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Keystone XL — A Disaster Looking for Just the Right Time and Place

How much oil is really left in the world?  According to the US Government there are about 1.3 trillion barrels.  Now, according to OPEC, over the next 21 years, the world will use an average about 36 billion barrels of oil per year.  So, barring any new major oil discoveries, the world’s oil supply will be gone in about 36 years.  According to BP there are about 40 years left.  Let’s not quibble over the 4-year difference.

Oil prices have been continually going up even though the world keeps discovering more oil.  Now, the truth is, part of the reason that we have more and more oil is that as the prices do go up, it becomes more cost effective to extract oil from areas that would have been cost prohibitive if the prices were lower.

So what’s the deal?  Some people will side with the oil companies (drill baby, drill) no matter what, and others, of course, are tree huggers and don’t like drilling no matter what.

Burning oil is not good for living and breathing things.  We all know that, and I am sure that eventually we will discover an energy source that will satisfy our needs without giving us lung cancer.

President Obama, as we know, cancelled the TransCanada Keystone XL project which, was going to run a pipeline from Canada to Texas.  There are some who are upset because they feel that we should be buying oil from friendly countries.  Well, here is some great news: we are!  Although we import about ⅔ of our oil.  The largest amount comes from Canada (17%),  Mexico is next (16%), then is Saudi Arabia (14%).  We also get oil from Nigeria, Venezuela, etc.  We already have huge storage facilities for Canadian oil located in Cushing, Oklahoma, where there are currently about 59 Million barrels sitting there.

As everything else, the pipeline has become a political issue.  We have many pipelines in the US.  What’s one more?  The problem is that the proposed route of this pipeline will traverse the Ogallala Aquifer which is one of the largest sources of fresh water in the world.  It covers a portion of the states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas.  It supplies a great deal of the water needs of Mid-Western America.

Opponents say that an oil leak would impact millions of Americans — it would poison their water.  We’d all have to start drinking wine.  As far as our livestock, well, have you ever tried to reason with a drunken cow, pig, or chicken?  The crops wouldn’t grow too well, either.  We know the disregard that the oil industry has for the environment.   Look what happened with BP in the Gulf of Mexico.  There are continual problems with oil leaks in Alaska.  Let’s not forget the Exxon Valdez disaster in March 1989.  In the past two years, the Canadian Government has logged 100 different incidents and accidents on federally regulated Canadian oil and gas pipelines (Vancouver Sun, July 5, 2011).   The oil industry does not have anywhere near the safety record of the nuclear industry — and look what’s happened in Japan.

Now, proponents say that the Keystone XL pipeline will only cross the aquifer in Nebraska and a study commissioned by the State Department found that the Nebraska route would be the most economically feasible and would be unlikely to have any serious environmental impact.

Other proponents, such as American unions, have argued that jobs will be created in producing the pipeline as well as installing it.  Other sources say that the pipeline has already been produced — anticipating a US approval — and the pipe is THINNER than normal to save some money.  TransCanada admitted to that!  It would appear that the Canadian oil industry thinks that they have the US Government in their pockets just as the US oil industry does.  The pipe will be at high pressure and will be passing through an active seismic zone, which experienced a 4.3 earthquake in 2002.  I did read a technical article written by a person identifying himself as an engineer giving some technical reasons as to why the pipeline had to be thinner but, frankly, the article didn’t make much sense to me, and didn’t touch on the poor safety record that the oil industry has.  There has already been many studies showing that the increase in jobs isn’t anywhere near what the oil industry is claiming.  For example, they were counting jobs on the basis of one person for one year counts as 1 job.  One person hired on for two years is 2 jobs!  Goodness, I held the same job for 32 years.  So, I would count as 32 jobs?

So far, it seems to me that it is simply too dangerous to too many  Americans to allow a pipeline through the Ogallala Aquifer,  One disaster is all we would need to recognize that this was a horrible idea.  Trying to round-up spilled oil is almost as bad as trying to round-up leaked radiation.

From what I have read, it isn’t at all clear that we even need it, and, I haven’t been able to find any information on why the pipeline isn’t simply put somewhere else (other than the cost).

Oil is a commodity.  It pretty much doesn’t matter if we buy from Canada, Mexico, or Russia.  The oil companies are very politically correct: they don’t care if you are Christian, Jew, Muslim, Canadian, American, Saudi, etc.  You want the oil?  You’ll pay the price!  The price will be whatever the oil producing nations want to charge.  We are addicted to the oil, but, guess what, the sellers are addicted to the money!  Even if we agreed to let the pipeline go across the US, it certainly would not be in the interest of, say, Exxon to let the price go down.  Exxon is in the habit of making money — lots of it — for their shareholders and they are not about to be come altruistic!  So, the price of oil will stay the same, or go up, no matter what we do.

Further, China is a recent entry into the ranks of oil buyers.  Their industry is expanding so much that they are willing to buy virtually every drop of oil produced.  That is a guarantee that the price will remain high — and go higher.

I am sorry for speaker of the house, John Boehner who stands to lose huge sums of money if the project does not carry through.  That is one of those interesting things.  Insider trading is legal for our congressmen and congresswomen.  So he has done nothing wrong — but it sure seems unethical.  This could be one reason he is pushing it so much.  But for those outside of congress, this pipeline in the proposed location is a terrible idea.  President Obama canceling it was exactly what was called for.

PS: I am not really sorry for John Boehner — that was a lame attempt at sarcastic humor.

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One comment on “Keystone XL — A Disaster Looking for Just the Right Time and Place

  1. And that shows the difference between Democrats and Republicans: Democrats want to responsibly manage the environment and save it for posterity while Republicans do not mind polluting the entire planet just to make a profit.

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