Don't Be Afraid of the Keystone XL Pipeline

The Canadian pipeline won't mean "the end of safe drinking water."

Jobs producing bonanza or planet killing behemoth? That’s how the political debate over the construction of the 1,700-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico is being framed. The Keystone pipeline would be used to transport about 500,000 barrels of oil daily derived from Canadian oil sands to refineries on the Gulf coast. Canada is already the largest source of “foreign” oil, providing the U.S. with about 2 million barrels per day.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce claims [PDF] that building the pipeline will eventually result in the creation of 250,000 jobs and boost investment in the U.S. by $20 billion. Environmentalists assert that the pipeline is, in the words of global warming activist Bill McKibben, “a 1,700-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent” and that tapping the oil sands would mean “essentially game over” for the climate. Carbon bomb? McKibben is rhetorically highlighting the fact that the 170 billion barrels of petroleum locked in Canadian oil sands is second only to Saudi Arabia’s 260 billion barrel reserve. Since the pipeline crosses the border, President Barack Obama must decide whether or not to approve the pipeline, placing him directly on the horns of an election dilemma—which constituency to alienate: unemployed workers or environmental activists?

The largest concern of environmental activists is the climate change implications of burning petroleum products derived from Canadian oil sands. However, an October 10 Washington Post editorial, “Keystone XL pipeline is the wrong target for protesters,” points out that if Americans won’t allow the pipeline to be built and buy Canadian oil, then the Chinese and other countries surely will buy it. Two other pipeline companies are in the preliminary stages of developing more pipeline capacity to Canada’s west coast where tankers can load and carry the oil to global markets. Shipping by tanker boosts the emissions of carbon dioxide that contribute to the global warming that the protesters are so worried about.

If fears of global warming are not enough to stop the pipeline, activists cite other concerns, most prominently that pipeline leaks would contaminate the Ogallala aquifer that underlays the Great Plains. The Ogallala aquifer contains about the same amount of water as Lake Huron and stretches over 174,000 square miles in eight states. The pipeline would cross through Nebraska, which accounts for about two-thirds of the volume of Ogallala groundwater.

Left-leaning radio talk show host Thom Hartmann recently claimed, “If this pipeline was to be either blown up by people with nefarious intent or just good old fashion broke and nobody noticed it for a while and that oil got into that Aquifer, that’s the end of safe drinking water and agricultural water for 20 million people.” Some locals also worry about pipeline leaks. "A leak in the Keystone pipeline could conceivably contaminate the entire Ogallala Aquifer, in turn, disrupting the agricultural economy of Nebraska," said David Hutchinson, a Nebraska organic rancher as reported by Reuters. Sounds pretty dire.

University of Nebraska hydrologist Jim Goeke recently pointed out in an op-ed that the pipeline route is over the eastern part of the aquifer. The Ogallala aquifer slopes downward from west to east such that water in the aquifer flows downhill from west to east (at 150 to 300 feet per year). Unless water begins to flow uphill, the eastern route of the pipeline means that up to 80 percent of aquifer is safe from any oil spill contamination from the pipeline.

Goeke notes, in addition, that an aquifer is not like a lake or other open body of water; it is contained in a jumble of different kinds of rock, sands, and soils. “The variability of the aquifer's rock layers means that any spill would be contained within a very small area of that 25 percent of the aquifer to the east of the pipeline,” claims Goeke. Why? Because of some rock and soil layers are relatively impermeable to oil and would block the flow of oil below the surface. Goeke bases this conclusion on a 25-year study by the U.S. Geological Survey of a pipeline oil spill near Bemidji, Minnesota.

In 1979, an oil pipeline burst near Bemidji, spewing about 10,700 barrels of oil across about two acres of land. Most of the oil was recovered, but some 2,500 barrels percolated into ground reaching the shallow water table. In 1983, the U.S. Geological Survey set up the National Crude Oil Spill Fate and Natural Attenuation Research Site at Bemidji to study the evolution of oil spills in the environment.

The U.S. State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) issued [PDF] in August for the Keystone XL pipeline project cited the ongoing Bemidji oil spill study noting, “While the conditions at Bemidji are not fully analogous to the Sand Hills region [of Nebraska through which the pipeline would pass], extensive studies of the Bemidji spill suggest that impacts to shallow groundwater from a spill of a similar volume in the Sand Hills region would affect a limited area of the aquifer around the spill site.” The EIS further observed, “In no spill incident scenario would the entire Northern High Plains Aquifer system be adversely affected.” 

Natural processes including biodegradation in which native microbes convert the petroleum into carbon dioxide, methane, and other products are attenuating the spilled oil underground. Since 1979, the oil itself has flowed 160 feet downgrade from the spill site while dissolved hydrocarbons have moved about 660 feet. As a result of these natural processes, the Bemidji spill has apparently reached equilibrium [PDF] and has stabilized. Based on the research from the Bemidji site, U.S. Geological Survey researcher Geoffrey Delin told InsideClimateNews that he thinks any dissolved hydrocarbons from a Keystone XL pipeline break that percolates into groundwater would probably remain within 1,000 feet of the spill point.

In order to allay spill fears, the operators of the Keystone XL pipeline have now offered to encase the pipeline in a concrete jacket where it crosses shallow aquifers and to put up a $100 million performance bond to cover any clean up costs. No industrial process is without risk and spills will happen. Make no mistake: Oil spills are nasty. But what amounts to scaremongering that a leak in the Keystone XL pipeline would “end safe drinking water” in Nebraska and “contaminate the entire” Ogallala aquifer sadly traduces science in an attempt to pursue environmentalist politics by other means.

