Five Times The Distance. Five Times The Spills?

The debate over the Keystone XL pipeline is puzzling on many fronts. We hear that the pipeline will create jobs (although the number has been greatly exaggerated); that it’s safer than transporting oil by train; that it will lessen US dependency on foreign oil. Disregarding the fact that oil from the Alberta tar sands is foreign oil and the fact that most of the oil will be shipped to foreign markets, I have yet to hear anyone address the most obvious issue. The Alberta tar sands are located roughly 2,300 miles from the pipeline’s ultimate destination on the Gulf Coast. Yet the tar sands are just over 400 miles from the Pacific Ocean near Vancouver.

That’s more than five times as far, offering five times the opportunity for oil spills.

Even more puzzling is the fact that there is already a pipeline from the tar sands to Vancouver. If it doesn’t have the capacity to carry as much oil as Trans-Canada would like, why not increase its size? To equal the distance of the Keystone XL pipeline, they could increase the capacity of their Trans Mountain pipeline five-fold and eliminate the political conflict with their neighbor to the south. Instead, the Canadian company is asking US citizens to assume the risks of oil spills on our own pristine lands with few benefits to offset the risk.

This oil is even worse than the gooey, toxic stuff that has already despoiled our Gulf Coast. It’s even more toxic. Moreover, no one yet knows how to clean up the stuff. We’ve already experienced two spills of tar sands oil in US rivers and the so-called oil experts have no advice to offer other than to let it sink to the bottom. Worse yet, when the stuff is refined, one of the by-products is a fine, toxic dust that pollutes the entire surrounding area.

Seriously, Canada, I admire your country. I love your scenic beauty. I love your cosmopolitan cities. I love your people. But if you want to develop your tar sands deposits, you will reap the rewards. You should also reap the consequences.