Petropolis: The Dark Side Of Keystone XL Pipeline Debate.

by Jerry Alatalo

XL GreenlineAlphabet The debate over Keystone XL pipeline has been all over the news after the United States Congress voted for its approval. What was disappointing about the debates in the House of Representatives and Senate was how little mention the environmental destruction occurring in Canadian tar sands fields received. If the Keystone XL legislation were to be signed/approved by Barack Obama, and he says he will veto, it would encourage and facilitate intensification of tar sands extraction in many regions of Canada.

Certainly, construction of an estimated 1,200 mile pipeline across the middle of the United States will require many workers to complete. Estimates are as low as 35 of the number of permanent employees after the pipeline became operational. But what if the land needed across those 1,200 miles, instead of a pipeline carrying one of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels, were utilized for a continuous line of solar panels and wind turbines?

Just guessing, but the number of jobs created in the manufacture and installation of 1,200 miles of solar panels and wind turbines, as compared to pipes, would be many times more. And compared to the estimated 35 permanent jobs after a pipeline was completed, one could reasonably estimate many times more permanent jobs as well.

Then, comparing construction of a 1,200 mile dirty tar sands oil/bitumen pipeline to developing a 1,200 mile renewable energy “pipeline” as each affects the economy, and factoring in the environmental consequences of each, one starts to understand how renewable green energy is easily the wiser choice. The economic benefits would be experienced by different interests/people, the negative environmental impacts of each are as far apart as is possible, however green energy advocates have a constraining factor related to their volume for making their case – they can’t buy politicians.

Residents of states along the proposed XL pipeline route have come to oppose its construction, and legal cases are both ongoing and forthcoming regarding “eminent domain” and no evidence of the United States’ absolute necessity to allow construction of the pipeline. In other words, the XL pipeline does not meet the “national security” criteria required for eminent domain to apply.

Landowners in states along the proposed route have legitimate concerns about leaving the land to their children and grandchildren in a healthy state; some have said no amount of monetary compensation from TransCanada will convince them to sell. Others convey their opposition to a pipeline by saying their land and its familial history, when considering possible oil spills, is a matter which strikes at the heart, and that they are very uncomfortable with the negative potentials. What if these same people were given the option to allow solar panels and wind turbines to become erected as an alternative to the XL pipeline?

One could guess their response to a renewable, green energy project on their land would be “no problem”.

Because renewable, green energy projects offer, indeed, no problems. Any man or woman who views the unique documentary film “Petropolis” which shows a helicopter view of a number of Canadian tar sands extraction facilities will understand fully the problems associated with the gigantic, absolutely devastating to the environment tar sands extraction process.

Petropolis was made in the year 2009 by Peter Mettler in association with Greenpeace in Canada, and it is uncertain how many more tar sands extraction facilities have become constructed and operational in the six years since 2009 like the ones in the film. However, if the Keystone XL pipeline were ever built, its presence would accelerate more environmental devastation as that which the film records.

Canadian tars sands cover an area the size of England. How much clean, green renewable energy could become produced if such a massive area became densely populated with solar panels and wind turbines?

Tar sands extraction in Canada is the world’s largest industrial, capital and energy project.

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(The following information comes from www.greenpeace.org)

Alberta oil is actually bitumen, a viscous crude comprised primarily of cancer-causing polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. Unlike any other petroleum product, it requires extensive processing and refining to become thin enough to flow through pipes. There are no free-flowing streams of black gold in the Athabasca region — far from it.

The tar sands cover an area of land the size of England, which has been divided up and leased to the world’s biggest oil companies. These multinational organizations use mammoth machines to carve into the earth and excavate the sticky sand from the open-pit mines. The surface area that must be destroyed to get at the bitumen is called “overburden” by industry, but we call it the Boreal Forest.

The other type of extraction, called in-situ, essentially boils the earth. Massive quantities of steam and natural gas are used to melt the bitumen and pipe it back up to the surface, while fragmenting forests and destroying critical habitat.