Ronald Bailey is Reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

Disclosure: My travel expenses to visit Alberta's oil sands were covered by the American Petroleum Institute. The API did not ask for nor does it have any editorial control over my reporting of this trip or on this issue. 

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • rts||

    Those alternate pipelines west are also being protested and blocked by various First Nations and environmental groups, as well as a proposed government moratorium on oil shipping off BC's coast (which I don't think got anywhere).

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/.....nkers.html

  • ||

    that's always the common thread, isn't it: if it improves the flow of and access to affordable energy, the enviros are against it.

  • JMW||

    Two words environmentalists don't like to hear when it comes to energy sources: cheap and plentiful.

  • Old Mexican||

    Since the pipeline crosses the border, President Barack Obama must decide whether or not to approve the pipeline, placing him directly on the horns of an election dilemma—which constituency to alienate: unemployed workers or environmental activists?


    I don't see why he would have to make that decision; just let unemployed, hardhatted oil workers (tough, burly) duke it out with environmentalists (thin, lilly-white, effeminate) and see who wins.

  • ||

    Pleasing as that might be, I am afraid that the blood of the "environmentalists" might contaminate the aquifer.

  • Suki||

    Besides, the smelly environazis are a protected species.

  • Doktor Kapitalism||

    They *are* that rare.

  • ||

    That "dilemma" would be a no-brainer if Obama had a hundreth of the political acumen he's supposed to have. Envirowackos aren't going to flee to the GOP.

  • ||

    But they might stay home on November 6, 2012 and Barry O is going to need votes to overcome the loss of the swing voters he got in 2008.

  • ||

    He's in such trouble that he's going to need people in other countries to vote for him.

  • ||

    Come on, this isn't Chicago.

  • Apatheist||

    That's ok, I'm sure they'll be able to scrounge together a few more voters from Hades than they usually do.

  • ||

    shhh! don't give ACORN any ideas...

  • mr simple||

    But, but, someone told me ACORN was doing God's work.

  • ||

    "...someone told me ACORN was doing Owebama'a work."
    fify

  • Irvine Plumber||

    awesome read!

  • ||

    If BO needs envirowacko votes to get elected, he's fucked.

    Normally you would think pissing off the base could hurt a candidate's war chest, but he's going to have more money than God for this campaign.

  • Joe||

    Or defect over to the green party. Not unlikely.

  • ldhh||

    An environmentalist friend of mine is travelling all the way across the country next month to participate in the protests against this project. I've avoided engaging her in discussion about it, in part because I don't have the background to intelligently answer her concerns, and in part because there is no answer that will satisfy her passionate opposition to it.

    One thing that she cited, though, that I don't see addressed in this article, is the notion that the oil coming from this reservoir is particularly "dirty," and should never be used.

    I'm familiar with the concept of "light, sweet crude" - oil that's got a high concentration of the distillates used in gasoline &c. - but what is the makeup of the oil from this project? Is it somehow distinctly more harmful, whether in terms of carbon emissions, the proportion of usable fractions, or some other characteristic?

    Thanks for shedding some light on this topic... I know that some folks have a tough time viewing such subjects with anything like objectivity.

  • EcoNut||

    The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through complex and energy-intensive processes that cause widespread environmental damage — polluting the Athabasca River, lacing the air with toxins and turning farmland into wasteland. Large areas of the Boreal Forest are being clearcut to make way for development in the tar sands, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.

    Greenpeace is also concerned with the social and health costs. First Nations communities in the tar sands report unusually high levels of rare cancers and autoimmune diseases. Their traditional way of life has been threatened. Substance abuse, suicide, gambling and family violence have increased in the tar sands. The thousands of workers brought in by oil companies face a housing crisis in northern Alberta.
    http://www.greenpeace.org/cana...../tarsands/

  • Apatheist||

    He asked for objective information not ecoscum propoganda and lies.

  • ||

    There is a little bit of information hidden in the first sentence.

  • ||

    EcoNut: Sadly alcohol abuse is a problem among First Nations that don''t live anywhere near oil sands.

    With regard to the "housing crisis" - that is a predictable side effect of any resource boom.

  • ||

    EcoNut: With regard to boreal forests, I reported in my Conflict Oil v. Canadian Oil dispatch:

    Canada’s boreal forest covers 2.2 million square miles, an area that is about 60 percent of the size of the entire United States. So far oil sands production has disturbed about 410 square miles of boreal forest. For comparison, the Chicago metropolitan area covers about 10,000 square miles.

    As a former farm boy, I was very interested in taking in the landscape of Northern Alberta. While there may be some kind of farming (cabbages, potatoes?) I did not see any actual farms anywhere near Fort McMurray.

  • Apatheist||

    pwned

  • Suki||

    Is that the big scar that gave the earth a fever? I heard it from a Nobel Prize winner.

  • ||

    Talk about purple prose...

  • ||

    WRT the enviromental footprint, see the article Ron links to below.

    WRT to the "human" effects, Greenpeace is willfully ignoring the long history of social problems for "First Nations" people in Canada. The problems are not particular to the tar sands area and are primarily the result of long term government programs - especially the Indian Act - which have served to keep "First Nations" people in a state of dependency. The tar sands are providing "First Nations" people with more economic opportunity than they have ever had before.

    There is indeed a housing shortage - so many workers are coming for jobs that there is no place for them to stay. This is not unique to the tar sands; every "boom town" in history has had the same problem.

  • ||

    A housing shortage is a pretty good problem to have and usually sorts itself out pretty quickly. Lots of unemployed home builders out there.

