by Jerry Alatalo
he 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.
(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.
(Thank you to Mike C at YouTube)