March 24, 2017 update
“EVERY bit of the fuel used in getting Tar Sands extracted and softened and pumped first required burning additional fuel pushing more CO2 into the atmosphere … before the net refined fuel from the Tar Sands is itself burned in a car or other device – which adds the rest of the carbon into the air as CO2. It is a dirty, process that multiplies the amount of CO2 released – just to access the energy at the last step. That is why Tar Sands are the dirtiest, most CO2 polluting, aquifer and land threatening fossil fuels on the planet.“
After this was first published, the awareness and citizen mobilization of that period won a rejection of the KXL Pipeline – which the current president and congress are set to void. The science has not changed. Evidence mounts of planetary warming due to human caused increases in our atmospheric blanket of greenhouse gases. Defunding the governmental agencies and programs that had collected evidence will not change the consequences for all children, all life on the planet. Americans media did not demand climatic answers in the 2016 presidential debates. As a consequence, the corporate and banking sectors are once again choosing government policy for the nation, while amplifying the anti-science messaging of climate change denial. It is a policy to benefit short term profits flowing to the owners of fossil carbon deposits, but disastrous otherwise. Will enough citizens again rise to this challenge to again force politicians to heed long term needs?
Our modern civilization, global in scope, relies for its existence on the availability of energy converted to do work. One of the most honest recent presidential statements made was by President Bush stating that “America is addicted to oil.” Energy allows our means of transportation, telecommunication, cools homes and offices when it’s hot, and warms us when it’s cold. It powers the factories that generate the steel, aluminum, ceramics and plastics of our array of products and is foundational to modern Agriculture, investing 10 calories of energy into each calorie of food as served on our plates. (Calories embedded in production and operation of tractors, harvesters, trucks, factory processing, more transportation, grocery stores and then cooking.) Society literally runs or stops based upon access to energy. Yet, for all the benefits, as in any addiction, there are self destructive consequences – expressed in CO2, ozone, particulates that affect respiratory health, spills that poison land, pollute rivers & waterways, … worse they pollute our aquifers. Downstream consequences in the seas are making oceans more acidic, threatening the shellfish and plankton that then threaten the entire food chain of the oceans.
Previously shown is how scientists know the burning of hydrocarbons formed millions of years ago ADDS to the blanket effect of CO2. (See CO2 – Our Planet’s Thermostat) Further, informed people also write how humans have passed the mid-point of the Earth’s treasury of these ancient stores of sunlight past. We certainly will not be able to long continue at our modern global rate what a smaller and less energy intensive society consumed half of in only a hundred years. Transferring to other sources of energy sooner can avoid more of the damage that society’s addiction is currently causing.
Despite ongoing writings in the petroleum industry as to limited deposits, despite political activities protesting oil spills, fracking damage to aquifers, blow-outs in the Gulf of Mexico, warnings about drilling in the Arctic, 15 days of protesting a Tar Sands pipeline at the White House and arrests each day, and over 400,000 people in the Streets in September protesting on behalf of our leaders taking Climate Action … despite all of the above,
Congress has vowed to put the opening the Keystone KXL Tar Sands Pipeline as one of its first acts in the new Congress. Why? We’ll see that of all fossil fuel options, Tar Sands are the worst to use as to Climate Change. If Congress succeeds in getting this passed and signed, then any and all other attempts to mitigate Climate Change – each part of an entire addiction recovery program has just had the goal posts moved much farther away from probable success.
The image to the left (from Six Myths About Climate Change that Liberals Rarely Question) illustrates the scale of difference between Alternative Energy thus far, and what fossil fuels provide. As a general note, the net remaining fossil fuels are finite. What is consumed now can not be replaced. Our true energy budget is what comes from the sun as solar or the wind that sunlight generates – plus geothermal and tidal wave energy options. Every drop of fossil fuels is stealing options from future generations. MAYBE the politicians – at least a few – understand what we are doing, but are not honest enough to say strongly, repeatedly and unitedly as leadership that our society needs an energy diet. This goes for both major parties in the US as well as parties in control in every nation I’m familiar with. Possibly electrical energy is twice as efficient as burning hydrocarbons, but there is a huge shortfall ahead. If we succeed at ramping up energy extraction, the certainty is that we reach our practicality end-point sooner.
When Congress reconvenes in January, they intend to force through the KXL Pipeline. They argue it is a jobs bill, but it only produces 35 long term jobs! The construction jobs will be temporary, and mostly import industry crews instead of locals. It is claiming eminent domain over farmer’s lands, risking future spills. Even these industry crews are proving to be lacking in the quality of their work. All those miles of high pressure pipe carry risk to the farm lands they typically cross. Is there reason to be concerned? Existing tar sands pipelines are averaging a leak a month, vs a predicted safety expectation of a leak every 7 years. We’ve seen the neighborhood of Mayflower Arkansas from heavy crude, and the Kalamazoo River from tar sands as they fail at being restored over a year after spills.
FACTS worth learning / remembering:
Chemically, all fossil fuel deposits are not created equal. Humans have already extracted most of the cleanest, easiest to access and use fuels (as also the richer veins of gold or copper in mines.) As the easy material is consumed, more work must be done to extract material from the lesser quality material still in the ground. The main problem is that at some point it takes as much energy to extract fossil fuels as is then made available for use. EROEI (Energy Return on Energy Invested) or (ER/EI) shrinks to one, i.e. there is no gain in energy after the work of extraction and processing.