  • ||

    Greenpeace is willfully ignoring
    -------------------
    does it really matter what follows?

  • sevo||

    'The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through clever processes and cause widespread prosperity...'

    FIFY, eco-whacko.

  • ||

    To be fair, the processes are pretty energy intensive compared to more conventional oil sources. That's why the tar sands didn't really start to be exploited on any large scale until oil prices got up pretty high.

  • sevo||

    "To be fair, the processes are pretty energy intensive compared to more conventional oil sources."

    Yep, and the first time humans had to drill for oil rather than just collecting it, the same rules applied.

  • JMW||

    'The tar sands are huge deposits of bitumen, a tar-like substance that’s turned into oil through clever processes and cause widespread prosperity...'

    This, sadly, is probably most greens think. Some are just more honest about it than others.

  • ||

    From the Royal Society of Canada The Academies of Arts, Humanities and Sciences of Canada.

    Impacts of oil sands contaminants on downstream residents:
    There is currently no credible evidence of environmental contaminant exposures from oil sands reaching Fort Chipweyan at levels expected to cause elevated human cancer rates. More monitoring focused on human contaminant exposures is needed to address First Nation and community concerns.

    Warning 438 pages:

    http://www.rsc.ca/documents/expert/RSC report complete secured 9Mb.pdf

  • Old Mexican||

    I'll wait for the abridged paperback version to be reelased, thank you very much.

  • PantsFan the Canuck||

    Or the Audio version narrated by the Shat

  • SIV||

    Who the fuck cares it's Canada!

  • Brett||

    Ronald Bailey wrote another article from trip to Fort MacMurry to see a tarsands operation.

  • ||

    ldhh: For more background, you might want to take a look at my two dispatches from Alberta earlier this year, The Man-Made Miracle of Oil from Sand, and Conflict Oil or Canadian Oil?

    With regard to the "dirtiness" of the oil sands oil, environmentalists usually mean that producing it involves more greenhouse gas emissions than conventionally produced oil. From the Conflict Oil dispatch:

    ... a 2010 well-to-wheels study by the consultancy IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates that calculated that with regard to greenhouse gas emissions, the “average oil sands import is about 6 percent higher than that of the average crude oil consumed in the United States.”

    A 2010 report from the Royal Society of Canada notes that other studies have found that producing oil from oil sands results in greenhouse gas emissions that average 10 to 20 percent higher than conventional oil.

  • ||

    And an equivalently-powered electric or solar car produces what, 50% more greenhouse gases than a gasoline auto?

  • ||

    Nah, EV's emit less carbon per mile by about a factor of two. This is assuming that the carbon is emitted at the power plant, of course. The EV's themselves emit no carbon, of course.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E....._emissions

  • mofo||

    Any idea how much the keystone XL pipeline would change the well-to-wheels emissions?

  • ||

    Ron, thanks again for a positive article that:
    1) proves the ingenuity of man,
    2) shows Owebama's anti-american agenda as he will most certainly not approve the pipeline to apease his enviro-wacko base...
    3) Owebama,once again will hurt the middle class deeply by not approving the pipeline and drive up oil costs as we go into winter...

  • Copernicus||

    "ldhh|10.25.11 @ 5:24PM|#

    An environmentalist friend of mine"

    "environmentalist" and "friend".. You sir are FIRED!

  • Old Mexican||

    Environmentalists assert that the pipeline is, in the words of global warming activist Bill McKibben, “a 1,700-mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent” and that tapping the oil sands would mean “essentially game over” for the climate.


    That is the kind of level-headed and equanimous rhetoric that makes the climate change gang sound so convincing and honest about their arguments and...

    Ok, they stink.

  • ||

    Game over? So that means after this pipeline gets built, the global warming affirmers will just stfu and deal?

  • Old Mexican||

    I think what he means is that the climate runs out of quarters.

  • Old Mexican||

  • mr simple||

    Hudson: That's it man, game over man, game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?

    Burke: Maybe we could build a fire, sing a couple of songs, huh? Why don't we try that?

  • Copernicus||

    "Hey man, I don't know if you've been keeping up with current events, but we just got our ass kicked!"

    Should have won an Oscar for that performance.

  • Apatheist||

    The funny thing is, even if the earth was going to get alot warmer, Canada is one of the places that would benefit from it.

    Global warming activists fail at every single level of the thinking process:
    1. Is the earth getting warmer?
    2. How much warmer?
    3. Is mankind responsible?
    4. For what proportion?
    5. Is the earth getting warmer harmful?
    6. Can it be prevented?
    7. Is the cost of preventing it worth it?

    Even being generous they exaggerate the first four, lie about the 5th and ignore the last two.

  • ||

    Some of the possible results of global warming are decidedly bad for Canada, such as the Gulf Stream shutting down, and of course accelerated extinction of marine life and sea level rise.

    Humans can adapt to fast climate change pretty well. The rest of the biota that we depend on, not so much.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Tulpa,

    Humans can adapt to fast climate change pretty well.


    Humans look good wearing fishnets and sharkhide, plus we know how to drive a mean catamaran...

  • Apatheist||

    If that were true then nothing would have survived for us to evolve from. Some marine life would go extinct and others would move into their niche. For an example on land see Polar Bears vs other bears (one's territory recedes the other expands). For a modern "fast" adapation see the area around chernobyl. Life on earth has survived far worse climate change and far worse things than mankind.

  • Wayne||

    Just watched a Chernobyl documentary last night. It has morphed into an environmental garden of eden. Wolves, bison, birds of all sorts, deer, all kinds of critters are thriving there. Interestingly, it is pretty radioactive but scientists have found no detrimental effects on the animals that live there.

