Tag Archives: Keystone XL

Energy Irony: Trans Canada Wants 15 Billion From Obama

Governments, and the people, should be filing law suits against the energy industry for causing the imminent collapse of civilization as we know it. But instead, the opposite is happening.

From Reuters:

TransCanada formally seeks NAFTA damages in Keystone XL rejection

TransCanada Corp is formally requesting arbitration over U.S. President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline, seeking $15 billion in damages, the company said in legal papers dated Friday.

The Keystone XL was designed to link existing pipeline networks in Canada and the United States to bring crude from Alberta and North Dakota to refineries in Illinois and, eventually, the Gulf of Mexico coast.

Obama rejected the cross-border crude oil pipeline last November, seven years after it was first proposed, saying it would not make a meaningful long-term contribution to the U.S. economy.

TransCanada is suing the United States in federal court in a separate legal action, seeking to reverse the pipeline’s rejection.

About 750,000 homes could be fitted with some really sweet solar arrays for that money. Let’s do that instead!

Keystone XL Will Become ExKeystone, ‘ell yeah.

According to sources, like this one, President Obama is about to nix the Keystone XL deal.

One of those “hastily called” press conference is set for just before noon Eastern.

Sorry about your stock values and stuff, TransCanada.

Hillary Clinton Opposes Keystone XL Pipeline

This just came in from NBC

Last week, Clinton said,

“I have been waiting for the administration to make a decision,” she said last week in Concord, NH. “I thought I owed them that. I worked in the administration. I started the process that is supposed to lead to a decision. I can’t wait too much longer. and I am putting the white house on notice. I’m gunna tell you what I think soon because I can’t wait. I thought they would have it decided way, you know, way by now and they haven’t.”

And moments ago she said:

“I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone XL pipeline as what I believe it is: A distraction from the important work we have to do to combat climate change, and, unfortunately from my perspective, one that interferes with our ability to move forward and deal with other issues,” she said during a campaign event in Iowa Tuesday.

“Therefore, I oppose it. I oppose it because I don’t think it’s in the best interest of what we need to do to combat climate change.”

Keystone XL and other pipelines will phase out

Keystone XL is effectively obsolete.

James Lenfesty, a retired editori
Oil Spill
Fracking spills, earthquakes, pipeline spills, global warming, add up to making Keystone XL and similar projects a bad idea.
al writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has an Op Ed in that paper suggesting that by the time Keystone XL pipeline is built it would be obsolete. He acknowledges that by out dated reckoning the pipeline might have been a good idea, but not by modern standards.

… zero carbon emissions is what the times require, for carbon emissions are dangerously altering the global climate and the chemistry and temperature of oceans and lakes, endangering almost every living thing.

Which is why I, a 70-year-old grandfather, along with thousands of other citizens, have pledged that if the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline is approved, we will peacefully contest every foot of its construction across the heart of America.

He also discusses oil trains and carbon taxes. Go check it out.

Pipelines like Keystone XL would mainly carry costly crude

Keystone XL Protest
Keystone XL Protest
One of the costs of that crude is the side effects of mining and fracking. And, a new cost is being added to fracking; liability for earthquakes caused by it.

In a case expected to set a precedent for future earthquake claims in Oklahoma, the state Supreme Court will consider whether two oil companies can be held liable in state court for injuries a Prague woman suffered during the 2011 earthquake.

An attorney for one of the companies has said the lawsuit, if successful, would cause energy companies to abandon wastewater disposal wells across the state.

“These wells will become economic and legal-liability pariahs,” attorney Robert Gum told a Lincoln County judge during an October hearing in the case. Gum represents New Dominion LLC, a Tulsa-based oil and gas company, in the lawsuit.

Tulsa World has the story.

Not all pipeline spills are oil

Here’s an update on a North Dakota salt water pipeline spill:

More than 4 million gallons of a mixture of fresh water, brine and oil have been pumped from the area affected by the largest saltwater spill of North Dakota’s current energy boom, according to a report issued Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency.

…brine, is an unwanted byproduct of oil and natural gas production that is much saltier than sea water and may also contain petroleum and residue from hydraulic fracturing operations. Some previous saltwater spills have taken years to clean up….

The mixture of fresh water… is being transported to a well site to be injected underground. Saltwater is usually pumped underground for permanent storage …

…The latest spill is almost three times larger than one that fouled a portion of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in July. Another million-gallon saltwater spill in 2006, near Alexander, is still being cleaned up nearly a decade later.

