January 24, 2013
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“These are major initiatives that government and industry are trying to move forward. If we’re serious about stopping climate change we have to stop these projects as a first order of business.”
In this issue:
- Tar Sands One of the World’s Dirtiest Energy Projects
- Nuking the Tar Sands
- The Worst Kind of Pollution: It’s Not What You Think
- Protecting the Sacred in South Dakota and Beyond
- Trailbreaker Opposition Heats Up
A new report by Greenpeace and Ecofys has confirmed that Alberta’s tar sands development is one of the nastiest energy projects on the planet. The analysis attempts to rank the most dangerous fossil-fuel projects currently underway or soon to come on line. The cumulative climate impacts of tar sands development ranks fifth, behind the expansion of coal exports from China, Australia, Indonesia and the United States, as well as all of the oil and gas development planned for the Arctic.
Although the mainstream media downplayed the dirtiness of the tar sands – the National Post pointed out that coal is the “biggest climate villain,” and the tar sands “don’t appear until fifth spot” – the fact of the matter is that all of these projects threaten to undermine any chance of limiting the dangerous impacts of climate change.
“These are major initiatives that government and industry are trying to move forward,” Greenpeace’s Keith Stewart told the Canadian Press. “If we’re serious about stopping climate change we have to stop these projects as a first order of business.”
According to the report, the carbon emissions from these 14 developments alone would likely push global warming past two degrees, the point at which many scientists believe catastrophic climate change would set in. And because they are large-scale, infrastructure-intensive developments, their construction would all but guarantee the onset of run-away climate change.
Scientific American acknowledged that the tar sands “represent a significant tonnage of carbon. With today's technology there are roughly 170 billion barrels of oil to be recovered in the tar sands, and an additional 1.63 trillion barrels … if every last bit of bitumen” were extracted.
"The amount of CO2 locked up in Alberta tar sands is enormous," mechanical engineer John Abraham told the magazine. Abraham, a professor at the University of Saint Thomas in Minnesota, was one of 10 signatories of a letter asking U.S. President Barak Obama to include climate impacts in its review of the Keystone XL pipeline. "If we burn all the tar sand oil, the temperature rise, just from burning that tar sand, will be half of what we've already seen," about 0.4 degree Celsius from Alberta alone.
Climate modeller Daniel Harvey, of the University of Toronto, said that, "If Keystone is approved then we're locking in a several more decades of dependence on fossil fuels. That means higher CO2 emissions, higher concentrations [in the atmosphere] and greater warming that our children and grandchildren have to deal with."
This leaves President Obama with a difficult decision about the future of the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision that will have long-lasting implications for the future of the earth’s climate. In his inauguration speech the day before the Greenpeace report was released, President Obama committed (yet again) to do something about the climate crisis. “We will respond to the threat of climate change,” he said, “knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.”
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
The notion of using nuclear energy to power the tar sands has been floating in the ether since engineers and entrepreneurs decided to extract the dirty bitumen, but the idea has never been considered seriously – until now. Toshiba, it seems, is closer than anyone thought. According to the Daily Yomiuri, “Toshiba Corp. has been developing a small nuclear reactor for mining oil sands at the request of a firm engaged in such mining projects” in Alberta, and “aims to begin operating the reactor by 2020.”
Yep, 2020. That’s only seven years from now. So you can add the danger of (an admittedly small-scale) nuclear disaster to all the pollution and habitat destruction as the cost of turning bitumen into oil. What will historians say when they look back on the twenty-first century to see that we used nuclear energy to extract yet more dirty oil to burn in our cars and trucks? It likely won’t be nice.
When DeSmogBlog launched its new site, DeSmog Canada, it identified the worst kind of pollution, and it has nothing to do with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or carbon dioxide. No, the most dangerous form of pollution is the “misinformation, denial and bitter adversarial rhetoric” that is clogging the public square, says James Hoggan.
Hoggan should know: He is one of Canada’s most respected public-relations professionals and the president and owner of the Vancouver PR firm Hoggan & Associates. He is also a cofounder of the original (and influential) DeSmogBlog.
“It is causing the Canadian public to turn away in despair, creating an epidemic of mistrust and what’s worse, disinterest,” Hoggan says. “Instead of open and healthy debate, dysfunctional public conversations have become the norm, preventing us from confronting the reality of our destructive impact on the planet. We seem unable or unwilling to weigh facts honestly, disagree constructively and deliberate collectively.”
Hoggan accuses governments and Big Oil of being the biggest public square polluters, and points to the “ethical oil” (sic) campaign as one of the most egregious PR campaigns he has ever seen. But he also assures us that DeSmog Canada will “wade through the PR pollution that is preventing us from having sensible public conversations about critical issues around the environment, social justice and the economy.”
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CLEANING UP DIRTY PIPELINES
As Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence rested in the hospital after ending her 44-day hunger protest, others took over where she left off. Other chiefs and Canadian opposition parties promised to take up her cause of treaty implementation and improving conditions on reserves in Canada, and tribal communities, ranchers, farmers and concerned citizens gathered in South Dakota to protect the sacred from tar sands development and the Keystone XL pipeline.
Indigenous Nations from across the United States and Canada and their Allies converged at the Yankton Sioux Reservation, South Dakota on January 23, 2013 for a three-day event that will culminate with the signing of an international treaty to effectively block TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The International Treaty to Protect the Sacred from Tar Sands and Keystone XL builds on the Save the Fraser River Declaration, the Rights of Mother Earth Accord, Indigenous Leaders Spiritual Declaration, the Earth Charter, and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and is grounded in the January 23, 1863 Pawnee Nation and Ihanktonwan Dakota/Nakota Peace Treaty, which was the first written peace treaty between Indian Nations in history.
Rabble.ca published an excellent history of Enbridge’s attempt to reverse the flow of its Trailbreaker (aka Line 9) pipeline through Ontario and Quebec. Interestingly, attempts to upgrade this pipeline have successfully been rebuffed before. According to Rabble, three years of organized civil resistance prevented the construction of the Dunham pumping station after the project received the go-ahead from Quebec’s Farmland Protection Commission in 2009.
Now, Quebec is gearing up to stop the Trailbreaker once again, alongside neighbours in Ontario and the growing opposition across the U.S. border. City councils in Burlington, Vermont and Casco, Maine have passed municipal resolutions opposing the transportation of tar sands oil through their cities and across their states. Burlington has also passed concrete measures to pull the city’s investments out of the tar sands and eliminate the city's use of tar sands oil. Over 50 municipalities along the pipeline route in New England have similar resolutions on the table, and organizers in Toronto are building support around a motion that would prohibit shipping diluted bitumen through the city.
In Portland, Maine, city officials and environmental advocates supported a proposal to prohibit the purchase of tar sands oil for city operations. Portland City Council will vote on the proposal, which is modeled after pledges made by 18 major corporations concerned about tar sands oil. If approved, the city would not purchase refined tar sands oil for their heating fuel and other operations.
A cross-border “day of action” will take place on January 26, 2012 in downtown Portland, Maine (not Oregon). The action is aimed at stopping both the Enbridge Line 9 in Canada and the Exxon pipeline in New England. Dozens of local solidarity actions are being planned to coincide with the Maine event in more than a dozen communities in Ontario, Quebec and New England.
Tagged with: the dirt