tar sands

Wed, 2012-01-18 11:11Ben Jervey
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Keystone XL Pipeline Would Increase Oil Prices in Midwest

Twitter is ablaze with the news that the State Department will announce today that the original TransCanada presidential permit application is dead in the water. Details are murky, so stay tuned for more, but what this likely means is that the State Department will allow TransCanada to re-apply for the permit with a new route that avoids the heart of Nebraska's Ogallalla Aquifer.

While it's good to see that President Obama is standing up to oil industry bullying and Republican pressure to fast-track the permit, this still means Keystone XL is very much in play. If it's ever built, Keystone XL will allow the expansion of the Alberta tar sands that climate scientists worry will send us down a dangerous path of global warming pollution. 

What's more, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, if built, would increase oil prices in the American Midwest. That’s the shocking takeaway point from a bombshell report about Keystone XL as an export pipeline released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Oil Change International.

We’ve reported time and time again here on DeSmogBlog, the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would not improve America’s energy security, but never has that reality been more clearly conveyed than by this one real-world point that is worth repeating. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would increase oil prices in the Midwest.

To understand how, exactly, an increased supply of oil to America could increase oil prices domestically, you have to understand two things about the Keystone XL pipeline.

First, Keystone XL is is an export pipeline, funneling foreign crude through American soil to Gulf refineries that will profit most by processing the low-grade tar sands crude into diesel to sell to the booming international market.

Tue, 2012-01-17 20:50Richard Littlemore
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The Enbridge Board: A foreign Special Interest Group

Update: Mea Culpa Below

If Canadian Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver is looking for ideologues and “foreign special interest groups” who are trying to interfere with the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline hearings, he need look no farther than the Board of Directors of pipeline proponent Enbridge Inc.

Oliver got his lapels all flecked with foam last week over pipeline criticism from Canadian environmental groups such as the David Suzuki Foundation or the Pembina Institute, organizations which, in a good year, might get almost 10 per cent of their funding from U.S. sources. These, he said, were clearly “radical groups” that were “driven by an ideological imperative” - and they were meddling inappropriately in Canadian affairs.

But according to a secret source (okay: it's the company website), Enbridge Chair David Arledge and six of the 12 Enbridge directors are (everyone get ready to gasp in unison): AMERICANS!

Fri, 2011-12-30 13:49Farron Cousins
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The Year In Dirty Energy: Keystone XL

This year, a deal between TransCanada and the U.S. government almost allowed one of the most disastrous plans in energy history to win aproval. The deal would have allowed TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the U.S. border to carry an exceptionally dirty form of oil from Alberta's tar sands through several U.S. states to refineries along the Texas gulf coast.

But thanks to some bizarre GOP politicking in the year-end fight over payroll tax cut legislation, the table is set for President Obama to reject this fossil folly. The likely demise of one giant ill-advised pipeline is no small feat, but it doesn't mean the world can forget about the tar sands, by a long shot. The world is still addicted to oil, and Canada's fossil-friendly leaders will continue their quest to sell the tar sands bitumen on the global market.

Ever since our founding in 2006, DeSmogBlog has helped spread the word about the dangerous health and climate impacts that the tar sands pose to the environment and the global climate. Over the past year, we focused our research particularly on the dirty tricks employed by the oil industry in an effort to get the Keystone XL pipeline approved.

After Friends of the Earth exposed the fact that TransCanada's Keystone XL lobbyist Paul Elliott had worked on Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and enjoyed special access with former colleagues, DeSmogBlog revealed further ties between TransCanada lobbyists and the U.S. government. For example:

On the web of lobbyists with connections to Hillary Clinton:

However, the tar sands industry’s use of former Clinton associates to lobby on the controversial project extends beyond Mr. Elliott. DeSmogBlog has uncovered seven other influencers or lobbyists with ties to Clinton and Obama who have lobbied on behalf of tar sands interests for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

McKenna Long & Aldridge is one of the key outside firms registered to lobby for TransCanada Pipelines, which paid the McKenna firm at least $190,000 over the last 5 years to lobby on their pipeline issues, including $40,000 in the first half of 2011. McKenna employees donated $41,650 in campaign contributions to Hillary Clinton in 2008, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

For the full report, see Hillary Clinton's Keystone XL Crony Lobbyists Problem.

Wed, 2011-12-21 15:01Richard Littlemore
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NCC: Not Much Blood on Canada's Hands!

It's Christmastime in Canada - when all self-satisfied ideologues take a moment to lift the finger of blame and point it at somebody else.

“Credit” for outstanding performance in this regard must go to National Citizens Coalition President andf CEO Peter Coleman. In ringing defence of the former NCC president (and now Canadian Prime Minister) Stephen Harper, Coleman offers a cheery Christmas message that celebrates Canada's reneging on its legal commitment to the Kyoto Accord and dodges Canadian responsibility for contributing to the climate crisis.