Democratic state lawmakers have promised to file legislation that would mandate additional monitoring and safeguards for pipelines that carry briny oilfield wastewater…

The story is here.

Keystone XL Debate Does Not End

Meanwhile, in the US Senate, the current Keystone XL pipeline debate has continued, moving a likely vote to next week. The reason is that several Democrats who actually support the pipeline wanted to continue the debate, joining the majority of Democrats who also want to see the debate continue. This may reflect a strategy to be to get as many pro-Carbon fuel advocates on record as being on the wrong side of an issue many expect to turn over during the next two years. This is largely done through the amendment process, which requires Senators (if the amendments come to a vote) to put their position on record. This record, in turn, can make or break later election bids. From The Hill:

“We don’t want Sen. McConnell especially after all the hop-de-do about an open process, open amendments, to shut it down at his whim. We are not ready to do that yet, there are more amendments pending,” [Democrat Chuck] Schumer said….

Schumer wouldn’t say how many more amendment votes Democrats would like to see. Over 150 amendments have been filed to the Keystone bill.

Ahead of Monday’s vote, McConnell laughed at Democrats for wanting more amendments, arguing they have had more opportunities to add measures to the underlying bill than Republicans had all of last year.

We shall see. He who laughs last votes first.

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry: An Open Letter on Keystone XL

An Open Letter on the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline from Scientists and Economists

April 7 , 2014

President Barack Obama
The White House 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Secretary John Kerry
U. S . Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

As scientists and economists, we are concerned about climate change and its impacts. We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place.

As you both have made clear, climate change is a very serious problem. We must address climate change by decarbonizing our energy supply. A critical first step is to stop making climate change worse by tapping into disproportionately carbon – intensive energy sources like tar sands bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy – intensive strip – mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.

President Obama, you said in your speech in Georgetown last year that “allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interes t will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.”

We agree that climate impact is important and evidence shows that Keystone XL will significantly contribute to climate change. Fuels produced from tar sands result in more greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle than fuels produced from conventional oil, including heavy crudes processed in some Gulf Coast refineries. As the main pathway for tar sands to reach overseas markets, the Keystone XL pi peline w ould cause a sizeable expansion of tar sands production and also an increase in the related greenhouse gas pollution. The State Department review confirmed this analysis under the scenario that best meets the reality of the opposition to alternativ e pipeline proposals and the higher costs of other ways of transporting diluted bitumen such as rail. The review found:

“The total lifecycle emissions associated with production, refining, and combustion of 830,000 bpd of oil sands crude oil is approximately 147 to 168 MMTCO 2 e per year. The annual lifecycle GHG emissions from 830,000 bpd of the four reference crudes examined in this section are estimated to be 124 to 159 MMTCO 2 e. The range of incremental GHG emissions for crude oil that would be transported by the proposed Project is estimated to be 1.3 to 27.4 MMTCO2e annually.”

To put these numbers into perspective, the potential incremental annual emissions of 27.4 MMTCO 2 e is more than the emissions that seven coal – fired power plants emit in o ne year. And o ver the 50 – year expected life span of the pipeline, th e total emissions from Keystone XL could amount to as much as 8.4 billion metric tons CO2e . These are emissions that can and should be avoided with a transition to clean energy.

The contribution of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to climate change is real and important, especially given the commitment of the United States and other world leaders to stay within two degrees Celsius of global warming. And yet, the State Department environmental review chose an inconsistent model for its “most likely” scenarios, using business-as-usual energy scenarios that would lead to a catastrophic six degrees Celsius rise in global warming. Rejecting Keystone XL is necessary for the United States to be consistent with its climate commitments. Six degrees Celsius of global warming has no place in a sound climate plan.

Secretary Kerry, in your speech in Jakarta, you said, “The science of climate change is leaping out at us like a scene from a 3D movie – warning us – compelling us to act.” Rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be a decision based on sound science.

The world is looking to the United States to lead through strong climate action at home. This includes rejecting projects that will make climate change worse such as the K eystone XL tar sands pipeline .


