Home > Uncategorized > Keystone XL Pipeline – A shot of adrenaline or fryer grease in our arteries?

Keystone XL Pipeline – A shot of adrenaline or fryer grease in our arteries?

The proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline will stretch 1,700 miles from the 1.7 trillion barrels of oil in the Athabasca oil sands in Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas. President Obama’s decision to deny the XL pipeline in its current form was the correct decision. Many Americans think that the Keystone XL pipeline will be a shot of adrenaline into our economic bloodstreams; in reality it is like pumping McDonald’s fryer grease directly into our arteries. The Keystone XL pipeline has the potential to be environmentally destructive and tar sands are not sustainable.

In order to extract the tar sands, the areas are strip-mined, injected with steam to heat the sand, which reduces the viscosity, and then pumped out. Before it can freely flow to refineries on the Gulf Coast, however, oil engineers mix the thick bitumen product with lighter petroleum. Then it is put under extremely high pressure so that it can flow through the pipes. The infrastructure necessary to strip mine and extract tar sands as well as transport it to the Gulf Coast is destroying animal habitats, indigenous people’s land and culture, and the vital oxygen producing Boreal forest. This process is unjust not only to those along the pipeline, but to indigenous people like the Inupiat, as well as their land and nature that provides them and us our livelihoods.

Transportation of tar sand oil has the potential of being an environmental disaster. Extra bitumen in tar sands makes it a more viscous substance and extremely corrosive. The corrosive nature of the tar sands could erode the pipeline at a faster rate than when transporting conventional oil. This causes a higher potential for oil spill related accidents. Furthermore, if the pipeline broke or leaked near the Ogallala Aquifer, the economic and environmental costs would be devastating. For instance, we would lose one of the largest sources of water for the United States in a very crucial agricultural production area. A spill in the Ogallala Aquifer would devastate the 20 billion dollar agricultural industry of the Midwest US which would in turn affect our food security. The Ogallala Aquifer is the major area of concern for citizens to stop the Keystone Pipeline because it is a shallow aquifer and the pipeline would go right through the middle of it.

Tars sands undermine goals to develop an economically and environmentally sustainable energy policy. First, tar sands are one of the dirtiest sources of petroleum. The pipeline may decrease our dependency on Middle East foreign oil but it just shifts it to a more polluted version closer to home. To turn tar sands into usable crude oil it generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of oil. Furthermore, it takes two tons of tar sands to create only one barrel of oil; this ratio uses unsustainable amounts of energy. Secondly, it will increase emissions and will not solve our energy needs as our consumption of energy is continuing to grow. In order to meet growing consumption demands we will not only need the tar sands but, another energy source as well. Finally, we already have 60% of Canada’s tar sand production. Pipelines are already in place coming from Canada so the US does not need another more costly one. A solution could be to fix the already in place infrastructure but not to add another pipeline. The answer is to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels all together.

Arguments have been made that this will create a boost to the economy of the US. However, the jobs created will only be temporary and the areas with the pipeline will only receive a onetime payout for their land. The Keystone XL pipeline benefits do not outweigh the environmental burdens. Moreover, the pipeline will create a dependency on an extremely polluted and unsustainable form of oil for the US. When this again comes up in Congress for action, we should not only vote no to the Keystone pipeline but, we should place a ban on using dirty tar sand oil.


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