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Op-Ed, Collin Clark

Collin Clark

No Country for Oil Men: The Issues with the Keystone Pipeline


The Keystone Pipeline’s proposed construction has rekindled a fierce debate. Activists and liberal politicians have been trying to delay the project while the oil industries argue that this is a panacea to revitalize the economy. The pipeline leaves the ravaged tar sands of Alberta, Canada, extending throughout to the Gulf of Mexico in the refinery town of Port Arthur, Texas on the Gulf of Mexico. The pipeline is seen as a project to generate revenue and jobs and wean Americans off foreign oil but only at the expense of the people’s health and cultural livelihood.

The process to extract oil from tar sands degrades the environment. The amount of environmental damage and carbon intensity it takes to extract a relatively low amount of low quality oil is very high. The United States consumes around 19 million barrels of oil per day whereas the pipeline would yield around 2 million barrels per day. According to Cherry, of The University of Houston, the amount of oil that can be extracted from the tar sands equates up to a mere five percent of the United States’ daily usage.

As the crow fly, the pipeline would find itself blazing a trail in Americas bread basket. Many of the famers concern is that if an oil spill were to occur it would cause reprehensible harm to the world’s largest aquifer, the Ogallala. If the groundwater were to be polluted, there would be huge agricultural loss to farmers and polluted drinking water as well.

Air quality and health concerns have risen for the residents of Port Arthur. Port Arthur is one of the dirtiest cities in the United States due to its proximity to many refineries and chemical plants. The particulate matter has had negative impacts on many of the residents, many of whom live in low income areas and are African American. The poor will be the ones to carry the environmental burdens of the continuation of the degradation of their environment and air quality. The temporary jobs that will be available from the pipeline will not be accessible to the communities that bear the greatest burden.

Other environmental concerns regarding the pipeline include the possible hazard to drinking and irrigation water. Any oil spill that may occur could pollute water sources and pose a severe threat to the health of American citizens. A health hazard such as this needs to be avoided at all costs and at the very least, comprehensive safety protocols.  Americans should not be at risk for clean water all for a pipeline.

            According to Huseman and Short, the first nations of Canada are facing a “slow industrial genocide” due to the tar sands severe environmental impact. Several tribes face the daunting task of continuing their cultural way of life. Hunting and fishing have become difficult and many fear to drink their previously pristine water and eat their fish. First nations should not hold the weight of the oil industries greed and suffer changes in their day to day life.

            The keystone pipeline will harm people’s health and way of life. There are injustices the everyday American will suffer if this passes. Is it worth the environmental impact and health hazard for such relative small amount of oil? We must change the ways we handle environmental concerns and progress forward.

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