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Tar Sands and the Carbon Numbers

Staff editorial, New York Times
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.

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.

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…
(21 Aug 2011)

A Debate: Should the U.S. Approve TransCanada’s Massive Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline?

Amy Goodman and Juaz Gonzalez, Democracy Now
Thousands of environmental activists from across the continent plan to gather in Washington, D.C., tomorrow to launch a two-week protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to U.S. oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. The massive pipeline would cross the Yellowstone River, as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the United States. Environmentalists plan to hold sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day in order to pressure the Obama administration as it decides whether to approve the pipeline’s construction. Supporters of the pipeline say the pipeline will create some 20,000 construction jobs, and the company behind it, TransCanada, has already signed agreements to employ the members of four international unions if the project is approved. Last month, the Republican-controlled House passed a measure that would force a decision on the Keystone XL by November 1. As the Obama administration faces industry pressure on one side and sustained grassroots protest on the other, we host a debate between Cindy Schild, the refining issues manager at the American Petroleum Institute, and Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, a group taking part in the Washington protests…
(19 Aug 2011)

Interview: James Hansen on the Tar Sands Pipeline Protest, the Obama Administration and Intergenerational Justice

Jerry Cope, The Huffington Post
On the first day of a planned two-week sit in at the White House organized by TarSandsAction over 70 people were arrested including one of the lead organizers organizer Bill McKibben. In an attempt to intimidate concerned citizens and policy makers from continuing the sit-in, the National Park Service did not honor its previous agreement with McKibben and others to “catch and release” participants but is holding them in jail over the weekend. Numerous environmental organizations and leading climate scientists have condemned the Keystone XL Pipeline project which would bring 900,000 barrels of dirty oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to Texas refineries. Preeminent climate scientist and director of NASA’s Goddard Institute James Hansen has described the Alberta Tar Sands oil extraction development as a game-over proposition for climate change. Sunday afternoon, he addressed the continuing struggle to address the ever increasing threat of anthropogenic climate change. Dr. Hansen will be participating in the protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Washington, DC on August 29th with religious leaders.

JC: President Obama had lofty promises regarding climate change and the environment during his campaign. To date, his administration has failed to deliver and is now positioned to approve the Tar Sands Pipeline, the worst idea in many years in terms of its impact on climate. Do you see any signs that the Obama administration is moving to seriously address climate change? Do you feel they administration deserves a second chance?

JH: Are they serious? The tar sands pipeline approval or disapproval will provide the sign of whether the Obama administration is serious about climate change and protecting the future of young people.
Do they deserve a second chance? Yes, everybody deserves a second chance.

Obama’s first chance was when he was elected — he could have made energy independence and climate a top priority. Talking nice about sun and wind and green jobs is just greenwash. The only effective policy would be a rising carbon fee collected from fossil fuel companies with 100 percent of the funds distributed to the public — stimulating the economy and moving us rapidly toward a clean energy future. Anything less is just blather.
(21 Aug 2011)

Dozens Arrested in Pipeline Protest

NancyR, global warming cause
Dozens of protesters, including environmental activist Bill McKibben, were arrested and jailed in Washington DC this weekend while protesting a plan by the company TransCanada to build the controversial XL pipeline that would carry oil from the Alberta tar sands 1,700 miles to Texas. Activists are concerned about the pipeline’s potentially disastrous environmental impact.

The initial arrests are part of a planned two-week action to raise awareness of the pipeline project and prevent its construction. President Obama has the authority to sign off on, or reject, the proposed pipeline; Congress has no say in the matter. The State Department will issue a final environmental report at the end of this month, and the President then has 90 days to decide whether the project will move forward.

McKibben and some 50 other protesters are being held until a hearing on 2pm Monday. The Tar Sands protest is scheduled to last for two weeks; over 2,000 people have signed up to protest and risk being arrested. There is speculation that the police are trying to deter the protest so that it does not detract from the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, scheduled for August 28.

McKibben released a statement from jail on the Tar Sands Action website, saying in part, “I’m looking forward to seeing everybody over the next 2 weeks. It has been a little hot here in central cell block, but not as hot as it will be if we don’t stop this project. People here have been in good spirits, and there has been a great deal of learning. We are thinking ahead to this weekend to share stories about Dr King and freedom movement.”

The proposed pipeline would originate in Alberta, where open-pit mining is used for extraction, and bisect the U.S., cutting across rich farmland, down to the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to concerns over environmental pollution, the greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands are 40% higher than from regular oil. As campaign leader Bill McKibben noted in a recent editorial:

“We have, not surprisingly, concerns about potential spills and environmental degradation from construction of the pipeline. But those tar sands are also the second-largest pool of carbon in the atmosphere, behind only the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. If we tap into them in a big way, NASA climatologist James Hansen explained in a paper issued this summer, the emissions would mean it’s “essentially game over” for the climate.”…
(21 Aug 2011)

Tar Sands Pipeline Protests Continue (PHOTOS)

Staff, Huffington Post
“The only thing we need is more company. We don’t need your sympathy, we need your company,” Tar Sands Action leader Bill McKibben said from jail, according to Jamie Henn of

An estimated 45 additional arrests were made on Sunday as thousands of protestors continued their efforts to fight the Keystone XL pipeline. Over the course of two weeks, people for Tar Sands Action plan to continue a sit-in at the White House as an act of civil disobedience to urge President Obama to reject the requested Keystone XL pipeline permit.

According to Henn, up to 100 people were expected to attend a training on Sunday night to prepare for Monday’s sit-ins, including a group of Nebraska farmers and ranchers. Jane Kleeb, Director of Bold Nebraska, said:

Back home we are fighting to protect our land and water. We decided to bring that fight to the President’s doorstep because our families’ legacies, those that homesteaded the very land now threatened by a foreign oil company, are too important for us sit on the sidelines. We are acting on our values and expect our President to act as well…

(21 Aug 2011)

Tar Sands Action, Washington, DC (video)

SKaren Rybold-Chin, Youtube

(21 Aug 2011)
EB contributor Karen Rybold-Chin created the video. She writes:

Long hot days here in DC, 93 and sunny. The folks getting arrested are true activists. Bill was arrested on Friday, assume he will be released tomorrow. Hope to chat with him before I leave.