Specifically, Coleman talks about appearing before a group of University of Windsor law students, who asked him about Kyoto:

When I responded that Canada emits 2% of the world's greenhouse gases they were surprised to hear that it is that low. When I told them that Alberta's oil sands contribute just 5% of Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions they were again surprised as they expected it would be a lot more.

Coleman is actually wrong on the numbers. The latest tally (2008) puts Canada's GHG emissions at “only” 1.8 per cent, which is swell as long as you don't think about Canada's population amounting to just 0.004 per cent of the world's total. That makes Canada the fourth worst polluter per capita. It also makes our 34 million inhabitants the seventh largest source of CO2 among all the countries in the world - that's seventh from a list of 216 countries and jurisdictions.

Thu, 2011-12-15 18:32Steve Horn
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'Consumer Energy Alliance' Front Group Exposed by The Tyee and Salon

In a must-read piece co-published today by Salon.com and The TyeeGeoff Dembicki exposes the dark underbelly of the public relations and lobbying industry, revealing the interconnectedness between Alberta tar sands movers and shakers in Alberta and their oily compatriots in Washington. 

The investigative article focuses on the fossil fuel industry front group Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA), which is run out of the offices of the PR firm HBW Resources, headed by David Holt, Andrew Browning, and Michael Whatley.

Geoff Dembicki's article “Big Oil and Canada thwarted U.S. carbon standards,” exposes CEA's effort to thwart government efforts to favor relatively cleaner conventional fuels over the dirtiest forms of extreme unconventional energy like the Alberta tar sands. 

Dembicki reveals how CEA influenced the debate at both the national and state-by-state levels on low carbon fuel standards (LCFS), working to defeat or delay any efforts to differentiate between the emissions footprints of extreme and unconventional fuels like tar sands oil and cleaner-but-still-dirty conventional oil.

Oil industry power players, including BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Shell and Norway’s Statoil are among the CEA's key financially backers, and many of these companies also happen to have deep ties to the Alberta tar sands.

Tue, 2011-11-29 15:22Ben Jervey
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Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline: New Report Spotlights Incredible Threats

In the wake of the State Department’s announcement to delay the Keystone XL decision, another proposed tar sands pipeline is coming under closer scrutiny. The Northern Gateway Pipeline, proposed by Canada’s Enbridge Energy, would stretch nearly 750 miles across Alberta and British Columbia before reaching an inland port. (DeSmogBlog has been following the Northern Gateway Pipeline story in detail.)

A report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Pembina Institute, and the Living Oceans Society documents the enormous risk – environmental, economic, and social – to communities and regions along the pipeline and tanker paths, specifically to valuable salmon-bearing rivers and coastal ecosystems, including the habitat of the endangered Spirit Bear. 

The impacts anticipated by the “Pipeline and Tanker Trouble” report include:

  • Compromising the lifestyles of First Nations who depend on the region’s lands and waters for their livelihoods, culture, and health.
  • Threatening the economic well-being of thecommunities of British Columbia that depend on fisheries and forests.
  • Potential devastation from a major oil spill from the pipeline or an oil supertanker, which could destroy economically important salmon habitat, as well as the habitat of Spirit Bears and grizzlies, and whales, orcas, and other marine life that depend on these rich coastal waters.
  • Harm from an oil spill to the Great Bear Rainforest thatthe province and First Nations have worked hard toprotect from unsustainable forestry practices and to shift to a conservation-based economy.
Thu, 2011-11-10 13:27Ben Jervey
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Breaking: State Department Delays Keystone XL Decision Until 2013

The State Department announced today that they would “seek additional information” about the Keystone XL pipeline, meaning that they will take another 12 months at least to re-review the proposed pipeline route. This new review will build on (or make up) for the woefully-incompletely Environmental Impact Statement.

Here's the State Department's official language:


…given the concentration of concerns regarding the environmental sensitivities of the current proposed route through the Sand Hills area of Nebraska, the Department has determined it needs to undertake an in-depth assessment of potential alternative routes in Nebraska. …
Among the relevant issues that would be considered are environmental concerns (including climate change), energy security, economic impacts, and foreign policy.

The decision comes in the immediate wake of a massive protest at the White House on Sunday, as roughly 12,000 anti-pipeline activists circled the White House in a “solidarity hug.” The action was the latest in a series of protests and events staged by opponents of the proposed TransCanada pipeline that would funnel tar sands crude from Canada down to the Gulf Coast in Texas, much of it bound for export to other nations.

The decision to delay is a clear testament to the power of public engagement in the political process and good old-fashioned protest. But the battle isn't over yet.