John Abraham, Ph.D. Professor University of St. Thomas

Philip W. Anderson, Ph.D. Nobel Prize (Physics 1977) Emeritus Professor Princeton University

Tim Arnold, Ph.D. Assistant Project Scientist Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Kenneth J. Arrow, Ph.D. Nobel Prize (Economics 1972) Professor emeritus of Economics and of Management Science and Engineering Stanford University

Roger Bales, Ph.D. Professor of Engineering University of California, Merced

Paul H. Beckwith , M.S. Part – time professor: climatology/meteorology Department of Geography University of Ottawa

Anthony Bernhardt, Ph.D. Physicist and Program Leader (retired) Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

Damien C. Brady, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Marine Science Darling Marine Cent er University of Maine

Julie A. Brill, Ph.D. Director, Collabo rative Program in Developmental Biology, and Professor, De partment of Molecular Genetics University of Toronto Senior S cientist, Cell Biology Program The Hospital for Sick Children

Gary Brou hard, Ph.D. Department of Biology McGill University

Ken Caldei ra, Ph.D. Senior Scientist Carnegie Institution for Science

Grant Cameron, Ph.D. Coastal Data Information Program (CDIP) Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Shelagh D. Campbell, Ph.D. Professor, Biological Sciences University of Alberta

Kai M. A. Chan, Ph.D. Assoc iate Prof essor & Tier 2 Canada Research Chair (Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services) Graduate Advisor, RMES Institute for Resources, Environment & Sustainability University of British Columbia

Eugene Cordero, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Meteorology and Climate Science San Jose State University

Rosemary Cornell, Ph.D. Professor, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Simon Fraser University

Gretchen C. Daily, Ph.D. Bing Professor of Environmental Science Stanford University

Timothy Daniel, Ph.D. Economist U.S. Federal Trade Commission

Miriam Diamond , Ph.D. Professor Department of Earth Sciences Cross – appointed to: Department of Chemical Engineering and Applied Sciences D alla Lana School of Public Health School of the Environment Department of Physical and Env ironmental Sciences University of Toronto

Lawrence M. Dill, Ph.D., FRSC Professor Emeritus Simon Fraser University

Simon Donner, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Department of Geography University of British Columbia

Roland Droitsch, Ph.D. President KM21 Associates

Nicholas Dulvy, Ph.D. Professor, Canada Resear ch Chair in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation Biological Sciences Simon Fraser University

Steve Easterbrook, Ph.D. Professor of Computer Science University of Toronto

Anne Ehrlich, Ph.D. Biology Department Stanford University

Paul R. Ehrlich, Ph.D. Bing Professor of Population Studies and President, Center for Conservation Biology Stanford University

Henry Erlich, Ph.D. Scientist Center for Genetics Children’s Hospital Research Institute

Alejandro Frid, Ph.D. Science Coordinator Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance

Konrad Gajewski, Ph.D. Laboratory for Paleoclimatology and Climatology Department of Geography University of Ottawa

Eric Galb raith, Ph.D. Assistant Professor Department of Earth and Planetary Science McGill University

Geoffrey Gearheart, Ph.D. Scientist, Center for Marine Biodiversity and Biomedicine Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Alexander J. Glass, Ph.D. Emeritus Associate Director Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

John R. Glover, Ph.D. Associate Professor, Biochemistry University of Toronto

Ursula Goodenough, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Biology Washington University in St. Louis

Stephanie Green, Ph.D. David H. Smith Conservation Research Fellow Oregon State University

Steven Hackett, Ph.D. Professor of Economics Associated Faculty, Energy Technology & Policy Humboldt State University

Joshua B. Halpern, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Chemistr y Howard University

Alexandra Hangsterfer, M.S. Geological Collections Manager Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

James Hansen, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions Columbia University Earth Institute

John Harte, Ph.D. Professor of Ecosystem Sciences Energy and Resources Group University of California, Berkeley

H. Criss Hartzell, Ph.D. Professor Emory University School of Medicine

Danny Harvey, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Geography University of Toronto

Rodrick A. Hay, Ph.D. Dean and Professor of Geography College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences California State University Dominguez Hills

Karen Holl, Ph.D. Professor of Environmental Studies University of California, Santa Cruz

Robert Howarth, Ph.D. The David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology & Environmental Biology Cornell University

Jonathan Isham, Jr., Ph.D. Professor of Economics Middlebury College

Andrew Iwaniuk, Ph.D. Associate Professor University of Lethbridge

Mark Jaccard, Ph.D. , FRSC Professor School of Resource and Environmental Management Simon Fraser University

Louise E. Jackson, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Land, Air and Water Resources University of California Davis