Two tonnes of tar sand is needed to produce a single barrel of oil. Three to five times more water and energy are required per barrel than any other source known to mankind. The tar sands use more water every day than a city of two million people and consume enough natural gas to heat six million Canadian homes. Until the oil boom, the tar sands were too expensive to be economically viable. But our global addiction to oil has us scraping the bottom of the barrel.

Greenpeace activists from Canada, the US, and France and place a giant banner reading “Tar Sands: Climate Crime.” and block the giant tar sands mining operation at the Shell Albian Sands outside of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 . Greenpeace believes the continued development of the tar sands and the lust for oil threatens to derail international climate action in December at the UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen.

The tar sands generate 40 million tonnes of CO2 per year, more than all the cars in Canada combined. Because of the tar sands, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions have grown more since 1990 than those of any other G8 nation, according to the 2009 national inventory report that Environment Canada filed with the United Nations.

As the fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions in the country, the tar sands are the main reason Canada continues to block meaningful global climate regulations. The Canadian government ignores the warnings of the scientific community by aiming for abysmal targets that will leave us at nearly double the science-based target that we need to meet to keep the increase in global temperature below 2 C and avoid catastrophic climate change.

Key waterways like the Athabasca River are being polluted to the tune of 11 million litres of toxic runoff every day. The tar sands are lacing our air with dangerous toxins, poisoning communities with rare cancers and autoimmune diseases, destroying critical animal habitats and carving up some of our most pristine countryside.

While the tar sands are often touted as Canada’s economic driver, from a social costs standpoint, Albertans are paying a hefty price. The Alberta government has been cutting essential social services from hospital beds to Aboriginal services, while oil companies rake in record profits. And while the tar sands create jobs in the short term, two out of three jobs are in construction, meaning once the initial work is completed, those jobs disappear.

Yet despite all of this, the Alberta government has approved 100 per cent of proposed tar sands projects. Greenpeace is calling for an immediate end to new approvals, and a phase-out of existing projects.

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(Thank you to Mike C at YouTube)

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Earth, America, Solar Power, And Arthur Schopenhauer.

Hermann Scheer 2005
Hermann Scheer 2005 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted November 27, 2013

by Jerry Alatalo

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

– Arthur Schopenhauer

First, solar energy, along with wind energy, is free energy. Why is it that no world leader has suggested that every citizen in every nation, especially the United States, have access to free energy from solar, wind, biogas, and other renewable energies? Now, let me be clear here. I am talking about a situation where no person will pay for electricity, ever again.

Let me begin with a short discussion about what it means to become an elected representative of the people. I think we can all agree that ideally a government representative of the people has the job of making life better for his constituents. There may be some debate as to whether John F. Kennedy’s suggestion that men complete a mission to land on the moon resulted in life being better for the American people. One could say that there were a number of valuable, life-enhancing technological developments which came about through the effort to send a man to the moon.

Leaving the moon landing debate aside, whether it was worth it because of the scientific discoveries that occurred in the effort, what I would like to do here is compare the big idea of sending a man to the moon to the big idea of providing every citizen on Earth with free power/electricity.  What I am suggesting is that free energy comes from the sun and wind, and there is no reason to not believe that every citizen should have use of that free energy.

Solar, wind, and other renewable energies are free.

The documentary in this post, “Here Comes The Sun”, came out in 2008-9, and shows the tremendous potential of solar energy even some years ago. At that time the promise of solar energy technologies had already been discovered and proven to be practical. Hermann Scheer, the man who almost single-handedly initiated a green revolution in his native country of Germany before passing away in 2010, plainly stated in the film that the “solar debate is over.”

Now, he said this 5 years ago.

