Sunday, the New York Times came out with an editorial on the Keystone XL pipeline, the $7 billion project to run petroleum slurry from Alberta’s tar sands to the Gulf Coast where it can be refined into petrochemicals and transportation fuel.
The fools on that editorial board are wrong in each and every assertion used to justify such an indefensible position.
As such, we offer our response.
This page opposes the building of a 1,700-mile pipeline called the Keystone XL, which would carry diluted bitumen — an acidic crude oil — from Canada’s Alberta tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast. We have two main concerns: the risk of oil spills along the pipeline, which would traverse highly sensitive terrain, and the fact that the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production does.
What is the risk of an oil spill along a pipeline? To assess such a risk, it’s necessary to compare the history of pipeline oil spills with the alternative – namely, spills from oil tankers. Because oil which comes from the Canadian tar sands merely displaces oil which will be arriving in Texas and Louisiana from foreign shores on gigantic ships.
And for this, we consult our own government’s data – specifically, a 2001 study by Robert B. Gilbert of the University of Texas and E.G. Ward of Texas A&M performed in 2001 for the then-Minerals Management Service which analyzed oil pipelines and oil tankers as transportation systems of oil produced in a deepwater environment. Bear in mind that transporting oil via pipeline from deepwater wells is considerably more risky than overland given less access to the pipeline for maintenance and other factors. Nevertheless, Gilbert and Ward came to the following conclusions (from page 25 of the study)…
There are notable differences between the pipelines for the Spar, TLP and Hub/Host Jacket and in-field storage and shuttle tanker system for the FPSO. For very small spill sizes (less than 10 bbl), the frequency of spills for the FPSO is greater than from pipelines due to the potential for spills during offloading from hoses and valves (Fig. 3.5). For spill sizes between 1,000 and 100,000 bbl, the annual frequencies of spills for the shuttle tanker are smaller than the annual frequencies for pipelines (Fig. 3.5). One reason for this difference is that the potential for spills from the pipeline remains a constant as long as there is oil in the pipeline, regardless of the production rate. However, the potential for spills from the shuttle tanker will go down as the production rate decreases since fewer offloading events are required. Lastly, very large spill sizes (greater than 100,000 bbl) are not considered possible for pipelines due to operational and physical constraints (Appendix F), while they are possible although infrequent for the FPSO. A spill between 100,000 and 500,000 bbl represents a major loss from the shuttle tanker due to a collision or explosion. A spill greater than 500,000 bbl represents a major loss from the FPSO due to a collision or explosion.
Of the four categories identified for comparison, tankers are more dangerous. As such, the Times is dead wrong as to whether blocking the pipeline lessens the risk of oil spills – unless it believes an oil spill on the plains of Nebraska is more dangerous than one off Key West or in the central Gulf of Mexico.
Or unless the Times would just prefer that we not have oil at all. In which case they ought to make that clear so those of the Gray lady’s readers who still possess independent cognition can evaluate exactly what it is they’re consuming as news.
And then we progress to this business of greenhouse emissions.
The Canadian government insists that it has found ways to reduce those emissions. But a new report from Canada’s environmental ministry shows how great the impact of the tar sands will be in the coming years, even with cleaner production methods.
Greenhouse emissions – or more particularly carbon dioxide – have been shown by NASA data to be wildly less impactful on climate than advertised by the purveyors of green socialism who so influence the Times’ editorial staff.
But there’s another reason why concerns about greenhouse emissions by the Times are horribly misplaced where the pipeline is concerned, one we’ll point out shortly.
It projects that Canada will double its current tar sands production over the next decade to more than 1.8 million barrels a day. That rate will mean cutting down some 740,000 acres of boreal forest — a natural carbon reservoir. Extracting oil from tar sands is also much more complicated than pumping conventional crude oil out of the ground. It requires steam-heating the sands to produce a petroleum slurry, then further dilution.
One result of this process, the ministry says, is that greenhouse gas emissions from the oil and gas sector as a whole will rise by nearly one-third from 2005 to 2020 — even as other sectors are reducing emissions. Canada still hopes to meet the overall target it agreed to at Copenhagen in 2009 — a 17 percent reduction from 2005 levels by 2020. If it falls short, as seems likely, tar sands extraction will bear much of the blame.
No, it’s not Copenhagen, though it’s laughable in the extreme that the Times would even bother to bring up Canada’s adherence to statements made at that farce of a conference as a driver of American policy. Wait for it…
Canada’s government is committed to the tar sands business. (Alberta’s energy minister, Ronald Liepert, has declared, “I’m not interested in Kyoto-style policies.”) The United States can’t do much about that, but it can stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
Bingo! Canada is going to produce from the tar sands whether the pipeline is built or not. Or more to the point, a pipeline will instead likely be run over the Canadian Rockies to Pacific ports where the product can then be loaded on tankers bound for China.
Put another way, the Times would prefer to export North American oil to China – with Canada, not the United States, reaping the benefits – while continuing to subsidize hostile or unstable regimes like Venezuela, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia by importing oil from entities controlled and owned by those regimes.
Perhaps it’s out of fashion in the wake of the Left’s paroxysms about Rick Perry’s utterances to suggest such a position smacks of treason. It’s difficult to understand the circumstances in which the Times could possibly find such an editorial stance to be in America’s best interest.
The State Department will decide whether to approve or reject the pipeline by the end of the year. It has already delivered two flawed reports on the pipeline’s environmental impact. It should acknowledge the environmental risk of the pipeline and the larger damage caused by tar sands production and block the Keystone XL.
There is no explanation for the assertion that the State Department’s reports on the pipeline are flawed, but given the poor quality of what preceded that bold statement it’s hardly worth an inquiry.