Of all the major fossil fuel types being commercially extracted today, Tar Sands have the lowest EROEI. They are essentially bitumen that once it is carved out of the earth still needs to be heated, softened, washed of stone and sand and then pumped as still nasty, gritty sludge through high pressure pipes to get to a refinery that can cook and separate it enough to begin to use. EVERY bit of the fuel used in getting Tar Sands extracted and softened and pumped first required burning additional fuel pushing more CO2 into the atmosphere … before the net refined fuel from the Tar Sands is itself burned in a car or other device -which adds the rest of the carbon into the air as CO2. It is a dirty, process that multiplies the amount of CO2 released – just to access the energy at the last step. That is why Tar Sands are the dirtiest, most CO2 polluting, aquifer and land threatening fossil fuels on the planet.
Compound the atmospheric destruction with the loss of trees and the pollution of waters AND add up the net CO2 this project makes available for humans to use in our addiction to fossilized sunlight. As James Hanson is correct in saying, it is “Game Over” for the biosphere. We are already too close to changing our climate for thousands of years, This guarantees tipping the planet out of balance.
Stopping this project is but one step in what needs to quickly become a reversal / net sequestration of carbon – so as to reverse climate change and reverse ocean acidification. Though it is one step, it is also the most accessible step – stopping a project BEFORE it gets fully implemented.
Where will these high pressure pipes, loaded with partially cleaned and diluted bitumen go? Early plans look like this:
Legend to go with the Map – accessed from Earthworks “Tar Sands Oil Refineries & Pipelines in the U.S.
EXISTING REFINERIES KNOWN TO HAVE USED TAR SANDS OIL
1. ConocoPhillips – Los Angeles, CA
2. ConocoPhillips – San Francisco, CA
3. Suncor, Denver, Commerce City CO
5. Citgo, Lemont, IL
6. ConocoPhillips, Wood River, Roxana, IL (Encana, 49%)
7. BP, Whiting, IN
8. Marathon, Detroit, MI
9. Flint Hills Resources, Rosemount/InnerGrove Heights Mills, Pine Bend, MN (is among the top processors of Canadian crude in the United States and a leader in providing clean-burning fuels)
10. Marathon, St. Paul Park, MN
Sep 22, 2013 – No one was injured in the fire at the St. Paul Park Refining Co. refinery — formerly the Marathon Oil refinery — and the unit , where crude oil is processed into asphalt. There is also a “WorleyParsons Group” listed… may be a training or resource group working for Marathon?
11. ExxonMobil, Billings, Montana
12. Phillips 66, Billings, Montana (GM Petr. CHS and Exxon are in Billings)
13. Marathon, Canton, OH
14. BP, Toledo, OH
15. Sunoco, Toledo, OH
16. ConocoPhillips, Poca City, OK
17. Valero, Warren, PA United Refining Company
18. Big West (Flying J Mgmt), Salt Lake City, UT
19. Chevron, Salt Lake City, UT
20. Tesoro, Salt Lake City, UT
21. Shell Anacortes, Anacortes, Washington
22. Texaco, Anacortes, Washington
23. Murphy Oil, Superior, WI Sold to Calumet Specialty Products 2011?
24. Sinclair, Sinclair, WY
25. Sinclair Little America Refining, Casper, WY
EXISTING REFINERIES PLANNING** TO TAKE TAR SANDS ON
26. Valero, Norco, St. Charles, Louisana
27. CMS (Cenex), Laurel, MT
28. Husky, Lima, Ohio
29. Sinclair, Tulsa, OK
30. Valero, Port Arthur, TX
PROPOSED REFINERIES PLANNING TO TAKE TAR SANDS ON
32. Mandan Refinery, Texoro – Mandan, ND
33. Hyperion Refinery, Elk Point, SD
PROPOSED MAJOR NEW PIPELINES
A TransCanada Keystone
B TransCanada Cushing Expansion
C Sunoco – to Philadelphia
D Enbridge Pipeline (Op 2) “Op could mean Option?”
E Enbridge Pipeline (Op 1)
F TEPPCO/Kinder Morgan Chinook – Maple Leaf.
G TransCanada Keystone XL
H Atlas Energy
I TransCanada Alberta-California
J Enbridge Northern Gateway
K Kinder Morgan TMX (TMX Anchor Loop Project)
L Enbridge Northern Gateway Canada Import
PROPOSED MAJOR PIPELINE EXPANSIONS
M Enbridge Southern Lights & Clipper
N Kinder Morgan TMX
LEGEND to Map Icons
WHITE X inside circle – Proposed major new pipelines
PINK X inside circle – Proposed major pipeline expansions
RED LINE – Existing Major Pipelines
GREEN DASHED LINE – Proposed new oil and tanker routes
Existing major pipelines / Proposed new oil and tanker routes
WHITE BLOCK w/# Proposed refineries planning to take TAR SANDS oil
RED BLOCK w/# Existing refineries known to have used TAR SANDS oil
BLUE BLOCK w/# Existing refineries planning to take TAR SANDS oil
The new Congress did not campaign on many issues that will soon be proposed. Likely the agenda ahead will surprise many. Yet for the sake of our children, our land and all that is morally relevant as to stewardship of lands, water, farms and basic property rights of people, this deserves to be beyond the bickering of political gamesmanship. The benefactors will not be the people except the shareholders of the big oil companies. The energy security will quickly flow out to sea aboard giant tankers. America will gain mostly oil spills, and a short term global extension of our addiction to oil. We can do better. We can demand better. If this has shaped your opinion, or added to your awareness of what Congress is considering, it is easier to affect representative opinion earlier, before they again caucus than later when the vote is imminent.