I was reading this article on Dr. James Hansen and climate change when this sentence popped out at me:
Another refinery near Minneapolis processes tar sands oil into gasoline for Wisconsin. If you fill up at Kwik Trip, you’re burning tar sands oil.Well, Kwik Trip is one place I buy gas. Did they really use tar sands oil in their gas? This article speaks positively about Kwik Trip's effort to get an early start on providing recharge stations for electric cars, but a commenter notes:
Kwik Trip fuels are full of tar sands gasoline, which has a carbon footprint several times larger than conventional gasoline. In light of this, installing a few electric-car charging stations at their stores, which as your article states has questionable utility, seems like little more than greenwashing.I found this article that said a local refinery does refine Alberta tar sands oil and "Kwik Trip is one of its biggest customers."
At first, I thought I could just buy gas somewhere else and avoid tar sands gasoline. Also, if enough people did likewise maybe it would send a message? Maybe retailers would think twice about their fuel sources? I also get gas at Holiday so I did a search.
The oil at Holiday is fracked Canadian tar sands oil, pumped through Koch brothers pipelines, refined at the Rosemount facility (or sometimes just dumped in the nearby wetlands) and merely sold by the Erickson empire through their Holiday stations. So it is Koch dirty oil. refined at a local Koch dirty refinery, merely sold by Holiday.
What about Marathon and SuperAmerica? I learned the gas comes from the nearby Marathon refinery, which is 100% Canadian tar sands oil. At least it isn't owned by Koch?
Most Minnesota residents aren't aware 80% of their gasoline comes from Canadian tar sands oil.
I looked more, and it doesn't seem people in the upper midwest can easily avoid tar sands gas. Rick Chamberlin looked into it and wrote a blog post "The Tragedy In Your Tank Is It Even Possible To Steer Clear of Tar Sands Gasoline? In the post, he indicates a reader once wrote to him asking "So where can I buy gasoline without tar sands oil?" The answer he found:
Well, I’ve found the answer and it’s not a good one: virtually all gasoline (and diesel fuel, home heating oil and jet fuel) now sold in Wisconsin is derived, at least in part, from crude originating in the Athabascan tar sands region of Canada.I read "in part" and I thought maybe it would be possible to find out what gas stations had the least tar sands in their blend? Well, no.
Although he couldn’t supply me with exact figures, Erin Roth, director of the Wisconsin Petroleum Council, told me that most major suppliers of gasoline in Wisconsin sell blends containing well over 50 percent tar sands gasoline, and that many suppliers are as high 80 percent. The Marathon refinery in Minnesota, which supplies fuel to all Marathon stations, including several in Wisconsin, is at 100 percent Canadian crude, according to Roth.He wasn't able to find out exactly how much tar sands goes into any retailers blend, and found that blends vary on a daily basis. And note the director of the Wisconsin Petroleum Council told him they would keep increasing their use of Canadian crude.
Minnesota and Wisconsin aren't the only places it may be hard to avoid tar sands gas. If you live in Maine,. there's a good chance your gas comes from Canadian tar sands oil as well. There is also a bill in the Maine state legislature to put a 2 year moratorium on the transportation of tar sands oil.
Also, gas stations in the SF Bay area will soon be selling even more gasoline refined from Canadian tar sands oil.
As noted, I didn't know I was buying gas that was refined from Canadian tar sands oil. I'm sure most people who live in the upper midwest or other states where gasoline supplies are obtained mostly from refined tar sands oil aren't aware. What if gasoline retailers had to label their fuel sources? Doesn't the public have a right to know if the gas they buy is refined from fuel sources with a substantially greater environmental impact?
In a Mother Jones article, it is noted a San Francisco environmental group Forest Ethics has encouraged American companies to boycott tar sands oil and the refineries that process it. The articles notes it is much easier for companies to boycott tar sands based fuel than individuals. In fact, Forest Ethics has persuaded 19 large companies and 2 cities to do that. Hopefully, the list will grow and refineries will think twice before buying tar sands oil.
To make it to the pump, refined bitumen heads to an oil refinery where it’s converted into gasoline. And since bitumen is a highly viscous “heavy” oil that doesn’t flow as easily as lighter crude, it requires more processing to facilitate its flow through the oil pipelines.Oil Sands Check stated fueling 10% of U.S. transportation with tar sands gas is the environmental equivalent of adding 8 million cars to the road. Also, note while producing a barrel of oil from tar sands does produce 3.2 to 4.5 times more greenhouse gases than conventional oil, the actual "well to wheels" effect is 22% more climate damaging than gasoline from conventional oil.
Overall, mining tar sands, extracting bitumen and converting it to gasoline releases three times more carbon dioxide than typical oil production. In addition to massive amounts of tar sand needed to extract oil and the carbon emissions generated, the tar sand mining operation takes places in Alberta's boreal forest, a relatively untouched ecosystem prized for its biodiversity. But the habitat destruction has threatened the livelihood of various native species, and the Alberta Water Research Institute is currently spending $15 million to prevent runoff toxins collected in tailing pools from entering nearby water supplies.
Hopefully, President Obama will not approve the Keystone XL pipeline. We know without the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands production and the environmental impact will be much less.
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