My focus here is to express my disappointment that the unbelievably profound potential of solar and wind energy is not being utilized to the point where every single man, woman, and child on Earth is using it. In the simplest way of saying it, solar and wind energy can power the entire world – all of humanity. And my simple question is: why is this possibility not being pursued with an intense vigor that matches the truly profound and possible reality?

Perhaps the man from Jordan in this documentary answered that simple question. He offered the choice for humanity of living in a world where compassion and concern for one’s fellow-man is the reality pursued, or the other option of continuing the status-quo where special interests receive the bulk of the power and influence moving forward. His reasoning and expression of that choice, which is the true choice for humanity now, is right on the money and reflects the actual energy situation on Earth.

Even though this documentary came out in 2008-9, its impact is perhaps even more powerful in 2013 because it exposes how disappointing has been the worldwide effort to implement such life transforming technology everywhere. Hermann Scheer said that a rapid renewable energy revolution is possible. He said that investments in traditional energy industries like oil, nuclear, coal, etc. will become poor investments because renewable energies are the future.

To the point, there is no longer any argument or debate about solar, wind, and other renewable energies. It is time for world leaders to get with the program and start the ball rolling to gratefully accept the Creator/God’s gift of solar and wind energy. Certainly the traditional energy industries like oil, coal, nuclear, and others will become, as Hermann Scheer stated, “superfluous”.

It is time for humanity to choose the path that leads to a less polluted, less energy resource war-prone, more just and peaceful world. A better world where the citizens of the Earth lead improved lives with less violence, less spending on weapons, wars and killing, less separation between nations and people, and an increase in coöperation and brotherhood worldwide, is possible and waiting for the human race to take and make real.

A better world is possible. All humanity has to do is choose the good path.

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(Video source: Global Climate News channel @ YouTube)

 

 

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Solar, Wind, Renewable Energies Offer Great Hope For Humanity.

English: Renewable energy sources at Chattleho...
English: Renewable energy sources at Chattlehope Many isolated homesteads in Northumberland and southern Scotland have wind turbines to supplement their electricity supply. This outhouse at Chattlehope (Catcleugh Reservoir can be seen in the background) also sports solar panels. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted November 12, 2013

by Jerry Alatalo

Natural resource wars would be a thing of the past, only experienced by future generations through reading about them in history books.

Just this one result of a worldwide shift to solar and other renewable energy sources, along with energy efficiency measures, is enough to convince even the most stubborn “doubting Thomas” that such a shift is a very, very wise choice for the people of the Earth. All that would be needed for such a shift to occur is for the peoples and nations of the world to agree.

Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Philippines typhoon, Fukushima, Gulf of Mexico, Iraq War, Libya, Afghanistan, Middle East, Arab Spring, Occupy, austerity, trillion-dollar defense budgets, are all associated with mankind’s failure to rise with one voice and push for renewable energy options which are available now.

Renewable energies offer humanity nothing less than free energy. This is a very strong assertion, I realize. However, when the initial investment of a renewable energy installation is paid back, the subsequent energy produced is literally free. Unless some government representatives, or powerful traditional energy companies, finds the way to legislate and create laws to block that possibility.

Can we imagine how beneficial such an energy shift around the planet would truly be? Besides eliminating energy resource wars, spending by governments on those wars, the destructiveness of wars – including the deaths of millions of men, women, and children in recent history – people around the world would be able to live their lives “off-the-grid”. No longer faced with electric bills.

Now, I can see where men and women reading this will be asking the question, “What about the owners of gas, oil, nuclear, coal and other traditional energy-producing corporations? What about their loss of profits?”

Hermann Scheer, a man who was very instrumental in Germany’s energy shift, called solar energy “the energy of the people” and that “a rapid energy shift is possible”. 

Hermann Scheer passed away in 2010, leaving a great legacy.

I was looking for recent information on public banking when I came upon the following short presentation by Steve Seuser, given at the Public Banking Institute’s June 2013 conference. Mr. Seuser shares a concise description of Germany’s successful effort to transform that country’s energy sector, thanks to a huge amount of grassroots efforts which occurred before that transformation.