  • Apatheist||

    Life finds a way.

  • ||

    Interestingly, it is pretty radioactive but scientists have found no detrimental effects on the animals that live there.

    Here's a dead wolf from around Chernobyl:

    http://www.angelfire.com/extre.....luto4.html

  • ||

    The picture doesn't really tell us how the wolf died, though, does it/

    One of the funny things about nature, critters die all the time.

  • prolefeed||

    Well, there might be some detrimental effects on some of the wildlife, but that is vastly outweighed by the cessation of the much more detrimental effects on wildlife of human hunters.

  • ||

    To shut down the jet streams, you would have to a) put up mountains about 23,000–39,000 ft longitudinally, or b) make the Earth stop rotating on it's axis. How on earth do you think global warming would "shut down" the jet stream?

  • ||

    joke tag

  • ||

    I think he's referring to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean.

  • ||

    Which doesn't change the situation in the least. Over open water, the jet stream is going to flow uninterrupted. What is global warming going to do to "shut down" the jet stream?

  • ||

    I should learn to read. nvm.

  • ||

    Gulf stream. If I recall correctly, the fear is that warmer water in the N Atlantic, the circulation might shut down, causing Europe and maritime Canada to be a lot colder.

  • ||

    Worrying about global warming heating the earth to the point of shutting down the convection currents in the Ocean is pretty fucking silly. The duration and intensity of heat required to do that would have killed us off well before then.

  • ||

    If ordinary atmospheric temperatures could not affect ocean currents, the Gulf Stream wouldn't exist in the first place.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Worrying about global warming heating the earth to the point of shutting down the convection currents in the Ocean is pretty fucking silly. The duration and intensity of heat required to do that would have killed us off well before then.

    Wait, you're calling someone silly?

    http://news.sciencemag.org/sci.....29-02.html

    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/.....le-ice-age

  • ||

    There's also the problem of increased fresh water from melting glaciers in Greenland and northeastern Canada being dumped into the path of the GS (technically North Atlantic Drift in that area).

  • ||

    Yep, and as far as we know, it's been going on for a few billion years. You think 75 years of marginal increases in atmospheric temperatures is going to grind that to a halt?

  • ||

    Sy Fail. The Atlantic Ocean is only 130 million years old. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....an#History

  • ||

    On the subject of the Ogalla Aquifer, I am willing to bet that the Aquifer is in far more danger from excess extraction than any oil pipeline.

    A spill that affected a radius of 1,000 feet from the leak would involve, about a millionth of the aquifer.

    Reports I have seen about usage indicate that, in some areas, the water table has dropped over 60 feet due to the water being extracted faster than the natural flow replaces it.

  • ||

    This.

    A big part of the problem is the ever-increasing corn cultivation in that area for (a) ethanol and (b) livestock feed as the proportion of meat in our diet increases. I don't expect to see the celebs and assorted groupies protesting in Des Moines over the perverse subsidy regimes responsible.

  • Alan Vanneman||

    I'm sorry, but Sean Penn knows way more about the Ogallala aquifer than Ron Bailey. Because Sean Penn is totally part Indian.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Alan Vanneman,

    I have to tip my hat to you, Alan - that was really funny!

  • ||

    Because Sean Penn is totally part Indian.

    I first read that as "part idiot", which would not be true.

    He is a complete idiot.

  • ||

    I thought Sean Penn was White, but you're saying he's Indian?

    Aha....

  • Old Mexican||

    Don't. You. Dare. Invoke. Him.

  • Chris||

    He's half white from his Jewish side.

  • Gilbert Martin||

    "Sean Penn is totally part Indian."

    Which part would that be?

  • JMW||

    Depends on what day of the week it is, I'd reckon.

  • ||

    If you told me Sean Penn was half horse, I'd definitely know which half it was.

  • JMW||

    Well. He does have an ass for a mouth.

  • Brother Grimm||

    The part that can't handle his liquor.

  • Mokers||

    When I saw the headline for being afraind of Keystone XL, I was wondering if some state liquor commission had started banning tall boys.

  • insubstantial juris imprudent||

    Apparently the Keystone XL project needs the Keystone beer spokes-dude to counter all that celebrity power.

  • ||

    Hold my stones...

  • ||

    I don't get it. I don't care how safe they say it could be, why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??

    Hemp ethanol could be produced here in the US for a few cents a gallon. It is estimated that 7% of our farm land could completely eliminate all foreign oil imports! Talk about a green & sustainable energy source!

    Unlike corn, industrial hemp can be used for food, fuel, fiber, and many other things -- all from the same crop. We could literally save the American farmer, help clean the environment, and end our addiction to foreign oil tomorrow -- simply by legalizing the cultivation of industrial hemp today.

    Not only are we borrowing 43 cents out of every dollar from China, we have left almost the entire hemp industry to them, and business is booming -- they are making a fortune while we slip ever further into debt. (Side note - The USA is the biggest consumer of hemp in the world, and the ONLY industrialized nation that does not allow it's cultivation)

    Madness. Just madness.

  • ||

    Problem is, hemp flies out of the ground and forces children to smoke it and get addicted. So it's not an option.

  • Apatheist||

    I'm all for fully legalizing hemp (and marijuana) but:

    "Hemp ethanol could be produced here in the US for a few cents a gallon."
    citation needed

    "I don't get it. I don't care how safe they say it could be, why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??"

    I don't get it, what exactly is the problem with importing oil from Canada? And we wouldn't need to export as much from them if we were allowed to exploit our own oilsands fully.

  • ||

    I don't get it. I don't care how safe they say it could be, why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??