Pete Jumars, Ph.D. Professor of Marine Sciences Darling Marine Center University of Maine

David Keith, Ph.D. Gordon McKa y Professor of Applied Physics School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS); and, Professor of Public Policy , Kennedy School of Government Ha rvard University

Jeremy T. Kerr, Ph.D. University Research Chair in Ma croecology and Conservation Professor of Biology University of Ottawa

Bryan Killett, Ph.D. Jet Propulsion Lab

Keith W. Kisselle, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Biology & Environmental Science Academic Chair of Center for Environmental Studies Austin College

Janet E. Kübler, Ph.D. Senior Research Scientist California State University at Northridge

Sherman Lewis, Ph.D . Professor Emeritus of Political Science California State University Hayward

Michael E. Loik, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Environmental Studies University of California, Santa Cruz

Michael C. MacCracken, Ph.D. Chief Scientist for Climate Change Programs Climate Institute

Scott A. Mandia , M.S. Professor/Asst. Chair, Department of Physical Sciences Suffolk County Community College

Michael Mann, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor and Director of Earth System Science Center Penn State University

Adam Martiny, Ph.D. Associate Professor in Marine Science Department of Earth System Science University of California, Irvine

Damon Matthews, Ph.D. Associate Professor and Concordia University Research Chair Geography, Planning and Environment Concordia Univers ity

James J. McCart h y, Ph.D. Alexander Agassiz Professor of Biological Oceanography Harvard University

Susan K. McConnell, Ph.D. Susan B. Ford Professor Dunlevie Family University Fello w Department of Biology Stanford University

Dominick Mendola, Ph.D. Senior Development Engineer Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Faisal Moola, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor, Faculty of F orestry University of Toronto; and , Adjunct Professor, Fa culty of Environmental Studies York Univer sity

William Moomaw, Ph.D. Professor , The Fletcher School Tufts University

Jens Mühle, Dr. rer. nat. Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Richard B. Norgaard , Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of Energy and Resources University of California, Berkeley

Gretchen North, Ph.D. Professor of Biology Occidental College

Dana Nuccitelli , M.S . Environmental Scientist Tetra Tech, Inc.

Michael Oppenheimer, Ph.D. Professor of Geosciences and International Affairs Princeton University

Wendy J. Palen, Ph.D. Assistant Professor, Earth to Ocean Research Group Simon Fraser University

Edward A. Parson, Ph.D. Dan and Rae Emmett Professor of Environmental Law Faculty Co – Director Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment UCLA School of Law

Raymo nd T. Pierrehumbert, Ph.D. Louis Block Professor in the Geophysical Sciences The University of Chicago

Richard Plevin, Ph.D. Research Scientist NextSTEPS (Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways) Institute of Transportation Studies University of California, Davis

John Pollack , M.S. Meteorologist; and , National Weather Service forecaster (retired)

Jessica Dawn Pratt, Ph.D. Education & Outreach Coordinator Center for Environmental Biology University of California , Irvine

Lynne M. Quarmby, Ph.D. Professor & Chair Molecular Biology & Biochemistry Simon Fraser University

Rebecca Rolph, M.S. Max Pl anck Institute for Meteorology Hamburg, Germany ; and , Kl imacampus, University of Hamburg

Thomas Roush, MD Columbia University School of P u blic Health (retired)

Maureen Ryan, Ph.D. Research Associate , Simon Fraser University ; and , Postdoctoral Researcher , University of Washington

Anne K. Salomon, Ph.D. Assistant Professor School of Resource and Environment al Management Simon Fraser University

Casey Schmidt, Ph.D. Assistant Research Professor Desert Research Institute Division of Hydrologic Sciences

Peter C. Schulze, Ph.D. Professor of Biology & Environmental Science Director, Center for Environmental Stud ies Austin College

Jason Scorse, Ph.D. Associate Professor Monterrey Institute of International Studies Middlebury College

Jamie Scott, MD, Ph.D. Professor and Canada Research Chair Department of Molecular Biology & Biochemistry Faculty of Science and Faculty of Health Sciences Simon Fraser University

Michael A. Silverman, Ph.D. Associate Professor , Department of Biological Sciences Simon Fraser University

Leonard S. Sklar, Ph.D. Associate Professor Earth & Climate Sciences Depa rtment San Francisco State University

Jerome A. Smith, Ph.D. Research Oceanographer Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of C alifornia, San Diego

