Thursday, September 20, 2012In this issue of The Dirt, opposition mounts in every corner of the Tarsands Empire. Critics turn up the volume against Shell's Jackpine Expansion, a new report finds tarsands refineries put communities at risk, and proponents of three pipelines -- the Keystone XL, the Northern Gateway, and the TransMountain -- are not wanted on the voyage to the future.
CLEANING UP DIRTY OIL
According to NRDC’s Anthony Swift, Shell’s Quest CCS project is a step forward in the development of CCS technology, but it does not deliver the silver bullet the Alberta government is relying on to justify its development of the tarsands. One fact stands out: the Quest project will store up to 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 a year, while the Keystone XL tarsands pipeline would increase U.S. well-to-wheel CO2 emissions by up to 27 million tons a year.
Keith Stewart, climate and energy campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Canada, told The Guardian the enormous amount of taxpayer money being spent to sequester tarsands carbon would be much better spent in promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency. "We'd rather see this going towards promoting cars that use less gas, cost consumers less money, or a source of power like wind or solar … The kind of things that are worthy of public support and would actually reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Inspired by the Indigenous Environmental Network, indigenous women are speaking out against the tarsands by writing letters, attending public hearings, and organizing events to maintain solidarity with others and protect and Heal Mother Earth.
On Friday, September 21, the She Speaks event will take place at the Aboriginal Friendship Center in Vancouver. Click here to hear an interview with the organizers, and here to find out more about the event.
The Sierra Club Prairie Chapter and the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation have teamed up to help people participate in the hearings for Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine expansion. The Stop Shell Now website is a one-stop shop that provides everything you need to know to participate thoughtfully and knowledgeably in the hearings that will determine the fate and future of a project that will push some tarsands pollutants past government limits. But you’d better hurry: Comments must be in by October 1.
It is not just extracting tarsands oil that puts communities at risk, it is refining it. A new report by Forest Ethics points out that refineries are one of the most hazardous parts of our transportation system, especially for minority communities, the poor, the young and the old. And Alberta`s dirty tarsands oil only makes it worse.
Which is, of course, why so many people oppose tarsands development and the pipelines that carry it.
CLEANING UP DIRTY PIPELINES
Like refineries, pipelines also present unnecessary risks, and technology doesn`t necessarily mitigate them. For years, TransCanada, the Canadian company that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline, has assured the project's opponents that the line will be equipped with sensors that can quickly detect oil spills.
But an analysis of 10 years of federal data by Inside Climate News shows that leak detection systems do not provide as much protection as the public has been led to believe. Between 2002 and July 2012, remote sensors detected only five per cent of the nation's pipeline spills. That just ain`t good enough to justify the building of a massive pipeline over some of our most precious land and water.
An NRDC blog post links climate change-caused extreme weather events with the Keystone XL pipeline review process. Environmental groups have submitted comments to the U.S. State Department, presenting a strong case for a broad and rigorous review of TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline that includes the impacts on climate change of the expansion of tarsands oil extraction.
Cushing, Oklahoma may well be the hub used by New York oil traders to set the benchmark price for all U.S. crude oil, but if TransCanada wants to dig a trench and bury part of its $7 billion, 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline through the Sac and Fox Nation, part of a patchwork of land belonging to Oklahoma’s 38 Native American tribes, it`s got its work cut out for it.
According to George Thurman, chairman of the Sac and Fox Nation, he is worried that the pipeline could dig up unmarked graves or other sacred archeological sites even on private lands. “There are mass graves where people were buried after dying of smallpox,” Thurman told The Washington Post. “There could be another buried out there.”
According to The Hill, Canadian Ambassador to the US Gary Doer said, “I will bet a six-pack that it [Keystone XL] is going to happen." How Canadian. Now tar sands opponents are having some fun with Doer’s bold and beery proclamation, tweeting up a storm in response. Here are a few sample tweets:
- Canadian ambassador bets a 6-pack that Keystone XL will get built. I’d bet a keg that it doesn’t. bit.ly/V99vJW #nokxl
- If he wins, he gets a 6-pack. If we win, we get clean water and less global warming. bit.ly/V99vJW #nokxl
- Double or nothing: A Case of Ogallala Homebrew says Enbridge will not build a pipeline to BC
According to the Edmonton Journal, estimated carbon emissions from the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline are all over the map at the federal joint review hearing for the project. Engineer Chris Peters maintains that carbon emissions could cost $742 million a year by the time the bitumen in the pipeline is refined and burned as gasoline. Calgary-based Enbridge, meanwhile, said only a fraction of those emissions — about $4 million worth a year — come from the construction and operation of the pipeline.
Peters, who runs an engineering in firm in Prince George, B.C., argued the public should be aware of the 37 megatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions that will result from “wells to-wheel “ life cycle of the Alberta bitumen that will end up in Chinese refineries and gas tanks.
But some things are priceless. In an Edmonton Journal op-ed, ForestEthics Advocacy senior energy campaigner Nikki Skuce takes on the economic case for approving the Northern Gateway Pipeline. ``Some things are priceless,`` she writes. ``No matter how you crunch the numbers, they just aren’t worth putting at risk to oil spills.``
Don’t forget about the climate, writes Jen Lash on the Suzuki Foundation website. ``While the clearest link from the tar sands to the ocean is from the threat of an oil spill from supertankers, the less obvious, but exceedingly important, impact is from climate change. Tarsands development is one of the world's largest contributors to climate change. Climate change is causing sea level rise, water temperature increase and ocean acidification which is wreaking havoc on many marine ecosystems.``
It seems Nikki Skuce and Jen Lash are not alone in their opposition to tarsands development and pipelines. The Globe and Mail reported that results from a poll of British Columbians show that public opposition to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline is almost as high as opposition to Enbridge Inc.’s controversial Northern Gateway project.
The poll found that 60.3 per cent of British Columbians surveyed are against Gateway, while 49.9 per cent oppose the twinning of the Trans Mountain system, a half-century-old pipe that already carries substantial volumes of Alberta oil to Burnaby, B.C.
“With these polls as a whole, it’s clear that for every single party, [pipelines] are a political vulnerability,” said Tzeporah Berman, one of B.C.’s best-known environmentalists, who now consults for numerous organizations.