Wed, 2011-11-09 06:00Ben Jervey
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Valero Positioning To Export Tar Sands Oil, Guarding Pot of Gold at End of Keystone XL Pipeline

In the heated Keystone XL debate, the Canadian company TransCanada, which is attempting to build the line, and the Koch brothers, who are throwing their considerable weight behind it in the interest of their Koch Industries’ subsidiaries, receive a lot of attention.
 

But there are other benefactors that are worth a closer look, as nobody stands to benefit as much in the longer term (if the Keystone XL pipeline is ever built) as the companies that operate the refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Let’s step back and review what the refineries actually do. The diluted tar sands bitumen (or “DilBit”) that would flow through Keystone XL is an ultra-acidic, highly viscous mess, that doesn’t at all resemble the refined petroleum products like diesel or gasoline or even jet fuel that are sold on the commercial markets. DilBit is, in the words of Keith Schneider, ”thick as peanut butter and more acidic, highly corrosive, and abrasive” than typical crude.

This tar sands DilBit needs to be refined before it can be sold. But only certain refineries are capable of handling the corrosive DilBit.

Refiners along the Texas Gulf Coast, where the Keystone XL pipeline would ultimately deliver tar sands DilBit from Canada, are eager to accomodate. The company that appears positioned to receive and refine more of TransCanada’s crude than anyone else is the Valero Energy Corporation (NYSE: VLO).

Thu, 2011-11-03 20:14Emma Pullman
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Oil Industry Co-Opts Occupy Movement to Sell the Keystone XL Pipeline

The AFL-CIO's America's Building Trades Unions and Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee are attempting to co-opt the Occupy movement with a new initiative to try to get the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline approved. Jobs for the 99% likens the growing celebrity support against the Keystone XL pipeline to an occupation of sorts. “Celebrities are taking over DC” the website says, and “Hollywood’s elite 1% should stop flying to DC and speaking out against jobs that help the other 99% of America!” 

Pitting celebrity support of anti-Keystone efforts against average Americans, “Jobs for the 99%” tells us that wealthy celebrities are killing valuable jobs, and that by telling the White House to support Keystone XL, “we” can act in solidarity with the 99%. 

You gotta hand it to them, it's a bold move. But here's why it's misleading and you shouldn't buy it. Hijacking the occupy movement to create a climate killing pipeline is a boon to the 1% who will harvest the profits. The 99% only get a few short term jobs (or not), not long term sustainable employment. That's why oil and gas companies, some of the largest and most notoriously corrupt corporations in the world, are backing this astroturf campaign with some serious funding.

And they're handing down the public health and environmental costs associated with a potential spill - and the “game over” climate change that expanding tar sands production will cause - back to the 99%.

Tue, 2011-10-25 17:07Steve Horn
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TransCanada Spent $540,000 Lobbying in Third Quarter For Keystone XL Pipeline

TransCanada Corp, the company hoping to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, spent $540,000 on lobbying in the third quarter of 2011, according to lobbying disclosure records released this week.

In addition to $390,000 reported by Paul Elliott, TransCanada Pipelines, Ltd's infamous in-house lobbyist, two outside firms lobbied on TransCanada's behalf to promote the Keystone XL pipeline: Bryan Cave LLP, which reported $120,000 in earnings from TransCanda in quarter three; and McKenna, Long & Aldridge, which was paid $30,000 by TransCanada in the same period. 

As DeSmog readers know well, the Keystone XL pipeline would carry Alberta tar sands bitumen south to the Gulf Coast at Port Arthur, Texas, where much of it would be exported overseas.

As seen in an earlier investigation conducted by DeSmogBlog, many of the lobbyists acting as hired guns for TransCanada and the Keystone XL Pipeline have direct ties to the Obama Administration and Hillary Clinton, whose State Department has been tasked to make the final decison on the pipeline.

These latest figures come on the heels of yesterday's revelation that a former Bryan Cave LLP lobbyist for TransCanada, Broderick Johnson, has been hired to serve on the Obama for President 2012 campaign team. DeSmogBlog first reported that Johnson had lobbied for TransCanada and the Keystone XL pipeline in 2010 in our investigation into the web of lobbyists connected to Clinton and Obama.

“This is a deeply troubling development. A lobbyist who has taken corporate cash to shill for this dirty and dangerous pipeline now has even more opportunity to whisper into the president's ear,” said Kim Huynh of Friends of the Earth, in a statement.

The Obama Administration and its “State Department Oil Services” seem awfully cozy with TransCanada, and this influx of half a million more lobbying dollars over the past few months again raises questions about whether the Obama administration is listening to the will of the people of Nebraska and others concerned about the Keystone XL pipeline, or to the army of tar sands lobbyists promoting this fossil fuel boondoggle.  His campaign team's decision to hire Broderick Johnson sends a pretty clear signal.

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