He describes the reasons for the shift in Germany as, among others, a large-scale transformation of Germany’s energy sector, consisting of mainly small-scale renewable energy installations by homeowners, farmers, small business owners, apartment building owners, and others. Mr. Seuser points out that there was broad consensus among the German people who strongly supported this shift, which began shortly after laws became passed in the year 2000.

Other motivations cited were efforts to reduce climate change, reduce energy dependence on imports, German-oriented energy production, to stimulate technology development and innovation, and to reduce or eliminate nuclear energy risks. Other motives revolved around building local economies and creating social justice by allowing the German people to reduce their energy costs – with more money staying in the pockets of the people.

Mr. Seuser shares the importance of feed-in tariffs, which are the main, essential part of the law, guaranteeing a return on investment, and written in the law to last for twenty years. He goes on to point out that both Germany’s public and private banks became eager to get on board with the initiative. At one point, Mr. Seuser points out, the situation in Germany saw typical situations where property owners would first decide to install solar panels, and within five days the installation would be on their roof(s) and working.

He then mentions that all partners are financially rewarded except big utilities.

I recently read an article where Barack Obama was going to send 7 billion dollars of taxpayer money to the people of Africa for nuclear power development. In that article I did not notice any mention of renewable energy development, as opposed to nuclear. Perhaps investing 7 billion dollars of American taxpayer money in renewable energies for Africa would be a wiser choice?

President Obama is making the effort to “help the African people to develop their economy”. One must ask if companies like General Electric (in the same league as big utilities who were not rewarded financially in Germany) are the focus of development, and not the economy of the African people.

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At any rate, this presentation by Steve Seuser is concise and to the point. For more information about the tremendous benefits of a rapid shift toward renewable energy, please visit the following websites:

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If the information in the following video makes sense to you, please distribute as widely as possible. Help to hasten the day when solar, wind, biogas, geothermal and other renewable energies are known by all Americans and all of humanity. Hasten the day when solar panels will be on the rooftops of homes, businesses, and apartment buildings across America.

And around the Earth.

 

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When Every Day Is Sun Day.

Direct-gain solar heater panels with integrate...
Direct-gain solar heater panels with integrated storage tank (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Posted November 1, 2013

by Jerry Alatalo

Today is Sunday November 1, 2013. What does he mean by “when every day is Sunday”? What it means is that people have solar panels on their homes and workplaces, passive solar heating through placement of south-facing windows, skylights erasing the need to turn on the lights during daytime, and other energy producing and saving products and strategies in place.

Simple placement of windows on south-facing walls of homes and buildings saves owners from 30-40% on heating costs. Does the home you live in take advantage of southern walls and windows in those walls? Do your family members’ homes have passive solar energy collecting, south-facing windows? How about skylights? Does the single story building that you own or work in have skylights? Or the schools where you live?

Passive solar and installing skylights are two of the low-tech, energy efficiency avenues to what Amory Lovins, the fellow in the following video, has coined “negawatt” savings. Amory Lovins has been an advocate of a “negawatt revolution” for decades, negawatt being defined as a unit of energy measured in watts saved.

Mr. Lovins had been out of my mind until Ralph Nader recently mentioned his name in an article. I had a slight knowledge of him through readings in years past, understood he was a leader in energy efficiency advocacy through his founding of the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), and that his efforts were always seen as logical and reasonable. When Mr. Nader reminded me of Amory Lovins, I thought it would be a positive thing to post an article about him.

A little about Amory Lovins. He was born in Washington, D.C. in 1947 and spent his childhood in Maryland and Massachusetts. He attended Harvard from 1964-66 then transferred to Oxford University in England, where he studied physics and other subjects. He didn’t graduate because the university declined his request to pursue a doctorate in energy.

