On November 18, 350.org staged a demonstration against the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington D.C. Before continuing any further, who knows what the Keystone XL pipeline is?
It’s an oil pipeline from the multimillion dollar Canadian corporation TransCanada. It will bring the some of dirtiest oil in the world to America for manufacturing. The oil deposits which the Keystone XL will transport are referred to as Tar Sands Oil (or Oil Sands). The pipeline will extend from Alberta, Canada to refineries in Illinois; an oil distribution hub in Cushing, Oklahoma, and refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The “XL” in Keystone XL stands for “Export Limited.”
Why is the oil so dirty? First off, it’s not like regular oil. Tar sands, are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen (a heavy black viscous oil). While regular oil can be pumped from the ground in its natural state Tar Sands cannot. Instead the oil must be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline is being used to transport the oil-rich bitumen to refineries in Illinois and Texas. There’s a catch though. Not only can Tar Sands Oil not be drawn like conventional oil, it cannot even be transported conventionally either. Even after the bitumen is extracted it is still too thick to travel without further treatment. It requires dilution with lighter hydrocarbons to make it flow through pipelines. So the pipeline will not even be transporting oil in its natural state but instead transporting a substance, too thick to travel on its own, across hundreds of miles land and natural habitat. (See reference article here).
As we’ve now discussed the methods of extraction and the complications involved in transporting the Tar Sands, the potential threats this oil poses to the surrounding environment are now due for conversation. “Producing and refining tar sands oil is energy-intensive, and releases 82% more greenhouse gas emissions, as well as more poisonous mercury and arsenic, compared to conventional oil.” (See reference article) So in addition to the greenhouse gases which are already produced (through the consumption of fossil fuels) the Tar Sands Oil would contribute even more greenhouse gas emissions just through its production, and refining, for commercial use later on. The pipeline will also subject the areas through which it is built to risks of oil spills on land and waters. Ultimately the price of gas (which is already burdensome for many) will rise as well to make up for the costs of production and construction. Finally this is all for the purpose of transporting nearly 1 million barrels of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet across the country. All so that the United States can sell the refined product to other countries.
On November 18, to show opposition to Tar Sands Oil and to the Keystone XL pipeline 350.org held a demonstration with an energetic crowd of significant size.
After remaining in front of The White House, chanting, taking a break, and dancing, the march continued back to the rallying point to hear speeches.
This action was part of 350.org’s “Do The Math” tour. A tour focusing on the Climate Crisis and the influences of the fossil fuel industry.
Since this action there have been many actions and efforts to raise awareness about the Keystone Pipeline around the country.
The most interesting effort to raise awareness about the pipeline though is what Ken Ilgunas is doing. He is going to hike the entire 1700-mile Pipeline, all the way from Alberta to Texas. Here is his site.
No matter what happens, Tar Sands Oil will mark a significant point in the fight against the fossil fuel industries. Either it will be prevented, or we’re about to start using the dirtiest oil on the planet. Also, did I mention the Koch Brothers (Americans For Prosperity/Tea Party Republican architects) have a stake in the completion of this project?
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