    Please read David Ricardo.

    Also, you might look up what country buys more US exports than any other.

  • ||

    Hey, thanks again!

  • mustard||

    You should look up which country buys more Canadian exports than any other.

  • Old Mexican||

    So what, you stupid ignorant twit?

  • ||

    I already know.

    Which is why I referred to Ricardo.

    BTW, if Americans don't like energy being exported from the GWN, I am sure you won't mind if we disconnect you from the hydroelectric dams in Northern Quebec.

  • tote-road||

    I prefer Molson Ex, myself.

  • mofo||

    "Hemp ethanol could be produced here in the US for a few cents a gallon. It is estimated that 7% of our farm land could completely eliminate all foreign oil imports! " [[Citation needed]]

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Rational Voice,

    I don't care how safe they say it could be, why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??


    Especially when we're still reeling from ou dependency on foreign sneakers? And avocados?

  • Gilbert Martin||

    And the rare earth metals used in those whiz bang electric cars.

    95% of the entire world's production of them is in China.

  • ||

    It's fairly obvious.

    People that want to continue to support oil dependence can quite simply be called "Un-American."

    I find it treasonous to allow America to keep it's addiction to oil flowing. Even Wallmart has woken up and starting putting millions toward sustainable, no, American-energy.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: rich,

    People that want to continue to support oil dependence can quite simply be called "Un-American."


    And advocating for total economic autarky would make one the epitomy of patriotism, I would presume. You know, becoming North Korea.

    I find it treasonous to allow America to keep it's addiction to oil flowing.


    Don't forget our addiction to avocados. That's dangerous as well. Oh, and Play Station 3's.

    Even Wallmart has woken up and starting putting millions toward sustainable, no, American-energy.


    Good for Wallmart! How about Walmart, though?

  • Old Mexican||

    Sorry, epitome.

  • ||

    Allowing people to purchase and consume the energy source of their choice is "Un-American"?

  • sevo||

    "I don't get it. I don't care how safe they say it could be, why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??"

    Is that what they say about food in NYC?
    There is no guarantee that a good will be found where it is used. None.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "I don't get it. I don't care how safe they say it could be, why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??[sic]"

    I don't get it, why would we want to tell people what to do with their own private property?

  • ||

    A plus trolling.

  • ||

    why on earth would we want something that will INCREASE our dependence on foreign oil??

    Well, Canada isn't exactly a foreign country, hey?

  • ||

    If Ron Paul is to be believed, it won't be for long.

  • Apatheist||

    We wouldn't want our money going to those radical canadian terrorists.

  • ||

    With their breath stinking of maple syrup.

  • PantsFan the Canuck||

    They might use the money to buy Kraft Dinner

  • JMW||

    Or tickets to a Leafs game.

  • ||

    I just read something about a Leahy bill that would criminalize the marketing of fake Vermont syrup.

  • insubstantial juris imprudent||

    Who do you think was the inspiration for the Senator in Thank You for Smoking?

  • ||

    Captain Syrup?

  • Concerned||

    The pipeline itself might not be frightening, but TransCanada's attempt to use eminent domain for land "easement" is downright scary!

  • ||

    That is a criticism I consider fair and valid.

  • ||

    I love that if you want your children to live in a cleaner world, where energy is no longer bought and sold by the Middle East and turned into a commodity so Big Oil can make $10 billion in one quarter, you must be an "econut."

    I love that if you want American to be energy independent, then your "ecoscum."

    So quickly can people disagree and turn to name-calling instead of speaking intelligently and debating over an issue. So quickly must you go to fighting and spilling blood. As if every solution involves bulldozing and fisticuffs.

    Think about this: Wouldn't $7,000,000,000 be better served buy building and creating sustainable energy production methods? Systems that wouldn't run out in 30 years. Solutions that could make every home owner an energy producer. Where solar, wind and geothermal energy, of which is in an unlimited supply, truly free America.

    This is a slippery slope, a slope that leads to a dependence on oil that if we don't release it's grasp we'll be stuck in. While Europe and China live and prosper, laughing as we dig deeper, blow up more, demolish, remove and slowly destroy the Rockies, Alaska and the rest of our homeland.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: rich,

    I love that if you want your children to live in a cleaner world, where energy is no longer bought and sold by the Middle East and turned into a commodity so Big Oil can make $10 billion in one quarter, you must be an "econut."


    No - using shrill language and bad science to reinforce an economics-destroying agenda IS being an "eco-nut."

    I love that if you want American to be energy independent, then your "ecoscum."


    No - using shrill language and bad science to argue that the laws of physics can be bend is being "eco-scum."

    Think about this: Wouldn't $7,000,000,000 be better served buy building and creating sustainable energy production methods?


    Not if the return in value is not worth at least the $7,000,000,000.00. Thinking that "it's only money" would make you both an "eco-nut" and an "eco-scum," so don't even go there.

    Systems that wouldn't run out in 30 years.


    When they run out, that would make other methods more cost-effective, so why do you worry?

    Solutions that could make every home owner an energy producer.


    Don't be a pussy and get this all the way: Let every home owner be also a dairy farmer and a shirt maker.

    And poor.

  • ||

    Re: Old Mexican
    Ah, name-calling. You must be in high school.

    Your ignorance is amazing. Your dimwitted assumptions of "bad science" and "economics destroying agenda" mystifying. Well done. You've officially countered all my rhetorical questions with even simpler answers.

    By the way even the skeptics believe the climate is changing: http://www.popsci.com/science/.....te-skeptic’s-new-climate-study-confirms-‘global-warming-real

    To your retort: Why would we want to focus any amount of money on an UNLIMITED resource?