Richard C. J. Somerville, Ph.D. Distinguished Professor Emeritus and Research Professor Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Brandon M. Stephens, M.S. Graduate Student Researcher Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

John M. R. Stone, Ph.D. Adjunct Professor Carleton University

David Suzuki, Ph.D. Emeritus Professor Sustainable Development Research Institute University of Brit ish Columbia

Jennifer Taylor, Ph.D. Assistant Professor University of California, San Diego

Michael S. Tift, M.S. Doctoral Student Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Cali Turner Tomaszewicz, M.S. Doctora l Student, Biological Sciences Department of Ecology, Behavior & Evolution University of California, San Diego

Till Wagner, Ph.D. Scientist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography University of California, San Diego

Barrie Webster, Ph.D. Professor (retired) University of Manitoba

Richard Weinstein, Ph.D. Lecturer University of Tennessee, Knoxville

A nthony LeRoy Westerling, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Environmental Engineering and Geography University of California, Merced

Mark L. Winston, Ph.D., FRSC Academic Director and Fellow, Center for Dialogue Simon Fraser University

George M. Woodwell, Ph.D. Member, National Academy of Sciences, and Fou nder and Director Emeritus The Woods Hole Research Center

Kirsten Zickfeld, Ph.D. Professor of Climatology Simon Fraser University

Peak Oil vs. Peak Chocolate Chip Cookies

Peak Oil is a controversial concept. Some people actually think that the production of oil in nature is continuous (which is a tiny bit, but hardly at all, true) so we can keep pumping oil out of the ground and it will just keep being produced by tiny microbes. But aside from that particular, and annoying, made-up controversy, “real” Peak Oil (or should I say Peak Real Oil) is still controversial. Peak Oil is defined as the moment when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction occurs, and thereafter production declines steadily, like on a bell curve. But that is, in my view, the wrong way to look at it. I would like to propose a different way, and to understand this approach we first must understand chocolate chip cookies. Which is not difficult.

If you make a batch of chocolate chip cookies, then everyone in the house starts to eat them, when does “Peak Chocolate Chip Cookies” occur? Obviously, this occurs the moment the chocolate chip cookies are pulled out of the oven. That is when the maximum number of cookies are available. Subsequent “extraction” rates are not a function of cookie availability, but rather, the social politics of the household, the number of hungry people, and other factors. The cookies will be “extracted” at any one of a number of rate functions. Often, the initial number of cookies extracted from the cooling rack, cookie plate, or cookie jar starts out very slow because they are too hot and have not achieved structural stability so they are hard to eat, especially for dunkers. But then the rate may go way up and then, because the cookies are being consumed rapidly, and/or people become sated, it may go down. Or, the baker of the cookies may bake them in secret and hide them in the cookie jar until after dinner, then reveal the existence of the cookies at which time peak extraction commences. Or there may be house rules as to how many cookies everyone can eat which will affect the rate of extraction. And so on. But no matter what, Peak Cookie happened the moment the cookies were pulled, baked, from the oven. (We will leave the consumption of cookie dough prior to baking for discussion at another time.) The point is, it is easy to see that “Peak Cookie” happens at the moment baking ends, and the variation in extraction rate thereafter is a function of many factors that will vary from household to household and from time to time. And all those factors are important events or processes. Peak Cookie, as a concept, is uninformative of the social dynamics, demographics, and collective individual proclivities of the household, which really are the things that matter.

This analogy reveals the fact that the “peak” (measured as production) is only part of a function of how much substance (cookies, oil) there is, and is, until the amount of substance is just about to run out, more a function of other things. For oil, this includes knowledge (of oil deposits), technology (to extract harder to get at oil), geopolitics (some oil is in countries that are currently in a snit, or that we don’t talk to), and of course, economics.

And, really, what I want to know about, and what you want to know about, is our own personal peak oil, or more manageably, our encompassing society’s peak oil. For instance, if a large deposit of oil is unavailable because we say so (for conservation reasons unrelated to petroleum) or political reasons (because it is buried beneath an enemy’s territory) then we can’t count that oil in our calculations of availability, and thus, extraction. Oil that is in our own country and not under a national park, on the other hand, is different.

In this way, perhaps a better way to think about Peak Oil is to look at the historical complexity of the process of bringing this fossil (oil is a fossil) to a place and refine it to a form that we can burn in our homes, cars or factories. Looked at it this way, from the perspective of the United States, we have had several “Peak Oil” moments.

