Clothesline in Winter

Clothesline in Winter

Monday, August 22, 2011

Help Us Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline!

Yesterday marked the first day of a two-week series of protests at the White House.  Here at the Clothesline Report, we’re following it closely, because three of us Elwood men will be there in about a week adding our voices to an effort to stop a terrible threat to our Father’s world.

What could be so bad as to make you travel to Washington and engage in civil disobedience, you’re wondering?

President Obama must decide this year whether or not to permit a huge pipeline splitting our entire country, from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico, to carry “diluted bitumen,” a black gunk steamed out of Canadian “tar sands,” to be refined into oil by Gulf Coast refineries.  Powerful business interests are spending uncounted millions funding political campaigns, lobbying and advertising for the project, and they stand to reap unbelievable profits.
Protesters at the White House yesterday, before arrests
But North America and the rest of the world will suffer unimaginable losses if the project is permitted to go ahead.

And the oil money isn’t being wasted.  Hillary Clinton seems to have been won over.  The majority in Congress has long since drunk the tar sands Kool-Aid.  And now, the White House seems to be leaning their way too.  They’ve got the power and the money pulling for them.  We protesters have the facts … and we have our bodies.

The facts?  We don’t know of a single climate scientist who doesn’t regard the Alberta tar sands as anything other than a global-scale disaster.  According to the director emeritus of the Woods Hole Research Center, “the tar sands project is the exact antithesis of what the world needs.”  And NASA’s lead climate scientist has warned that if the pipeline is approved, “it’s essentially game over” for the climate.   More on that below.

Priest being handcuffed yesterday and led to jail
Our bodies?  So far, 162 peaceful protesters have been arrested; those bodies carted off in DC police vans.  This won’t stop for two more weeks, so I suspect that a lot more will see the inside of the Washington correctional system.

So, what’s so bad about the tar sands?   

Tar sands are pretty much the heavy gunk they sound like, and making liquid fuels from them requires huge amounts of energy for steam injection and refining. Canada is currently producing about one million barrels of oil a day from the tar sands, and that is projected to triple over the next two decades, if the pipeline gets built.  That means a huge increase in the amount of CO2 and toxins, far above the impact of traditional crude oil.

This used to be a virgin boreal forest in Alberta. Runoff water is toxic.
Studies vary, but no one disagrees that oil from tar sands results in huge increases in CO2 emissions compared with conventional petroleum.  Consultants for the oil companies say that it’s “only” 15% worse, while scientists’ estimates range from 36% worse to more than 200%.  Depending on whose numbers are most accurate (DON’T bet on the oilmen for transparent disclosure!), it would be like buying a Prius for the carbon benefits of 50 mpg efficiency, and then finding that you’re actually getting worse efficiency than a Hummer.

Getting oil out of the tar sands takes a whole lot.  Here’s a smattering of what you have to do:

First, lease (almost for free) from Canada 54,000 square miles of untouched boreal forests (the size of North Carolina) used by indigenous peoples, and cut down every single tree;
Then, dig deep open pit mines and scoop out the tar sands using massive earth-moving equipment;
Then, divert scarce western water to the tar sands, water which becomes contaminated with toxins through the process;
Then, use copious amounts of clean-burning natural gas to convert the water to steam, to be injected into the gunk to separate the bitumen from the clay;
Then, pump the resulting sludge into a 36” pipe to run all the way across the U.S. to the Gulf Coast;
On the way, bypass Midwestern refineries which could refine the stuff for domestic consumption, but instead cut through Native American lands, and over the crucial Oglala Aquifer to the Gulf of Mexico;
And upon arrival, refine it into petroleum products at refineries substantially owned by the Saudis, for shipping anywhere in the world they choose.

Machinery of destruction
All it needs is for President Obama to authorize the massive pipeline.  And because it’s such a terrible idea, you’d think that he would never allow it, right?

Wrong.  Money talks.  The money and power that’s persuaded a majority in Congress to repeat the silly claim that climate scientists are all lying to us, that same money has the President’s ear as well.  He wants to be reelected, and he knows the power of the oil and coal lobbies.

But Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have shown us that money and power don’t control everything.  Sometimes, peaceful protesters taking to the streets can have a dramatic impact.
That’s why we’re going to Washington.  We’ll be at the White House on September 1.

Won’t you come with us?

Thanks for reading, and may God bless you.
J. Elwood

1 comment:

  1. So damaging and a real shame to see so many protesters arrested, but encouraging to see so many taking a stand.