    Simple, the cost of creating sustainable energy is just that. You develop the system and maintain it.

    With oil, nuclear, gas, chemical, whatever you come up with has other affects. The environmental and health effects are scientific and lasting. Contamination and clean-up are costly, not to mention it effects more than land, but lives.

    "Dairy farmer and shirt maker." What are you talking about? Your literally insane. It's a solar panel, put it on your house, you save money. Everyone does it? The U.S. sells energy to other countries. AND IT'S FREE TO PRODUCE YOU IDIOT.

  • Apatheist||

    Unlimited doesn't mean what you think it means.

    "AND IT'S FREE TO PRODUCE YOU IDIOT."

    BAHAHAAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAAHA

  • ||

    It's a solar panel, put it on your house, you save money.

    How do you "save money" on something that will never pay for itself? Must be magic unicorn economics.

  • ||

    By the way even the skeptics believe the climate is changing: ...

    The climate is always changing. The claim that skeptics believe otherwise is a straw man. On to the pop-sci article. It states:

    Richard Muller, a physicist at the University of California-Berkeley and a self-described climate skeptic ...

    Yea sure ... some people will believe anything. The so called "self-described climate skeptic" had this to say in 2003:

    http://muller.lbl.gov/TRessays.....rming.html

    Let me be clear. My own reading of the literature and study of paleoclimate suggests strongly that carbon dioxide from burning of fossil fuels will prove to be the greatest pollutant of human history. It is likely to have severe and detrimental effects on global climate.

    Sheesh.

  • Apatheist||

    You can't have an intelligent debate with someone who is either a liar or willfully ignorant but I'll try:

    "I love that if you want your children to live in a cleaner world, where energy is no longer bought and sold by the Middle East and turned into a commodity so Big Oil can make $10 billion in one quarter, you must be an "econut.""

    Then you must support this because the oil will be coming from CANADA who by the way is our biggest importer of oil.

    "I love that if you want American to be energy independent, then your "ecoscum.""

    If you truly supported energy independence then you would support opening up our own vast oilsand resources. We are also have the world's biggest natural gas and coal deposits. Our nuclear industry is nowhere near being used to its full potential. We have the resources to be independent for centuries but people like you get in the way.

    "Think about this: Wouldn't $7,000,000,000 be better served buy building and creating sustainable energy production methods?"

    If they are then the market will bear that out.

    " Systems that wouldn't run out in 30 years. Solutions that could make every home owner an energy producer. Where solar, wind and geothermal energy, of which is in an unlimited supply, truly free America"

    None of those things are true/possible. We have far more than 30 years of traditional energy sources. Few homes in America can produce more energy than the consume using renewable sources. Solar, wind and geothermal are limited by the amount of space for panels, amount of capturable wind and amount of capturable heat energy. They are also limited by physics.

    "This is a slippery slope, a slope that leads to a dependence on oil that if we don't release it's grasp we'll be stuck in. While Europe and China live and prosper, laughing as we dig deeper, blow up more, demolish, remove and slowly destroy the Rockies, Alaska and the rest of our homeland."

    Europe and China are just as dependant on reality as we are. China is one of the world's worst polluters. To hold them up as an example is disingenuous and retarded.

  • ||

    On that last point, I find it positively surreal that some environmentalists like to talk about China, well, at all when it comes to clean energy. China can toss money at alternative energy all they want, but the reality is they are polluting on a level unprecedented in human history and don't look to be stopping anytime soon. Is that okay because they're communists or something?

  • ||

    China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.

    China has also leapfrogged the West in the last two years to emerge as the world’s largest manufacturer of solar panels. And the country is pushing equally hard to build nuclear reactors and the most efficient types of coal power plants.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01.....renew.html

  • sevo||

    rich|10.25.11 @ 6:43PM|#
    "China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year."

    China's also the gold-medalist in the 'throw-money-down-rat-hole' event.
    Did you have a point?

  • ||

    rich: Don't forget that China is also by far the largest builder of coal-fired electricity generation plants. See Figure 10 of this EIA report [PDF] for nice comparison between U.S. and Chinese build out plans for the next few years.

  • ||

    Ah, yes. Because if China out-GDP's us, GAME OVER MAN.. WE LOSE

  • ##||

    Not that there isn't a place for wind turbines but they aren't going to replace non renewables any time soon. It sounds good in theory but per the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2009 there were 1436 coal fired generators in 594 plants across the nation running at an average of 63.8 percent of their maximum capacity of 338,723 megawatts for an average capacity of 230331.64 megawatts. The wind turbines at Cape Wind off Martha's Vineyard that the Kennedy family so vigorously opposed because it obstructed their view are each 440 feet tall, occupy roughly .185 square miles, and have a maximum capacity of 3.6 megawatts with an average capacity of just under 1.31 megawatts. To replace the 230331.64 megawatts produced by coal with wind would require 176136 wind turbines occupying some 32517.41 square miles. Consider peak usage instead of average and the numbers are even larger. So, if we ignore the environmentalists who are already complaining about the number of birds killed by windmills and start building now.....

  • sevo||

    And all of this presumes the wind blows all the time.

  • ##||

    The 1.31 megawatt average capacity number came from the manufacturer's specs and I believe that it does consider wind variability but it probably assumes optimum location as well. Otherwise, you are correct. Most people prefer their electricity to be on all the time.

  • sevo||

    "The 1.31 megawatt average capacity number came from the manufacturer's specs and I believe that it does consider wind variability but it probably assumes optimum location as well."