Not counting whale oil, we experienced our first Peak Oil moment when the vast oil fields in Texas and Oklahoma and a few other places started to dry up. When that happened we started to buy more oil from countries that we really had very little respect or love for. Today, we get a fair amount of oil from a region of the world where we occasionally have to go to war to keep that oil supply open. And, we have to look the other way when the governments of those countries continue with highly objectionable policies. Imagine having a two grocery stores near your house. One of them is run by a really nice family, pillars of the community, your kids go to school with their kids, everything is fine. The other is run by a paroled sex offender who is also suspected of being a mass murderer. Plus he is a jerk. At first you always get your groceries at the store run by the nice family. But then they retire and move to Florida and you are now forced to do business with the child molesting, mass murdering jerk, because you really have no other option. That is a moment when the cost of grocery shopping, no matter what the cost of the actual groceries, becomes very high. That is a kind of peak groceries. It has little to do with the economics of the groceries. And yes, “Peak Oil” as traditionally defined is usually embedded in an economic model. This is why my suggestion of what “Peak Oil” means is different: When you (metaphorically) sell your soul to continue to obtain a resource, you’ve reached a moment in time that is very important.

The initiation of serious off shore drilling is another moment in the extraction of oil. Off shore drilling is expensive and dangerous at many levels. In the United States we shifted towards off shore drilling as our on-land deposits were worn out, and because it is somewhat cheaper (sometimes) to take nearby offshore oil than foreign near-the-surface on-land oil, and for geopolitical reasons. Those costs may not always be expressed in the “spot” prices of oil in dollars per barrel. But they are real costs.

Fracking is something that has been done for years. It is a nice trick to extract more from a deposit that has started to become tenacious. The technique is used for water, liquid petroleum, and gas. It is messy and expensive and usually results in a flow of product that soon diminishes, so whatever investment was made in the process initially does not have long term benefit. When you start fracking, that means you’ve reached one of those peaks. You are doing something you really didn’t want to do because availability or cost of the same product through other means is diminished.

The Canadian Oil Sands and other tar sands type oil has been known of for years, but it has been very little exploited. It is dirty, dangerous, expensive, and often inconveniently located. But we have been using more and more of this undesirable resource, and we are talking about using a LOT more of it in the near future. The costs of using this type of resource, aside from the continued pouring of fossil carbon (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere, are huge. But we are doing it. Another peak.

The alternative way of thinking about Peak Oil proposed here has the benefit of being more realistic and useful because it identifies not one peak but rather multiple peaks. Also, and this is important, one aspect of this definition of Peak Oil that is new is not to measure price or some overall measure of availability which might exclude significant costs (known as “external costs”), but rather, to identify the things we really do to continue to extract the resource. Over time we are doing more and more difficult and costly things, with many of these costs going well beyond price of the product. Such extra costs include deadly warfare and allowing governments and media to be taken over by the petroleum industry with all sorts of negative side effects that go well beyond the extraction, refining, and shipping of petroleum products.

Every major shift in strategy of access to ancient petroleum can be interrogated as a possible “Peak Oil” moment.

Yes, yes, I fully understand that I’ve strayed very far away from the usual definition of Peak Oil. But in so doing, I think I’ve pointed out a more important reality inherent in the business of extracting a non-renewable resource from the earth. A simple Peak Oil curve is the subject of a great deal of argument and speculation. The problem is, this argument and speculation tends to miss the point. We are like an addict with easy access to some drug that is highly addictive, gets you really high, is not too expensive, and can be easily obtained. Then the drug source runs dry so we seek out shadier sources and start to get in trouble. Then those sources start to dry up so we turn to different drugs with more severe health effects. But that starts to become less available, and paying for it gets more difficult so, eventually, we start rooting around under the sink for anything that looks consumable and might serve to get us high or at least, knock us unconscious. Eventually, we hit the drain cleaner. That kills us. There was not a smooth curve of availability of opium that went smoothly up and down. Rather, there was a series of shifts from a not so bad thing to a worse thing to an even worse thing to the horrid end and they find our body under the back porch where we were rooting through the recycling looking for spent cans of shaving cream.

Peak Oil is a gloss. The real story is a tragedy with several acts.

