Nobody wants an oil spill, and yet they happen all too often.
They happen from wars, train derailments, offshore oil-rig accidents, tanker crashes and pipeline ruptures.
In the past few decades, oil-spill disasters sound like units in a bleak parade: Bay of Campeche, Mexico; Arctic Empress near Tobago; Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan; Nowruz Oil Field, Persian Gulf; The Summer tanker near Angola; Tanker Amoco Cadiz near Brittany; the Exxon Valdez tanker disaster near Alaska; and the worst spill in U.S. history, the Deepwater Horizon rupture in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Those are among the worst of history. Collectively, they released hundreds of millions of gallons of crude oil onto land and into oceans.
Crude-oil pipeline accidents have also produced disasters. According to the Wall Street Journal, there were 1,400 serious pipeline spills and accidents in the United States, four of five of them discovered by local residents, not by the companies who owned the pipelines. In 2010, a rupture near Marshall, Mich. spilled 840,000 gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River; in 2013, an ExxonMobil pipeline carrying heavy crude ruptured near Mayflower, Ark., spilling up to 7,000 barrels of crude oil, causing home evacuations and ongoing health concerns.
Such accidents make it clear there is no foolproof way to transport crude oil, refined oil products or natural gas – gas that can be even more explosively catastrophic when pipeline leaks or ruptures happen. Nothing’s foolproof. Remember the unsinkable Titanic that sank?
We keep hearing, like a recurrent lullaby, that pipelines are so new-and-improved, so safe, so environmentally friendly. Those lulling reassurances come constantly from companies and advocates pushing for construction of pipelines now being proposed, including the controversial extension of the Keystone pipeline from the tar-sand fields of Alberta, Canada down through the American Midwest, across a vast water aquifer, all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. There are, by the way, already portions of a Canadian-U.S. pipeline completed, including an operational line to Illinois.
The oil from Canadian tar sands, the very dirtiest oil-extraction method, would be processed at refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas, then shipped to other countries via tankers.
For the following five reasons, the Keystone project should not take place:
- Extraction from tar sands takes an enormous amount of energy to do, causing huge carbon-caused pollution into the atmosphere, exacerbating climate change.
- Putting that pipeline across the United States would, ironically, not benefit this country in any appreciable way. This chorus of “jobs, jobs, jobs” is disingenuous at best. According to the U.S. State Department, it would create about 4,000 jobs over a two-year period, after which there would be 35 permanent American jobs, according to TransCanada, a pipeline builder.
- Despite soothing reassurances of safety, there is an all-too-real possibility of leaks and ruptures minor and major which could harm water supplies, flora and fauna and the environment in general.
- By allowing for the pipeline, we are directly and indirectly encouraging the dirty process of tar-sands extraction, which is an environment and climate killer. We should, instead, be pushing for development of safer forms of energy.
- Big Oil is notorious for its soothing promises. Remember British Petroleum’s denials and minimization of the Gulf oil disaster? Remember its broken promises? Remember its assurances all would be well?
It’s certain the current U.S. Congress will approve the Keystone Pipeline. President Obama should veto it. The project, after all is said and done, would be environmentally unwise, and it would truly benefit almost nobody in this country except some Big-Oil interests.