By Ximena Fajardo.
I’m thinking about the Keystone XL Pipeline. I am imagining the process of building it over and under cities across the whole US and thinking about who truly benefits from it. Why bring from such a long distance oil that has so much tar and sand if only 1/3 of it can be converted to gas? Did anyone else know this? What happens to the separated and purified contaminants and impurities that are sent to storage tanks? where do they go? Where are they dumped? Too many questions!!!
The Keystone XL Pipeline (Trans Canada) that Mitt Romney talked about in last night’s presidential debate, that would, according to him lead to “25 birds killed”, will extend for over 1700 miles carrying up to 830,000 barrels of oil per day . Mitt Romney says that it will create between 5000 to 20,000 jobs which sounds like a great number, but he fails to mention the most important part –that being, that they will be temporary jobs.
The pipeline will carry dilute bitumen (dilbit ) from the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada, to refineries near the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. It consists of 36″ diameter pipes that will be buried 4′ bellow the ground. The environmental effects of this Keystone XL section affect shallow groundwater, nearby surface water, wetlands, and sensitive plant and animal species. Has anyone ever heard the Ogallala Aquifer being mentioned when discussing this pipeline? Not likely, yet the Ogallala Aquifer is one of the major concerns since it supplies 30% of the total US irrigation water! 82% for 2.3 million people living in the aquifer boundary. The region being supplied by the Ogallala Aquifer accounts for 15 percent of corn, 19 percent of cotton, 19 percent of wheat, 3 percent of sorghum, and 18 percent of cattle production in the U.S.
So not only are there environmental concerns, but one of the main problems with this industry is that we don’t know up to what extent human health might be affected by exposure. One major problem we must discuss is the dissolution of benzene from crude oil to drinking water. Benzene in water has been linked to acute carcinogenesis and many other health risks (http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/05/17/idUS322077876620110517). In fact, in Fort Chip, located in Alberta Canada the Oil Sands Industry has been working with these very materials. In recent years five cases of cholangiocarcinoma a cancer of the bile duct that normally strikes one in 100, 000 people have been reported. Physicians explain that Fort Chip has a population of around 1,000 people and that statistically it was unlikely to have even one case (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text/7).
Additionally, the exposure of livestock, such as cattle, to benzene has also been shown to cause health issues such as neurotoxicity, fetal damage and fatal poisoning. Native Americans also say that the pipeline would damage sacred, prehistoric or historic archaeological sites and contaminate their communities. The Environmental Protection Agency has repeatedly said the impact hasn’t even gone to consider oil spill response plans, safety issues and greenhouse gas.The Keystone XL Pipeline undermines the U.S. commitment to a clean energy economy, energy future and international leadership on climate change “instead “delivering dirty fuel at high costs”.
Clean energy policies will help us harness the wind and the sun, which are sources of energy that will never run out and will require qualified workers for operation. This means that they will create approximately 209,000 stable jobs (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/report/2012/08/06/12002/the-vast-potential-for-renewable-energy-in-the-american-west/ ) . Renewable energy sources will lead to independence from oil dependency( pardon the redundancy) and give us an edge to export technology.
So, unless we count the indirect jobs created by medical treatment for health issues from the Xl Keystone Pipeline (20,000 temporary direct jobs) there is no way that even at this level the pipeline will beat clean energy and biofuels. It is an environmental risk in addition to any earthquakes , terrorist acts, human errors or technical difficulties due to faulty parts. No, Mr. Romney, the issue XI Keystone Pipeline is not just “25 birds” it is way more than that.