Peak Oil graph from Wikipedia

An Argument Against Building the Keystone XL Pipeline

There are a number of arguments against building the Keystone XL Pipeline, but there is only one that counts. We have to keep the carbon in the ground. Building the pipeline is not that.

We’ve discussed this before.

There is now short video ad from Keystone Truth that makes a more specific argument. It isn’t really an argument against building it (see above for that) but rather, a more detailed look at what Keystone XL involves, putting a finer edge, perhaps, on why it should be opposed by Americans. The ad, titled “Sucker Punch – Keystone Truth,” is designed to inform Americans that they are probably getting suckered by the builders of Keystone. Keystone supporters claim that by linking the Canadian Tar Sands to the Gulf Coast of the United States we would become “energy independent.” But there is good reason to believe that the whole point of Keystone is to provide an efficient way to move the tar sands gunk through, not to, the United States for sale overseas. Furthermore, the ad claims, probably correctly, that one of the major financial backers of this effort, perhaps even the major backer, is China. (China has invested 30 billion of the 100 billion invested so far. I believe this is the largest single investment.) It makes sense that a plan to move Canadian tar sands gunk out to the rest of the world would involve foreign investors, and it also makes sense that China would be one of these, if not the Big Panda in the room, because China has the cash to do this. And, probably, the thirst for the gunk itself.

Here is the ad:

It is possible to see the ad as “Red Bating.” This is where we prey on American anti-Asian racism, which often involves the tropes of the clever Oriental Entity and/or the Red Scare. It makes China a bad guy using themes that reach back into American cultural history to exploit long established and deep racialized hatred and mistrust.

This may be true. But it is also true that the ad does not really invoke any of the traditional symbols of this sort of thing. Yes, it shows a lot of red along with the China part of the story, and the red flag with the stars on it, and it even highlights, using a B&W vs. Color contrast, the red in the Chinese Flag and the red in the Canadian flag. But, it is also true that red is the color of China and is used abundantly by the Chinese in pro-China patriotic depiction and decoration, especially in places like … well, like Red Square. Also, that is the Chinese flag and that is the Canadian flag. And China really is investing a lot of money to get the tar sands gunk to a particular market where they will benefit.

One could say that the Chinese, the Canadians, the pro-Keystone Americans, and the Keystone corporate structure are all depicted as the capitalists they are. Running dog capitalists even, if I may borrow a phrase. But yes, the ad not so subtly allows for viewers to make the link to deep seated fear and distrust.

So here we go again. Progressive liberal left wingers (left wingers!) heavily analyzing our own message (because this is a message that works for our side) and possibly even fighting over how to make the argument to the extent that we weaken the argument ourselves. But we keep our integrity. The reason the right wing wins so many of these battles of rhetoric is because they almost never do that.

Suckers. We are. But perhaps we like it that way.

UPDATE: We may be hearing more about Keystone XL on Thursday.

Breaking: Former Obama Campaign Staff’s Letter on Keystone XL

A letter signed by (so far) 145 former Obama campaign staff calls on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. There is no doubt that President Obama’s action on climate change will be a large part of his legacy, and at this point, President Obama’s position on Keystone XL is unclear. It is true that the Obama administration is doing some good things (like this) but building the Keystone Pipeline is one of the worst things he could allow to happen.

Frustrated with this situation, the people who helped put President Obama in the White House, twice, are speaking out. Here is the letter:

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama,

On November 7th, the day after Election Day, we took a break from entering last-minute data or cleaning our OFA field offices and crowded around iPhones and laptops to listen to you talk.From strip malls, grungy basements, and non-descript headquarters in our adoptedcommunities of Petersburg, VA or Manchester, NH or Aurora, CO, we paused for five minutes tohear from the man who inspired us to leave our homes and give every last ounce of energy tore-elect our President, a leader so awe-inspiring that we’d tear up just knowing he’d be in our zip code. You told us on the phone that day, “When I was your age, I had this vague inklingabout making a difference, but I didn’t know how to do it…I ended up becoming a communityorganizer.” So did we.

It’s in that spirit that we write to ask you to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. We trust you tomake the right decision after you weigh all arguments, but one thing you taught us as organizersis that nothing can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change. Mr. President, weare just a few of the millions of young people across the country who are frightened at theprospect of runaway climate change. One of the reasons we came to work for you in the firstplace is because we trust you understand how big this challenge is.