    I *like* business; I think it brings prosperity to humanity.
    I also *know* ads for business are only somewhat more honest than ads for politicos.
    Off-hand, I'd reduce the number by half to get close to reality. Just 'cause...

  • ##||

    Most ads are honest to the point of avoiding fraud but without understanding the test conditions they can certainly be misleading. A 5 HP vacuum cleaner is a good example. For an instant when you first turn one on you'll get a current surge and they base the HP rating off of that surge and not how much it draws under a normal load. I'm sure that under optimum conditions the turbine would meet that average but real world experience in Spain showed an average of more like 20% to 25% of the maximum so we're probably looking at around .72 to .9 megawatts.

  • JMW||

    China vaulted past competitors in Denmark, Germany, Spain and the United States last year to become the world’s largest maker of wind turbines, and is poised to expand even further this year.

    And this is probably what we'll get, too.

  • Apatheist||

    ^^Apparently So^^

  • insubstantial juris imprudent||

    Solutions that could make every home owner an energy producer.

    First you need to get past the physics, then you can tackle the economics. In the meantime it is our right to laugh at people that don't know what they don't know but are sure it must be do-able because it is such a good idea.

  • ||

    "where energy is no longer bought and sold by the Middle East"

    or not...

  • sevo||

    And, for pete's sake, we should not "allow" energy to be a commodity!
    It should be a Hollywood celib and get tossed in jail for drugs every now and then!
    Or something....

  • ||

    Why just think of how many Solyndras we could fund with $7B!

  • ||

    14 or less?

  • ||

    Think about this: Wouldn't $7,000,000,000 be better served buy building and creating sustainable energy production methods?

    They don't exist. Neither wind or solar is capable of supplying anything but intermittent energy. Get a quote on drilling all the holes you need for geothermal and let me know how it could ever be cost effective.

    Systems that wouldn't run out in 30 years.

    And systems that may not be producing 5 minutes from now.

    Solutions that could make every home owner an energy producer.

    That will never pay for themselves.

    Where solar, wind and geothermal energy, of which is in an unlimited supply …

    The problem is the “supply” of solar and wind is intermittent and the machinery to extract that energy doesn’t have “an unlimited supply”.

  • ||

    Think about this: Wouldn't $7,000,000,000 be better served buy building and creating sustainable energy production methods?


    If it fails to produce a viable, reliable, and sustained flow of energy? Absolutely not!

  • Joe||

    What it comes down to is that it will effectively reduce the cost of oil in the U.S. which achieves the opposite of carbon taxes, so the movement will be set back. People might also start realizing that they prefer cheap gas over believing in the costly global warming religion.

  • ||

    "Think about this: Wouldn't $7,000,000,000 be better served buy building and creating sustainable energy production methods?"

    Hey! You could get 14 Solyndras for that!

  • sevo||

    And they 'put people before profits'!

  • ||

    I'm from Nebraska and I would like to see the pipeline built, but not in the present location. Many here wonder why this new pipeline can't follow the same path as an existing TransCanada pipeline, along the eastern borders of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, etc. This way it will miss the aquifer. Also, it is not the petroleum that will pass thru this pipeline that we worry about, but the chemicals (benzene, hexane, etc.) that are added to aid in the flow of the product, in addition to the use by TransCanada of thinner wall pipe. The sands in the product makes for an outstanding abrasive, constantly wearing away of the interior pipe surface, creating an eventual leak or rupture. As a previous marine inspector, I have seen this happen to seawater intake piping aboard ships that moor in shallow areas, with the result of engineering space flooding. As a final thought, any oil that ends up in refineries in Texas or Louisiana will very likely be sold on the world market, not necessarily to the United States. Why not build the pipeline to a site in eastern Nebraska or the Dakotas, refine it in a newly built refinery, and then the finished product can be transported throughout the northern tier of states, saving the cost of transporting the finished product from Texas back north. This way, it stays in the US.

  • ||

    Ah, fungible markets.. how do they work again?

  • sevo||

    "As a final thought, any oil that ends up in refineries in Texas or Louisiana will very likely be sold on the world market, not necessarily to the United States."

    Oil's fungible to a great extent, so regardless of where it's refined, it'll go to where the demand is greatest.
    Aside from that, re a "new refinery":
    "Arizona Clean Fuels was originally scheduled to open in 2009. But it took SEVEN YEARS TO GET AN AIR QUALITY PERMIT."
    The last 'new' refinery was put on-line in 1976.
    http://freedombytheway.com/201.....-35-years/

  • JTC||

    Mike I am also from Nebraska, and have been following this entire thing extremely closely. And I would like to point out that the present route was chosen because it was found to be both the shortest and the safest. If they moved the pipeline east, it would be much longer and go under more rivers, which are at far more risk of contamination than the aquifer. The original Keystone pipeline already goes over the aquifer and there are 21,000 miles of pipeline in Nebraska.
    And where did you hear they will use thinner pipe? Did you not see all the concessions TransCanada offered to Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood last week? They are already using the best steel available and now would coat the entire thing in concrete with extra sensors to detect any leaks as they happen.

    If you wanted the pipeline in eastern Nebraska or the Dakotas you should have spoken up three years ago when they were setting the route. It is too late to change now and if the state blocks the route with some siting law it would not only be unconstitutional under the commerce clause because this is an international and interstate pipeline, but it would get the state sued for billions, and frankly, I don't want my tax dollars going to a lawsuit after the state loses and is on the hook for billions of dollars.

    On the point that the oil will go to foreign markets, if we don't build the pipeline it will go to foreign markets period. Otherwise, it is a lot cheaper and more profitable for them to sell the oil to the United States, so why would they ship it across the world and lose profits? That oil will stay in America.

