Environmental HeadlinesIt was estimated that a crowd approximating thirty-five thousand devoted environmentalists showed up in Washington on the National Mall to deliver a message to their president and it sounded something like this: “We are unstoppable, another world is possible” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Keystone pipeline’s got to go.” and it looked something like this:
Thousands of protesters gather at the National Mall in Washington calling on President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada, Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013.
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
They have a mission to save the United States from environmental degradation, and they most certainly do not wish their country to purchase petroleum from a country whose largest extractable source is named the 'tarsands'. This is not a pejorative, it is a realistic summation of the dirty hydrocarbons that the product also called bitumen, represents, though not to the governments of Alberta and Canada who prefer the daintier term 'oilsands'.
There certainly are a whole whack of problems being posed in extracting that product without impacting deleteriously on the environment. And in all likelihood there is no way of pulling that dirty oil out of that generous geological cache that will not be of some level of harm to the environment. Engineers are working on it, to extend their very best scientific efforts to prevailing in producing methodology that will be least destructive.
It is not the clean-to-refine oil extracted so effortlessly from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Middle East and Venezuela. The United States is buying oil from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, two sources that support virulently anti-human-rights governments. Needless to say transporting oil from Saudi Arabia has its own deleterious effect on the environment. Apart from enriching a society that has been the source of fanatical Islam itself posing a threat of an entirely different kind to the West.
In 2009 an agreement was signed between Canada and the United States, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama launching the Clean Energy Dialogue, agreeing to support emissions reductions targets contained in the 2009 Copenhagen Accord of 17% below 2005 levels by the year 2020.
But the $5-billion Keystone XL pipeline for the delivery of 830,000 barrels of heavy Canadian crude daily to Gulf Coast refineries is not a palatable option for the environmentalist groups that have rallied against it at a time when the United States, because of shale gas and new fracking methodology anticipates becoming self-sufficient in energy by 2035. To which Harvard researchers Michael B. McElroy and XI Lu have this to say in a January-February 2013 release:
Supplies of natural gas now economically recoverable from shale in the United States could accommodate the country’s domestic demand for natural gas at current levels of consumption for more than a hundred years: an economic and strategic boon, and, at least in the near term, an important stepping-stone toward lower-carbon, greener energy.Canada now supplies the U.S. with 100% of its imported electricity, 85% of its natural gas imports, and 27% of its oil imports, representing over twice as much as the 12% supplied to the U.S. by Saudi Arabia. Enbridge alone transports more oil to the U.S. than the Saudis. And Canada is a neighbour with great stores of natural resources, with no agenda to fund Islamist militias on a jihad-roll.
But even though natural gas is relatively “clean”—particularly relative to coal burned to generate electricity—the “fracking” process used to produce the new supplies poses significant environmental risks. We must ensure that procedures and policies are in place to minimize potential damage to local and regional air quality and to protect essential water resources. We need to make sure that extraction of the gas (consisting mainly of methane, with small amounts of other gases) from shale and its transport to market does not result in a significant increase in “fugitive” (inadvertent) emissions of methane (CH4)—which is 10 times more powerful as a climate-altering agent, molecule per molecule, than carbon dioxide (CO2, the most abundant greenhouse gas).
Over 99% of Canada's oil and gas exports end up with the United States; such exports to the U.S. increased to $102-billion in 2011 from 1992's $17-billion. The U.S. is on the receiving end of a very good deal; security of supply to the U.S. in return for security of demand to Canada, which exchange courtesy is a by-product of the Canada-US Free Trade Agreement.
American unions back the pipeline because they know that in their construction industries there is high unemployment and the pipeline deal will produce tens of thousands of jobs for Americans. Fifty-three American senators support Keystone because they recognize its energy-security promise. As for Canada, which can look forward to selling its oil elsewhere in an energy-hungry world, it is getting short-shrifted.
Canadian oil is sold at a discount to the U.S., significantly below the world price. Which isn't so wonderful for Alberta's and Ottawa's finances. Both the provincial and federal governments are coming up billions short in royalties and tax revenues. It's rather an absurd political stand-off, with environmental groups preferring to ignore the fact that coal-fired U.S. power emissions are higher in greenhouse gas emissions than Alberta heavy oil.
Now that is an inconvenient truth.