Why the Disastrous Effects of a Tar Sands Pipeline Spill are the Real Problem Not CO2 Pollution

Canadian Tar Sands crud it is much heavier than any conventional crude oil. It must be diluted with a chemical cocktail [that itself is deadly when it evaporates upon hitting the atmosphere in the case of a spill] in order to allow it to be pumped through the pipelines. Once the chemicals evaporate the heavier than water tar sands crud just sinks. In July 2010 the first major spill of tar sands crud spilled out of a burst pipeline in Marshall, Michigan and polluted over 40 miles of the Kalamazoo River. NPR.org sent a reporter to that part of the Kalamazoo River two years later, here's a synopsis. In it Professor Steve Hamilton of Michigan State University explains explains why two years and $900 million later it still wasn't cleaned up.

Last week 50,000 well meaning environmental activists led by 350.org and the Sierra Club marched in Washington D.C. to attract attention to the issue of building the Keystone XL pipeline. Sierra Club director Michael Brune, Bill McKibbon of 350 and others spoke eloquently about the CO2 and Climate Change effects that Keystone would cause. On the other hand a few days earlier members of Bold Nebraska were being arrested there while protesting the real issue - the destruction of the Ogallala Aquifer - that a spill would cause.

The Keystone pipeline would carry tar sands oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas that are already running at capacity refining almost exactly the same type of tar sands crap from Venezuela. The refineries are Saudi owned and their profits go back to Saudi Arabia. The products refined there now are sold and shipped to the highest global bidder, the product refined from the Alberta crap would be too. So the only logical argument CO2 wise is that by keeping the Alberta crap in the ground and never burning it the atmosphere would benefit because Venezuela's crap would just get refined somewhere else.

But it's a spurious argument because world demand for energy won't go down so this small portion from Alberta will just be replaced by some other source and that source could well be coal which is far worse. Coal creates 1 1/2 times as much CO2 per unit of energy generated as tar sands crud. Or by fracked gas which because of the methane leakage in the field and at the boreholes of up to 9% is worse than tar sands crud too.

Yesterday's widely read article titled '5 Reasons Why the Keystone XL Pipeline is Bad for the Economy' is an example of why economic values are so often in the eye of the beholder. Not once does it mention the long term costs that a tar ands crud pipeline spill would create. The Ogallala Aquifer isn't the only huge body of water, what about the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers? What about all the other smaller aquifers and ground water. TransCanada itself predicts that a big spill will only occur once every 10 years along the entire length of its pipe, from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, an area that right now feeds millions or maybe billions of people. Where will the water to grow that food on the America's central plains come from once the Keystone spills?

Exactly the same argument is true up here in BC where once again the disastrous effects of a tar sands pipeline spill are the real problem not the CO2 pollution that would be created by burning the crap. The difference is that up here we're faced with two pipeline proposals - the Northern Gateway Project and the Kinder Morgan Expansion - both of which threaten our groundwater and our aquifers. Both of which also threaten BC's dangerous and unspoiled coastline's entire ecosystem. A spill of tar sands crap on land would endanger BC's fish and fisheries, forests and forestry industries, tourism and the reputation it relies on, plus it would carve a huge scar through the Great Bear Rainforest and other forests doing untold damage to BC's prized bio-diversity. A spill transporting the crap along the pristine coastline would be akin to a crime against nature.

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national
obligations of obedience. Therefore [individual citizens] have the duty
to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity
from occurring" -- Nuremberg War Crime Tribunal, 1950