The reaction to the editorial by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was hostile, to say the least. From the Chamber’s Sean Hackbarth…
I’m trying to decide how seriously I should take the New York Times editorial page. I mean, they pay a guy who thinks it would be good economic policy to fake an alien invasion.
Today, the editorial board comes out against the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring Canadian oil into the United States.
However, the editorial fails to note this fact: The development of Canadian oil sands won’t stop if the State Department doesn’t issue a permit. A pipeline from Alberta could just as easily go west instead of south. Canada will have no problem selling oil to China instead of to the U.S. The editorial acknowledges this:
Hackbarth asks a few questions we’d also like an answer for…
What would stopping the Keystone XL pipeline accomplish? Do they not want the ten of thousands of jobs directly and indirectly created from the pipeline? Would they rather have the U.S. be less energy secure? Do they want to be on the side of anti-growth, anti-energy protesters?
It sure looks that way to me.
Contrast the Times with the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which last month urged the State Department to approve the pipeline.
Maybe the Times thinks little green men can use their alien technology to solve our energy needs. But until we make contact, we need the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Wall Street Journal editorial Hackbarth references (it’s behind a pay wall) was a bit more illuminating. Mark Green at EnergyTomorrow.org offers a few pieces. From the beginning…
With 9.1% unemployment and gasoline prices in the stratosphere, President Obama must sometimes wish that some big corporation would suddenly show up and offer a shovel-ready, multibillion-dollar project to create 100,000 jobs and reduce U.S. reliance on oil from dictatorships. Oh, wait. His Secretary of State has had that offer sitting on her desk since she was sworn in. The trouble is that the Administration can’t approve it without upsetting its anti-fossil fuel constituency. And so the proposal sits.
And the middle…
Today those [Gulf Coast] refineries are highly dependent on imports from Mexico and Venezuela, which have decreased output in recent years. TransCanada would help to provide Gulf Coast refiners with a more reliable source of supply from a U.S. ally. None of this is lost on the State Department, which must approve the project because it crosses the U.S. border. Its first environmental impact statement, in April 2010, found that the XL would meet industry standards and not significantly affect the environment. Without the pipeline, State said, the U.S. would not be able to benefit from cost-efficient Western Canadian oil and “would remain dependent upon unstable foreign oil supplies.”
Perhaps that April 2010 report was one of the “flawed” documents the Times references.
And the end…
So why the EPA push back? Ask the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This is really a campaign against tar sands expansion rather than a single pipeline,” Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the council’s international program, told the New York Times last month…U.S. greens loathe oil, and the tar sands has become the next Alaska in green mythology. We get that. But what about jobs and growth? The U.S. economy needs a stable and affordable energy supply and, according to Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), Canada’s tar sands oil from “wells to wheels” isn’t any “dirtier” than Nigerian light or California or Middle East heavy crude. The Keystone XL pipeline is another case in which the Obama Administration’s ideology clashes with its professed goal of job creation. Why do jobs always lose?
The WSJ also neglects to mention that Venezuelan crude is of atrocious quality in terms of the effort needed to refine it. Somehow we think we’d hard-pressed to find a Times editorial in favor of boycotting Hugo Chavez’ product for environmental – or any other – reasons. Perhaps we’re mistaken in that assumption.
Meanwhile, Ace has an equally worthwhile take on the issue…
Why stop Texans and Louisianans from working, if the work is just going to be done elsewhere?
The left speaks of being pro-science, and yet they are ignorant Luddites.
It’s an old saw that people like sausage, until they see the sausage factory.
The luddites of the left want (I assume) to be able to travel, heat their homes, and have electric light at night.
So they want the sausage, it seems.
But they are determined to shut down every sausage factory on the planet.
Where do they think the sausage will come from, then? The Sausage Fairies?
The left treats the wonder of artificial lighting and home heating and long-distance travel as if these are natural phenomena of the earth, like the wind or the tides.
They are not. When one turns on an electric light, that energy is coming fromsomewhere. 80% of such energy comes from the chemical combustion of substances. Another 10% comes from the nuclear combustion of substances, and 10% at most comes from renewables. (Which they also don’t like — they whine about the biggest generators of renewable power, dams.)
Like food, energy is farmed. There are bona fide workers providing it, extracting it from real-world sources.
It is not magic. God does many things but he does not send electrons streaming into liberals’ homes.
Like children, they continue crying about the pretty cows being killed while also continuing to munch on their cheeseburgers.
This is understandable in children; children do not understand trade-offs.
And at Say Anything, they sum this up fairly nicely…
Really, I think it’s just that the liberals at the Times have a preference for “green” energy, and want to kill off the competition.
It’s like being a fan of Pepsi and wanting to regulate Coke out of existence so that only your favorite brand can be sold in stores. And this isn’t just liberal bashing. This is what the liberal politicians are actually saying.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said that she wants to apply a standard to the Keystone XL pipeline that is “beyond the law.”
That’s right. Beyond the law. Meaning some arbitrary new standard totally invented by Hillary Clinton not out of concern for safety or other reasonable concerns but rather out of a dislike of oil and a desire to regulate its production to death.
And this isn’t just about helping Canada. The Keystone XL pipeline would help American oil fields as well, which as North Dakota’s Bakken oil play which could be serviced by this same pipeline.
In other words, what’s going on here is that the liberals want to do something that’s not just bad for America but also Canada because they don’t want their favorite sort of energy to compete.
The Times is on its last financial legs, propped up as it is by a Mexican telecom billionaire.
With this as the quality of its editorials, the end can’t come soon enough.