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.

Big Oil And Its Worldwide Oiligarchy.

If oligarchy is a power structure in which all political power effectively rests with a few people, Oiligarchy is the perfect term to describe what has become the most powerful industry on Earth. Since World War II, Chevron, Exxon Mobil, BP, Royal Dutch Shell and others have gained increasing control over the US government, along with our foreign policy and our military.

Oiligarchy operatives and lobbyists are a virtual Who’s Who of American politics, including Presidents George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, as well as former Secretaries of State James Baker, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Condoleezza Rice, former Vice President Dick Cheney, Senator Bob Dole, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, former National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former CIA Director James Woolsey, and many, many, many others.

Their connections to the oily empire are deep. Richard “The Dick” Cheney was previously CEO of oil giant Halliburton. Condoleezza Rice served on the board of Chevron and even had an oil supertanker named in her honor. And before Dubya failed as president, he experienced multiple failures in the oil business.

At times, these people have sided with Big Oil at the expense of national security, the environment and human rights. Indeed, the oil companies’ greed, along with our thirst for cheap gasoline has resulted in wars, dictatorships, genocides, toppled governments and a growing worldwide hatred of the US.

Following the Cheney-inspired Project for a New American Century, Bush, Cheney and their minions helped Big Oil elbow its way into the Caucasus and Caspian Sea regions in order to steal oil from Russia and keep it from Iran. In the process, we took the side of Chechen rebels who were led by Muslim extremists in their fight for secession from Russia.

The war in Afghanistan was preceded by US demands for an oil pipeline across that country. The war in Iraq was a cynical and clumsy attempt to control Iraqi oil. Even our unyielding support for Israel seems driven less by a desire to protect Israel from its Arab neighbors than by Big Oil’s desire to have a powerful ally near Middle East oil fields. And in an especially cynical move, US-backed Big Oil and Russia are in a race to lay claim to Arctic drilling as the polar ice cap melts. (Ironically, oil-caused global warming is creating an opportunity to capture and burn even more oil!)

Not content with its lethal impact on international politics, Big Oil has set its sights on further destroying our environment in its quest for ever larger profits. The Oiligarchy is demanding that the Obama administration approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which is intended to carry oil from the newly-fracked oil fields in North Dakota and the tar sands of Alberta, Canada to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast. The claim is that the pipeline will create “tens of thousands” of new jobs in the US, but a review by the Cornell University Global Labor Institute estimated that the pipeline would add only 506 to 1,387 new jobs.

In exchange for that meager number of jobs, Big Oil wants us to risk the inevitable spills of a substance the EPA says is virtually impossible to clean up. The US has already experienced at least two spills of the particularly dirty and gooey tar sands oil. In one of the spills, a pipeline belched 200,000 gallons of oil into a Michigan river. Nearly three years later, the oil has sunk to the bottom of the river and has not biodegraded. It likely never will.

Worse yet, the bituminous oil from tar sands is often referred to as “junk oil.” As a fuel source, it is terribly inefficient, creating an inordinate amount of pollution relative to the energy it provides. Once it flows (or more accurately, oozes) onto the market, it will dramatically increase greenhouse gases, leading environmental experts to state that it will be “game over” for our planet.

Big Oil doesn’t seem to care.

Spending billions in attempts to elect subservient politicians, to lobby Congress and to confuse voters, Big Oil owners like the Koch brothers deny the impact of fossil fuels on climate change. Ignoring the findings of almost every climate scientist in the world, they and their bought-and-paid-for politicians claim that climate change is “unsettled science,” a “sham,” the “greatest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people.”

If they’re wrong (and it’s almost certain they are), they won’t pay the price. But our planet and most of its inhabitants will.