Obama’s Choice: Dirty Oil (Keystone XL Oil Pipeline) or Clean Water and Land?

By Syver Alton Larsen and MJ

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One big decision looms ominously on Obama’s horizon and he will not be able to blame anyone but himself for the consequences.  Obama must render the momentous verdict by November 1 to give or not to give approval for the historical Keystone XL Pipeline Project.  This pipeline will carry one of the world’s dirtiest fuels… tar sand oil which is vastly different from regular oil being ten times heavier than water and very corrosive.

Presidential permission is required because the 2,147-mile pipeline crosses the border between Canada and eight states of the United States.  The present route is scheduled to cross prime agriculture heartland, 19,000 square mile wetlands, and the world’s largest fresh water aquifer—the Ogallala. 

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The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil into the United States daily, doubling our country’s reliance on it and resulting in climate-damaging emissions equal to adding more than six million new cars to U.S. roads.

Originally proposed on February 9, 2005, it is still in the making.   It began supplying oil to Illinois and Missouri in 2010. Phase II of the project, launched in February 2011, would extend the pipeline from Steele City, Nebraska, to Cushing, Oklahoma — a pivotal crude oil refining and pipeline hub and then on to the Gulf of Mexico.

According to The New American, the new segment of this project is waiting for Obama’s approval, but the Keystone XL is facing fierce opposition from landowners and concerned citizens.

“Though the pipeline has been in operation for almost a year, a new segment of the project, the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion, also known as Keystone XL — which would originate in Hardisty, Alberta Canada, and run southeast through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska, while incorporating Phase II of the pipeline to extend to Oklahoma markets and the Texas Gulf Coast ports of Houston and Port Arthur — is facing formidable hurdles. The Canadian government’s National Energy Board approved the expansion in 2010, but is awaiting final approval from the Obama administration”

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According to the Nebraska Farmers Union, many landowners have been intimidated and threatened with the Right of Eminent Domain.  Does a foreign country owned business have that right?

In 2007, Congress passed and President George Bush signed into law Section 526 which disallows the U.S. purchase of tar sands oil.  Congressman Henry Waxman, Chair of the House Energy Committee, wrote to the Senate Commerce Committee in 2008, the law “applies to fuels derived from unconventional petroleum sources such as tar sands which produce significantly higher greenhouse gas emissions than are produced by comparable fuel from conventional sources.” 

In the article it also states that the Canadian government and big oil are working  behind the scenes to get section 526 changed.

“Meanwhile, the Canadian government has been working behind the scenes to strike Section 526 from the books to clear the way for tar sands extraction. Using Freedom of Information requests, the Pembina Institute and Climate Action Network Canada uncovered a 2008 strategy memo by Canadian Embassy official Hélène Viau which urged U.S. oil lobbyists to send letters to the U.S. Department of Energy and the Department of State to show “concerns with regard to section 526 and argue that oil sands products should not be targeted by this provision,” and to develop “a comprehensive oil sands advocacy strategy to focus on outreach to allies, influencers, legislators, etc.”

And Big Oil lobbyists have taken Viau’s suggestions to heart. Matt Fox, senior vice president of oil sands for ConocoPhillips warned U.S. legislators that Section 526 “could bring [oil sands] development to a screeching halt. You’d have to think twice about oil sands development if your intention was to deliver oil to the lower ’48.”

The debate regarding the Keystone XL involves the economic issues versus environmental issues. The final impact statement was released by the White House in August.

Video:  Why Oil Sands Pipeline Is Just Too Risky

Those who favor the pipeline list these benefits:

1. Making money for states tax revenues

2. Providing jobs

3. Advancing national security by less foreign oil dependence

Those who are against the pipeline submit:

1. Money cannot replace clean water and land

2. Jobs provided will be temporary

3. The U.S. already imports three-fourths of its oil from western sources

Quote from the Nebraska Senator Tony Fulton:

“I would be doing a bad job if I didn’t step up and say that I have some concern about the proposed route of this pipeline. If that puts me on the same side as environmentalists, or folks that I don’t typically see eye to eye with, so be it.”

Narrator: Fulton wants TransCanada to re-route the pipeline. He is promoting legislation he hopes would give state government the power to force the company to by-pass the aquifer. He says building this pipeline without the Nebraska’s input is a violation of state’s rights. We ought to have some say as to how that pipeline makes its way through Nebraska. And at this point it has been President Obama, Secretary Clinton and TransCanada who have chosen this route.

Environmentalists site the Enbridge tragic tar sand oil leak in the Kalamazoo River occurring in July 2010, as an example of what will be repeated again.  Enbridge, competitor of TransCanada, says that there is no oil remaining in the river.  The EPA has estimated that over one million gallons of oil leaked into the Kalamazoo River and has still not been totally cleaned up.  Because the tar sand oil is heavier than water, it has sunk down into the river and the only way to remove it is through drudging. 

China has actively been investing in Canadian oil and many believe that the true intent of the oil pipeline is to make it easier to ship the oil from Texas ports to Asian markets.  The pipeline happens to follow part of the same route as the notorious North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) Super Highway.

The only thing Obama fears more than the Environmentalists are the Labor Unions.  The political reality is that Obama would risk losing the votes and campaign donations of ALL 1.8 million Nebraskans whose lives depend on the Ogallala for clean drinking water and even most of the Environmentalists, but he cannot afford to lose the support of ANY Labor Unions that want the pipeline built at any and all costs for the jobs and tax-base it will generate.

TransCanada has refused to reroute the Keystone from going over the Ogallala, so they are trying to save money with pipe line construction, and is choosing economic concerns over environmental concerns that relate to the aquifer. Does greed always win in this world? 

We will know for sure by November 1, which one Obama will choose… Dirty Oil or Clean Water and Land.

Related:

Obama Allies’ Interests Collide Over Keystone Pipeline

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About Ask Marion

I am a babyboomer and empty nester who savors every moment of my past and believes that it is the responsibility of each of us in my generation and Americans in general to make sure that America is as good or even a better place for future generations as it was for us. So far... we haven't done very well!! Favorite Quotes: "The first 50 years are to build and acquire; the second 50 are to leave your legacy"; "Do something that scares you every day!"; "The journey in between what you once were and who you are becoming is where the dance of life really takes place".
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