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Southern Oregon Climate Action Now on the Keystone XL Pipeline


Southern Oregon Climate Action Now on the Keystone XL Pipeline

By Alan Journet Ph.D. Co-facilitator, SOCAN

As we lead up to Earth Day on April 22nd, Insight to Ashland and Southern Oregon Climate Action Now offers a four-part series on the environment. The series will include Rogue Basin Climate Trends and Projections, Keystone XL Pipeline Concerns, What We Can Do, and a Q&A with SOCAN.

Insight to Ashland: TransCanada has applied to the U.S. government for a permit to extend a pipeline, named the Keystone XL pipeline, from Canada to Texas in order to transport some 830,000 barrels of crude oil per day. It has become extremely controversial, as there are a multitude of people pushing for and against it. Some say it will create jobs, money, and much needed energy, while others say it threatens our very existence with the amount of  greenhouse gas it will produce. Alan Journet, co-founder of Southern Oregon Climate Action Now, shares with us his concerns about the Keystone XL pipeline.

Alan Journet: Concerns about Keystone XL are summarized briefly as follows:

1) Keystone XL will NOT generate hundreds of thousands of jobs, a claim promoted by the proponent oil companies. Independent analyses by groups actually supporting Keystone reveal the actual number of temporary construction jobs generated would be between 500 and 1400 – a drop in the bucket. Meanwhile the number of permanent jobs would be between 20 and 50.  Keystone does not offer an economic boon to anyone but – maybe – the oil company executives pushing it.

2) Keystone will probably contribute nothing to continental or national energy independence. It’s all about transporting oil to the Gulf for refining and selling to the highest bidder. The likelihood is that the oil will end up overseas.

3) The problems created by extracting and processing the tar sands are many. The most critical is that this is by far the most carbon dioxide intensive method of extracting oil. The process also lays waste (through open-pit mining emulating the open pit coal ‘mines’ in the Appalachians) to huge areas of boreal forest – itself an important carbon sequestering ecosystem.

4) Although the biological and scientific consensus is that we should cut our atmospheric Carbon dioxide concentration from the current value of 400 parts per million back to 350 ppm, the somewhat weaker political consensus is that we must keep the global temperature down to an increase of 2⁰C (3.6⁰F) – a goal which is itself threatening to our biological life support system. Because of the temperature increase we have already experienced and the consequences of greenhouse gases we have already released, we are already 3/4 the way to this upper limit. To keep below that, we can only afford to release another 565 gigatons of Carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, known fossil fuel reserves amount to 2,795 gigatons of Carbon dioxide. The message is clear; we have to leave 2/3 – 4/5 of the fossil fuels known to exist IN THE GROUND. The worst fossil fuel to extract is that which is the most Carbon intensive.

5) In terms of Energy Returned On Energy Invested (EROEI), the measure we must apply to all energy sources, tar sands oil is the worst oil to extract – barely better than breaking even. Like other fossil fuels its EROEI is getting worse. Renewable sources, meanwhile, are all better than all fossil fuels and exhibit a rising EROEI. We absolutely cannot afford an ‘all of the above’ policy particularly one that includes resources with such a low EROEI.

6)  The argument that ‘if we don’t ship the oil through the U.S. it will be shipped through Canada to the west coast for export’ is morally bankrupt. Beside its rejection by the British Columbia Government and the probability that Canada’s First Nation (native Canadians) and other Canadians would thwart this plan, aiding and abetting a crime because ‘if we don’t do it, someone else will’ has never been an acceptable legal defense and never should become one.

7)  Several of the more significant components of the State Department analysis and conclusion were written by consulting companies associated with the oil corporations promoting Keystone XL. This totally undermines the credibility of the State Department report. Even so, it acknowledges the potentially severe climate change impact of Keystone XL.

8)  The worst of climate change  – if we follow a ‘business as usual’ model – will befall our children and grandchildren – who will be asking us in our old age (or in absentia) what we did to address and solve the problem. This is a clear case of inter-generational justice. Furthermore, as we know, climate change effects are here and now. Midwest and Southwest farmers and ranchers suffering heat waves, droughts and wildfires and South and East coast residents suffering increasing storm severity know who is paying the price of continued fossil fuel reliance. The question is: who should be paying? The tax for carbon emissions is already being paid – in suffering. Consequences of climate change will only get worse – not just for future generations but for us as well. We must make addressing the problem a top priority.

9)  Although the global concern about Keystone is not the leakage from broken pipes, this cannot be ignored as recent events warn us. Ironically, it turns out that the oil pumped through tar sands pipelines is not legally defined as oil, so oil companies do not have to pay into the oil pipeline insurance fund. They escape responsibility for the damage their product causes.

10) Inevitably, at some point in the near future, we will have to bite the bullet and impose some form of carbon tax or cap on carbon extraction. When this occurs, the cost of all fossil fuels will rise measurably. Sources such as the tar sands oil will probably be priced out of the market.

11) If we open tar sands and other fossil fuel sources for extraction, we are consigning future generation to an unlivable planet. Is there anyone, Republican or Democrat (or anything else for that matter) who is prepared to argue that we should sacrifice the livability of our planet for short term profits and illusory economic benefit?

12) The analysis by the U.S. EPA indicated serious flaws in the State Department report.

The unmistakable conclusion is that Keystone should be stopped.

Alan Journet: alanjournet@gmail.com
Co-facilitator, Southern Oregon Climate Action Now:  
Area residents wishing to address climate change are invited to join Southern Oregon Climate Action Now –http://socan.info.


Southern Oregon Climate Action Now