You can help cement your legacy as a climate champion by rejecting this pipeline. You alreadyknow all the reasons we can’t afford this pipeline — that it will lock in gigatons of carbon pollutionover the next four decades and that it could spill into our nation’s most valuable water sources –we’re just asking you to think of us when you make up your mind. Dozens of supporters acrossthe country told us they were casting their ballot for someone they could count on to make thetough calls when it came to our security and our health care and our climate. They voted for you,Mr. President, because we told them you’d be on the right side of history when you had to makethese calls. Because we knew you’d do the right thing and stop this pipeline.

You closed out our call on November 7th by saying to us, “Over the last four years when peopleask me how do you put up with the frustrations of Washington, I just look to you. I think aboutwhat you guys are going to do. That’s the source of my hope and my inspiration, and I know thatyou guys won’t disappoint me.” For so long you have been the source of our hope andinspiration. Please don’t disappoint us. Reject Keystone XL.


Then there are 145 signatures (see this document)

If you are a former Obama campaign staffer, you can click here to add your name.

HERE is the press release from We Are Power Shift

Did the Keystone XL Environmental Contractor and the State Department Act Inappropriately or Illegally?

Several environmental advocacy groups are asking the US State Department to launch an investigation over the State Department’s handling of the Keystone XL review.

This is a bit nuanced but important, and I want to make clear what is going on here.

Normally, environmental impact assessments are done by private contractors ultimately hired by the entity that is building the project that could have the impacts. I often hear people complain that Trans Canada, the group that wants to build the Keystone XL pipeline across the United States to allow the export of it’s bitumen (a kind of soft coal like oily thing) overseas to places like China and Europe, “hired the contractor” that did the environmental impact assessment, and therefore they are corrupt and evil and so on and so forth. But this is how it works. The entity doing the work is responsible to pay for and supply support for the review. There is nothing wrong with that.

Also, there is a more specific allegation that individuals who work for the contractor that did the Keystone XL Pipeline review have worked previously for Trans Canada and other oil interests and therefore the are corrupt and evil and so on and so forth. This, in itself, is also incorrect. Yes, those individuals have worked for Trans Canada and other oil interests, but this is normal, expected, and in fact, a good thing. You really don’t want to have individuals with zero experience working on these important jobs, and you really don’t want to have an industry where people get trained up, with advanced degrees and apprenticeship, to work in a given sub sector of environmental management, then allow them to have one contract then put them on an ice flow.

Having said all that, which is true and must be kept in mind when complaining about Trans Canada and Keystone XL, there is a problem. The system where corporations hire contractors to look into environmental effects is corruptible. This isn’t the most corruptible way to do this. If government agencies did the work themselves, or hired subcontractors, that would be corruptible too. There is no way to do this that is not corruptible.

For this reason, regulatory agencies are supposed to keep a close eye on what happens. There are forms that must be filled out honestly that might reveal potential conflicts of interest, for example. Once these forms are in the hands of the appropriate regulatory agencies, their veracity must be checked, and if there is any problem, that must be very closely looked into.

From the information I’ve seen, it seems almost 100% likely that the process of arranging for the second Keystone XL environmental impact assessment involved some serious mistakes, and there is almost as good of a chance that those mistakes involved purposeful manipulation of information by the environmental contractor as well as by the State Department itself.

I’m not going to try to prove this to you or even summarize the information because it is all well laid out in THIS PDF of a letter from Bold Nebraska, Center for Biological Diversity, Environment America, Friends of the Earth, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Nebraska Farmers’ Union, Public Citizen, Sierra Club and 350.org. It would appear that the contractor, ERM, failed to disclose its ties to the American Petroleum Institute, TransCanada and other companies that stand to benefit from Keystone. There may be nothing wrong with having those ties but they must be disclosed so they can be looked into and monitored. Also, the State Department employees attempted to cover these ties up during the review process, which implies collusion between the regulatory agency and the contractor.

Go read the letter and learn all the details.

Then, you might want to sign this petition from Friends of the Earth to “Tell Secretary of State John Kerry: Investigate Big Oil’s Influence on the Keystone XL Review.”

Private contractors hire other private contractors to do environmental review, and this process is overseen by regulatory agencies, with the State Department in this case being a regulatory agency. But who oversees that process, to makes sure it stays clean, fair, and legal? Well, you, the citizen. And who helps you do that? Organizations created by citizens, such as those noted above.

So that’s what is happening now. Time to act. Your move…..