Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Keystone XL Pipeline...ready for approval, while protesters go to jail

From the State Department website, August 26, 2011
On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of State (the Department) issued the final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline, which, if approved, would run from Alberta, Canada to Texas. Under Executive Order 13337, the Department is responsible for receiving all applications for presidential permits for the construction of a pipeline crossing a United States international border. After consultation with eight federal agencies and the public, the Department is charged with making a determination as to whether a permit for the Keystone XL oil pipeline is in the U.S. national interest.
About the Proposed Project
TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, LP (Keystone) filed an application in 2008 for a Presidential Permit with the Department of State to build and operate the Keystone XL Project. As shown on the map at right, the proposed Keystone XL Project consists of a 1700-mile crude oil pipeline and related facilities that would primarily be used to transport Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin crude oil from an oil supply hub in Alberta, Canada to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. The proposed Project would also be capable of transporting U.S. crude oil to those delivery points. The proposed project could transport up to 830,000 barrels per day and is estimated to cost $7 billion. If permitted, it would begin operation in 2013, with the actual date dependant on the necessary permits, approvals, and authorizations.
Yesterday, among others, Bill McKibbon, renowned environmentalist, interviewed on On Point with Tom Ashbrook, noted that with the wall-to-wall coverage of hurricane Irene over this past weekend, there was not a single word mentioned about the fact that the storm system was moving over the warmest waters up the coast of North America in history. That is why, according to McKibbon, the storm took the route it did and lasted as long as it did. Nevertheless, addicted to immediate symptoms, the American and U.S. media both attended to the nano-second developments, while ignoring the impact of climate change and global warming.
Ironically, McKibbon was being interviewed from Washington where he had gathered at the White House with a few dozen others ready to be jailed as he was only a few weeks ago, to protest the Keystone XL pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas refineries. The decision will likely be made within the next 90 days by president Obama.
However, as the State Department Environmental Impact Study notes, while there is the danger of leaks from the proposed gigantic pipeline (there already have been some dozen-plus leaks in the early construction on the Canadian side), the options that Canadian developers of the project might take could be potentially even more hazardous to the environment. Giant ships plying the west coast of North America could result in a, God forbid, second Exxon Valdez; trucks carrying crude oil, in the amounts projected by the pipeline (some 900,000 barrels per day) would easily clog already overcrowded highways and freeways not to mention the potential danger of additional accidents and resulting spills.
It is the American appetite for crude oil, just as it is the American appetite for illicit drugs, that drives these markets, although the crude market is at least conducted by registered corporations over which there is a modicum of public control, which control is virtually completely absent in the drug trade.
It is the degree of commitment, dedication and intensity of people like McKibbon that inspires others to learn about these projects, and to begin to think of the serious implications either way, whether the project is approved or not.
Here is another of those "damned if you do-damned if you don't" decisions that will soon reach the president's desk. If he approves the project, the environmentalists will say he has sold out on his principles and the left will become even more disenchanted; if he rejects the project, the millions of Americans who seek to get their country off "foreign oil" constitute much of the independent voting block he needs for re-election.
Like the Governors who evacuated hundreds of thousands prior to hurricane Irene, they are being criticized for over-reacting, yet if they had ignored the problem, they would have been criticized even more for failing to act.
In this case, Obama may have to hold his nose and approve the project, while insisting on extreme safeguards to protect the environment, a mid-way decision that will likely please very few.

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