Trans-Canada Corp. is seeking to build a 1,700-mile (2,700-kilometer) pipeline route from Montana to the Gulf coast of Texas' oil refineries.
Why Tar Sands or Bituminous Sands are Bad:
Destruction of Forests:
Tar sands mining completely destroys boreal forests.
An area the size of Florida will be completely razed if all Alberta's bitumen is extracted.
Deforestation desists the soil from holding onto water and local humidity is no longer stable. A treeless environment holds the sun's heat in the day, but quickly gives it up at night. As Alberta's deforestation is occurring close to permafrost deposits, there is a great chance that tar sand's mining will accelerate release of methane, within and below the permafrost. Methane is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than CO2.
Destruction of Habitat:
Tar sands mining disrupts native wildlife populations and interferes with migratory routes (birds and mammals).
Tar Sand Extraction. Photo David Dodge, The Pembina Institute. www.pembina.org
Waste water damages Canadian waterways, wetlands and wildlife.
Oil Sands Tailings ponds (lakes of toxic waste, filled with heavy metals and polycyclic aromatic compounds) leak, seep and evaporate. In just one of those ponds, one mining company dumps 250,000 tons of toxic gunk each day. Already Alberta has 70,000 square miles of tailings ponds, just think what the future holds.5
Oilsands extraction uses large amounts of water. Mining requires a net volume of two to four barrels of freshwater to extract and upgrade one barrel of bitumen.2
On a lifecycle basis, the average gallon of tar sands bitumen has between 14 and 37 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than the average gallon of fuel from conventional oil.2
The Canadian tar sands oil could potentially emit twice the amount of CO2 pollution as all the world's oil already used.
Refining tar sands oil emits more sulfur dioxide than conventioal oil.
Bitumen from the oil sands in Canada must be either diluted with lighter oils (dilbit) or heated for ease of traveling via the pipeline. Most often, natural gas liquids will be used to dilute the bitumen. Synthetic crude oils (partially refined bitumen) will also be shipped through the pipeline. Included in that mix will be benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, hydrogen sulfide and polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons. Up to 830,000 barrels a day will flow through the pipeline.
In 2010, a pipeline filled with tar sands oil from Canada leaked a million gallons of fuel. Responders were not informed it was tar sands oil until the oil had sunk to the bottom of the Kalamazoo River. The Michigan oil spill has cost in excess of $800 million to clean up so far and 38 miles of the Kalamazoo is still contaminated.6
The U.S. already imports 800,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil.4 The TransCanada Keystone I pipeline had 12 leaks in its first year of operation.
The Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Missouri River, Yellowstone River and Red River as well as aquifers that supply water to millions of Americans.
Tar sands pipelines operate at higher temperatures and that heated tar and its additives are more corrosive to pipelines than conventional oil. A "study showed that pipelines operating in the range of 130°F to 159°F were nearly 24 times more likely to leak due to external corrosion and six times more likely to leak from any cause than pipelines operating under 70°F. The Keystone is expected to operate between 130 and 150 degrees.6
Leak detection systems have proven unreliable.6
A recent State Department impact assessment found that the pipeline would directly create only “3,900″ construction jobs in the U.S. for just 2 years, while the pipeline is being built, but then will employ just a handful (50) to keep it maintained. The jobs are up in Alberta.
Port Arthur, Texas (the pipes end point) is a foreign-trade zone that allows tax-free transactions.3
Currently there are no other routes of pipeline to coastal ports. The Alberta oil sands are landlocked. Trucks and trains can carry out so much. If all refuse access to coastal ports, less tar sands oil would be mined.
15-30 percent of a barrel of tar sands oil is petcoke, a solid coke-like residual fuel.1
Petcoke is often blended with coal in coal fired power plants or shipped overseas. The petcoke produced from the Keystone XL pipeline could fuel 5 coal plants a day.
On a per-unit of energy basis petcoke emits 5 to 10 percent more carbon dioxide than coal. Petcoke emissions have been excluded from most emissions estimates for the pipeline, because it is considered a refinery byproduct.1
"Bitumen is junk energy. A joule, or unit of energy, invested in extracting and processing bitumen returns only four to six joules in the form of crude oil. In contrast, conventional oil production in North America returns about 15 joules."5
Boreal Forest, Canada. greenpeace.org
Alberta's Tar Sand Mining. www.pembina.org
We need to start reducing - not increasing greenhouse gas emissions.
The pipeline would fuel a complacent, dependance on dirty fuels.
There is a social cost to carbon. The EPA puts it at a low $21 per metric ton.
We need to assign a cost for use of natural resources and affect on living systems. A tax could make tar sands oil cost prohibitive.
Investing in dirty oil will delay investments in clean technologies. Oil companies will focus on pumping the enormous quantities of oil, not new clean technologies.
Last year wind supplied more than 9% of all power in Texas. This is a positive direction.
Hydrocarbons are subsidized by taxpayers, yet profits go into the hands of but a few (and those few obviously do not care about their grandchildren's future habitat).
2] Beneath the Surface: Pembina Institue: www.pembina.org/pub/2404
Trans Canada FAQ: http://www.transcanada.com/6142.html
5] The Tar Sands Disaster: www.nytimes.com
6] Tar Sands Pipeline Risks: switchboard.nrdc.org