Why We Should All Be Against The Keystone XL Pipeline
The US State Department has released a revised edition of the environmental impact assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline, a pipeline that would carry bitumen from the Alberta Tar Sands of northern Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. There is much to disagree with. However, what was most surprising (other than the fact that it was done by the State Department and not, say the Environmental Protection Agency) is the State Departments conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline “is unlikely to have substantial impact on the rate of development of the oil sands.”
This is, at best, incredible ignorance and at worse, purposeful lying. TD Canada and CIBC (both Canadian banks) have recently said that “Canada’s oil industry is facing a serious challenge to its long-term growth” and that “Canada needs pipe — and lots of it — to avoid the opportunity cost of stranding over a million barrels a day of potential crude oil growth.” Even the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers released a report in 2012 that stated the importance of the Keystone pipeline to the growth of the Tar Sands:
Production from oil sands currently comprises 59 per cent of western Canada’s total crude oil production. In this forecast, oil sands production rises from 1.6 million b/d in 2011 to almost double at 3.1 million b/d by 2020 and 4.2 million b/d by 2025 and 5.0 million b/d by the end of the forecast period in 2030. If the only projects to proceed were the ones in operation or currently under construction, oil sands production would still increase by 54 per cent to 2.5 million b/d by 2020 and then remain relatively flat for the rest of the forecast.
This means that approving the pipeline means allowing the growth in production from the Tar Sands. And that growth is something that none of us should support. Here is why.
First of all, the Tar Sands are a very real threat to our climate. Because of its unconventional state (basically oil mixed with dirt), Tar Sands oil can’t simply be pumped out of the ground. Instead it has to be dug out of the ground (2000 kg = 1 barrel of oil) then heated (by burning natural gas). As a result, the average greenhouse gas emissions for extraction and upgrading of tar sands oil is 3.2 to 4.5 times higher per barrel than conventional oil. In addition, you have to consider the fact that the Tar Sands formation is huge and contains a lot of oil. Now, some would claim that to be a plus. However, if we were to burn every single barrel of oil to be found in the Tar Sands formation, it would release enough carbon dioxide to increase the global temperature by 0,42 degrees Celsius. This makes the Tar Sands a direct threat to the stability of our climate.
In addition, the Tar Sands are also a direct danger to our fresh water. This is because it has to be cleaned before it can be of any use. That is done with fresh water from the Athabasca River. On average, producing a barrel of oil requires the use of 3 to 5 barrels of water. When added up, water consumption from the Tar Sands reached 170 million cubic meters (the residential water use of 1.7 million Canadians) for the year 2011.
And when they are done with with the water, it looks like this:
What you are looking at are tailings. Tailings are toxic and there is no technology that exists to clean them up. As a result, they are accumulated, at a rate of 200 million litres per day, in massive, unlined tailings ponds.
We know that these tailings ponds leak there toxic content. And we know that the Tar Sands are polluting the neighbouring ecosystems. Or else, why would we be finding fish that look like this:
And why would the First Nations people of Fort Chipewyan, who depend on that ecosystem for their food and water, be dying of cancer at higher rates than normal?
We should all be against the Alberta Tar Sands. And that is why we should all be against the Keystone XL pipeline.