October 20, 2011

The Dalai Lama doesn’t want the Keystone XL Pipeline to be built, and neither do I.

The Dalai Lama is one of nine Nobel Peace Laureates to sign this letter to President Obama regarding the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Keystone XL Pipeline, also known as the Tar Sands Pipeline, is a proposed 1,700 hundred mile long pipeline that will extend from Alberta, Canada, to delivery points in Oklahoma and Texas. It will be the longest oil pipeline outside of Russia or China.

The president is set to make a decision on the pipeline by the end of this year. The pipeline is troubling on many fronts, but here are the three things that every American should know about it:

1. The crude being pumped through the pipeline isn’t regular crude.

It’s this stuff called DilBit, which comes from diluting bituminous sands (also called bitumen, oil sands, or tar sands). It’s basically a peanut buttery-type sludge, which doesn’t flow like regular crude. To convert oil sands into a useable liquid requires refining and steam injection. The process emits up to 45% more greenhouse gasses than regular crude. And transporting the diluted bitumen (DilBit) comes with its own unique set of hazards. Transporting DilBit through U.S. pipelines is a relatively new phenomenon that most Americans are unaware of. Dilbit carries toxic chemicals such as cancer-causing benzene and heavy metals such as arsenic and lead. And to transport it takes higher temperatures than regular crude. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), transporting DilBit is “like sandblasting the inside of a pipe.” Last year, a DilBit pipeline burst in Kalamazoo, Michigan, spilling nearly a million gallons of sludge into the Kalamazoo River, and the effects are still being felt in the area.


2. The proposed pipeline route cuts through the heart of the Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is a vast underground source of irrigation and drinking water, roughly the size of California (you can see it on the map above). Where the proposed pipeline will cut through is in an area of Nebraska called the Sand Hills, one of the largest wetland ecosystems in the country. An oil spill there could be devastating and potentially more damaging than an oil spill in the ocean. Owing to its sponge-like soil, the crude would simply be soaked into the porous ground, thereby permeating the aquifer more easily. Check out the Sand Hills in this photo taken from space:

3. The State Department’s recent environmental impact study comes from a company with deep financial ties to the pipeline operator, TransCanada. Whaaat?! The report, according to a recent New York Times article, found that the pipeline would have “limited adverse environmental impacts”.  Um, duh. Of course it did. But where’s the neutral third party that should have compiled the report?  And why is the State Department bed buddies with TransCanada? We want answers, dammit.

This does appear to be fascism, at least according to FDR’s definition:

So does this mean the Keystone XL Pipeline is a done deal? If the answer is yes, I just may be too naïve to exist in the world. But I still believe in the power of a petition, a phone call, or a post card.

Ultimately, the decision to either go ahead with the pipeline or not is the President’s call.

So here’s what we can do to make our voices heard:

1. Sign this petition:


2. Call the White House:


3. Drop a postcard in the mail:

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20500

Lastly, if you’re interested in learning more about this awful pipeline business, here is NRDC’s report on Tar Sands Pipelines Safety Risks (It’s both interesting and disturbing.):


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