  • ||

    Actually the best scenario would be for the the pipeline(s) to be stopped then we'll be forced to refine right here and sell it in decreasingly small containers on the open market.

  • sevo||

    So, you'd rather not sell it?

  • ||

  • Realist||

    But it will cause AGW!

  • cynical||

    Well, at least someone at this magazine is earning his Kochtopus bribe money.

  • sevo||

    Sarcasm?
    Or stupidity?
    Can't tell.

  • cynical||

    I like to keep people on their toes.

  • Neu Mejican||

    The largest concern of environmental activists is the climate change implications of burning petroleum products derived from Canadian oil sands.

    I did not realize that Bill McKibben spoke for all those opposed to the project. Interesting.

    Why not get Ernie Fellows' view on it?

    http://www.foe.org/interview-ernie-fellows

    I have issue with eminent domain.The way I see it, eminent domain is just a way for the rich guy to steal from the poor guy. If you say that you don’t want to sell your land, then they’ll just take it. This is a matter of constitutional rights. I’m guaranteed a right to the pursuit of happiness. I’m not going to be happy with that pipe going through my land. I’ll have to sell my ranch for whatever I can get and move. I shouldn’t be forced into having to make that decision....In addition, the pipeline is a financial liability. It will be difficult to get a loan, because a spill could wreck a person’s finances. Insurance companies will be reluctant or refuse to insure the land because they don’t know who’s responsible for the pipe. If they insure the landowner and the landowner ends up being liable, well that’s a scenario insurers don’t want to touch. The easement on my property is to be 50 feet wide but if the pipeline bursts and oil shoots out at 1,400 psi it will extend beyond the 50 foot boundary. As the landowner I would then be liable but I can’t afford that kind of clean up. The oil company should be liable but there’s no hard-and-fast rule that says that they’re going to clean that up.
  • ||

    I did not realize that Bill McKibben spoke for all those opposed to the project.

    But he is the Paul Erlich of the '90's! Predicting the end of the world more often than JR Church.

  • ||

    "...if Americans won’t allow the pipeline to be built and buy Canadian oil, then the Chinese and other countries surely will buy it."

    So the Canadians aren't going to sell oil to anyone else so long as they have a deal with US?

  • ||

    Ever heard of transportation costs?

  • tadcf||

    BP and the other oil companies had figured out how a spill in the Gulf could be controlled too. Now the entire fishing industry in that area still suffers--not to mention the ecology.

  • JTC||

    The Aquifer is not the Gulf, even if there is a spill on the aquifer it will be incredibly localized. Water in the aquifer only moves at about a foot per day, it is not some underground lake and is in no way comparable to the Gulf.

  • ||

    And that has what to do with this article?

    Oh, nothing you say? Since one example would have oil soaking into a very limited space and staying there, and the other had oil traveling all over the place on ocean currents?

    Well then, nevermind. Moron.

  • ||

    I like energy. I drive and use electricity often enough to recognize my own role in demand. As such, I usually don't much care about the efforts to get energy out of the ground as long as financially uninterested regulators are attempting to ensure that I only burn the oil in my car, not have it spilled in my drinking water or have to scrape it off my shrimp.

    That's why I don't care about causes du jour such as opposing "phracking" when my own lefty people's efforts against it are built around hysteria surrounding methane's natural appearance in well water in WV and PA - a condition so common that in PA the state requires you buy a well-top filter to reduce the explosion hazard in water wells.

    But when this heavily subsidized oil billionaire's pet website tells me to "not fear" something, alarms go off like a motherfucker. This website's entire purpose is to spread lies in the service of its benefactors. I recognize propaganda passing as public affairs writing whenever and wherever it happens.

    So now, instead of seeing Keystone as just another effort to get energy out of the ground, I am on the hunt for massive, hidden "externalized" costs surrounding this pipeline. And I'm going to find them, too -- because that's how Koch rolls.

    So, thanks for that.

    Ha ha.

  • ||

    Oral, meet White Indian.

  • JMW||

    God help us all.

  • BRM||

    As a Nebraskan, I worry about damage to the aquifer, but more I worry about local soil damage. A great length of this pipe is running through volcanic sand with a tiny layer of topsoil that supports grass that holds everything in place. This grass layer and topsoil layer is fragile and once gone, the wind blows the underlying sand dune around causing a "blow out".

    As these guys come through, they are going to create a bunch of them. The pipeline people admit that their pipe sensors can only detect leaks of >1%/day. The pipe will carry 400,000 barrels per day. 1% of this means 4000 barrels of oil a day could flow into surrounding sand before it could be detected.

    The resulting hole that would have to be dug around the pipe would be huge and costly. The bond they propose is for the whole pipeline and would not be held independently. Thus, we would have to fix the damage, and then sue to get the money back.

    I would be more reassured by these bozos if they would put the $100M on account at a large independent Nebraska based bank, in an account that could be accessed by the state to cover the cost of repairs to the surrounding soil and water as needed.

  • matt||

    Pardon me if I'm wrong but isn't the concern the tar sands extraction methods rather than the pipeline itself? The pipeline would enable the production and the production is the concern. Basically extracting oil from tar sands is one of the worst things imaginable for the environment and is a far "dirtier" way of getting oil than other methods. And also I heard the oil itself they get out of the tar sands is really crappy stuff that needs a ton of refining thus even more pollution.

    Some pretty big and respectable names have come out against this project and not just your typical treehuggers.

  • fghu||

    hello,welcome to www.luckygrip. com,i hope everyone will more like them because of there have more nice top goods and cheaper price in there,thanks

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