He went on to publish six books on energy-efficiency, energy-saving products, and the promise of newly emerging technology. He became an environmentalist, working with the Friends of the Earth, until in 1982 he, along with his wife Hunter Lovins, founded the Rocky Mountain Institute in Colorado, USA. The video below comes from RMI’s YouTube channel, and their web address is rmi.org. RMI has grown from 1982 to now in 2013, where the organization has a staff of 85 and a budget of $13 million.

Amory Lovins advocates a “soft energy path” for the United States and nations around the world. Soft energy includes solar, wind, biogas, geothermal, and other forms of energy production. Mr. Lovins has focused on energy efficiency and renewables’ production in the vicinity of where the energy is used. His efforts have included sharing of information which allows purchasers of energy using devices to learn about energy-saving/efficient device options and their existence, where to buy them, and the best energy-saving devices available.

I equate his level of influence in the world to that of the late Hermann Scheer of Germany, both in a league of major contributors to energy freedom for the people of both their countries and countries around the Earth. Lovins, Scheer, Nader and many others have correctly identified the tremendous technological potential of renewable energies and are strong believers in the positive consequences of largest-scale implementation of new and developing products and technology.

There are a few reasons that I have decided to share energy-related information here. First, let me share that years ago I read a book, the title of which I can’t recall, where the author pointed out that major oil and gas corporations were “sitting on” patents for the most advanced renewable energy technologies. I would submit that renewable technologies are in effect “censored”, blocked, and criticized for one reason. It is a simple reason: at a certain point after a home or commercial building owner installs solar or other technology-the time comes, that point where the installation cost(s) have been recouped-and from that point forward the energy produced is free.

One can easily see why renewable energies are not in operation on the ground in the USA at the largest scale when viewed with profits of traditional energy corporations’ stockholders in one’s awareness. Renewables have a “catch-22” status in America, being a “winning” proposition for the people but a “loser” for the owners of oil. gas, nuclear, and other traditional energy corporations. Ultimately it is a sad situation because profits have become placed above the interests of the majority of the people.

The real, great promise of renewable energy has been suppressed and needs to end.

Hermann Scheer called solar power “the energy of the people”. He conveyed before he passed away in 2010 that the actualizing of renewables’ real benefits would entail a “war” of sorts-a war between the people and entrenched profit-driven corporate power and the individuals who want to maintain the profits-the energy status-quo. My guess is that Amory Lovins is intimately familiar with the work of Hermann Scheer, and understands fully the type of effort required for world energy production change.

Hopefully this piece will increase awareness and accelerate a real paradigm change in the world regarding renewable energy and its presently available, implementable, waiting-for-installation state. Perhaps from reading this men and women will take action(s) which help accelerate such a worldwide change. Perhaps communications which may have not taken place will take place. Persons reading this will contact the Rocky Mountain Institute and receive information which leads to the start of a business installing solar panels on homes, commercial buildings, and schools. Or the start of a business installing south-facing windows, or skylights.

Perhaps someone reading this will contact their federal representative and suggest legislation which allows for a renewable energy industry boom, which occurred in Germany with the leadership of Hermann Scheer, after he led the draft of laws guaranteeing economic gains from renewable energy investment, through feed-in tariffs that paid those investors, small and large, an unalterable amount for their energy production.

In Germany, because people who install solar panels on their homes have a guaranteed payment for excess energy production, there are solar panels on homes and building as far as the eye can see. Businesses which build solar panels and related products, businesses which specialize in installing solar panels, and retail stores have begun with legislation that focused on renewable energy development.

For more information visit the Rocky Mountain Institute’s website: rmi.org.

All that is needed for the United States of America to create an economic boom in renewable energy is legislation that mirrors German legislation. The reality which the American people must deal with is the choice of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. to maintain the status-quo of traditional oil, gas, nuclear, and coal corporation owners. 

Right now, the lawmakers in Washington, D.C.-the United States Congress-have decided to deny the American people a renewable energy, economic boom and most significant: free energy.

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