America is recognized globally as a leader. The United States signed the Kyoto Protocol agreeing to participate in reducing carbon emissions along with 190 other countries (even though it was not ratified). Many other agreements have been made since, as recently as last year, where all parties agree that the issue requires that all of the top polluters commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. President Obama is the leader of our country and has committed publicly to fight global warming. Doing so, by definition, requires a reduction in America's carbon footprint, especially since the US is one of the world's biggest carbon dioxide polluters, second only to China. The Keystone XL pipeline would be used to move some of the dirtiest burning oil over US soil and two major aquifers to be processed and then shipped overseas. That's right, we don't even plan to use most of this oil in America. Approving the Keystone XL pipeline would make America and our President hypocrites.
Saying "NO" to the pipeline is sending a message to the world that the US is committed to solving the problem of global warming. How can we expect any other country to do more than we are willing to do ourselves? Back in 2007, when then Senator Obama declared his run for the White House, standing on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., he said, “Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.” More recently, at his second inaugural address in January, President Obama recommitted himself by saying:
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries - we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure - our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That's what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.Then again, in his state of the union, the President said:
If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.Mr. President, the fact is, one cannot have it both ways. America cannot say that climate change mitigation is a priority whilst vying for position as a global oil refining and distribution leader.
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Who pays for global warming effects? Government and business, particularly the insurance business. Then, they have to pass those costs on to the US taxpayer/consumer. In addition to the financial costs, one must also consider the threat to global security. This is why the insurance industry along with the IMF and the President of the World Bank are crying out for immediate action to mitigate global warming. The head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde recently stated, “Unless we take action on climate change, future generations will be roasted, toasted, fried and grilled.”
Why would other nations work to reduce carbon emissions if the US expands its participation in refining and distributing the dirtiest oil in the world?
For those who may think that the environmental risks are negligible, think again. Even the Canadians don't want to move this type of oil via pipeline across their own country because of lessons already learned. As Bloomberg reported earlier this month, "Western Canada is producing more crude oil than it knows what to do with. So guess where Eastern Canada is going to get crude oil from this summer? By ship from Texas." The Canadians know that the tar sands oil, dilbit, is extremely hazardous as well as being more expensive to clean up when it spills.
The State Department recently released a Draft Environmental Impact Statement which downplayed the environmental risks associated with the pipeline. The report neglects to address the fundamental question, "What impact will the pipeline have on overall world greenhouse gas pollution over the next forty years?" Perhaps, they did so because of the immediate stress and threats to the environment which cannot be ignored by any reasonable person.
To make matters worse, Mother Jones broke the story last month that the State Department hid the fact that one of the experts hired to draft the report has ties to the Canadian oil company that wants to build the pipeline. But, the administration does not need to hire contractors to understand the serious environmental and public health risks posed by transporting dilbit. In July of 2010 a Canadian oil company, Enbridge, spilled over a million gallons of dilbit into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. It is still trying to clean it up as ordered by the EPA and as assessed by the NTSB, who have oversight of pipelines in the US. Last month, the EPA issued another order to Enbridge because they have not been able or willing to date to complete the cleanup the massive spill, which spread over 35 miles of the Kalamazoo River, after almost three years . The Kalamazoo spill, along with the more recent one in Mayflower, Arkansas, should serve as warnings to Americans that we are not prepared to handle the potential impacts of transporting tar sands oil.
In addition, it seems that the oil industry would like people to think that tar sands oil, "diluted bitumen" or "dilbit", is no different than conventional crude oil, which is inaccurate. It is burns dirtier (more in greenhouse gas emissions) than conventional crude. The tar sands bitumen (commonly known as "asphalt") is solid, or semi-solid, like thick peanut butter. It has to be diluted with a toxic cocktail of substances, some known carcinogens, to move it through a pipeline, making spills hazardous. The dilbit, is more difficult and, in the case of the Kalamazoo River spill, at least forty times more expensive to clean up. When dilbit spills, some of the dilutants evaporate into the atmosphere while the heavier bitumen sinks if in water making it much more difficult, if not impossible to clean up. One homeowner equated it to walking over chewing gum on his lawn.
After the Kalamazoo River spill, over 50 families had to be evacuated due to the high level of benzene in the air, a component of the dilbit. Long term exposure to benzene causes effects on bone marrow and can cause anemia and leukemia according to the NTSB's report. 331 people have reported health effects because of the dilbit spill. The Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives reported last October:
"According to the NTSB’s final report, only two days after the spill the denser bitumen had separated from the dilutants in the dilbit and sunk to the bottom of the river bed, covering about 40 kilometres. Meanwhile, the dilutants -- containing benzene, toluene, and micro-polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) -- began off-gassing in the area, causing symptoms such as nausea, dizziness, headaches, coughing, and fatigue in 60% of the local population. Oil spill expert Riki Ott recently told a Vancouver Island audience (see Sept.-Oct. Watershed Sentinel) that micro-PAHs are major health hazards, causing cancer, asthma, hormone and reproductive problems by “jamming immune system and DNA functions.”Opponents of the pipeline argue that dilbit (tar sands oil) is more corrosive given that it is more acidic and grittier due to the presence of silica in the mix, making the likelihood of a spill or leak higher. The NTSB report indicates that corrosion and acidity were both factors in the rupture at Kalamazoo Creek as well. So, the tar sands oil "dilbit" to be transported through the Keystone XL pipeline burns dirtier, is more toxic, a major threat to fresh water supplies and public health, likely to be more corrosive and more difficult and hazardous (and therefore many times more expensive) to clean up. Basically, an ecological and financial disaster waiting to happen in every sense of the word. And, ironically, oil companies moving dilbit don't have to pay the excise tax into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund because it is not classified by the IRS as conventional crude oil. The fund was set up to protect the taxpayers from the costs of oil spills.
In addition to global warming, one cannot ignore the threat to at least two aquifers, one of which is the nation's largest, Ogallala, which provides drinking water to 82% of eight states, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Texas as well as 30% of the country's agriculture irrigation ground water. Everyone in those states and farmers in the Midwest should be calling on the White House and the Secretary of State to protect us from ourselves on this one.
Water security is essential to food security, public health and life. We are obliged to protect our fresh water aquifers at all costs. In 2012, "the most severe and extensive drought in at least 25 years seriously affected U.S. agriculture, with impacts on the crop and livestock sectors and with the potential to affect food prices at the retail level" according to the US Department of Agriculture. Another severe one is already predicted for 2013 by the NOAA weather service. And, unfortunately, the areas that may be hardest hit are the very same areas served by the Ogallala aquifer and the Keystone XL proposed route.
The only argument for this pipeline (other than oil related industry profits) is that it will create 35 permanent jobs and about 3,900 temporary jobs for a year, of which as few as 10% will be hired locally. Of course, all residents and businesses near the pipeline or that depend on water from the aquifers could be harmed in the event of a spill, another issue not addressed in the State Department's Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement.
This project truly is an all risk, no reward for your constituents. Safeguarding the planet, our health and security must take priority over the wishes of an industry that has already left us with several, including the most expensive, environmental disasters. Again, Mr. President, you must say "no" on the Keystone XL pipeline.