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Keystone XL pipeline takes centre stage at Washington protest

Mitch Potter, The Toronto Star
Canada’s carbon-intensive oilsands industry was the guest of dishonour in Washington on Sunday, where the largest in a series of nationwide climate rallies demanded President Barack Obama call a halt to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Though precise numbers were in dispute — organizers claimed upwards of 50,000 supporters, with other media assessments suggesting half as many — activists appeared to have met their target of achieving the country’s largest-ever climate rally.

But there was no disputing TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline was the anti-star of the Forward On Climate protests, which included companion rallies in more than 20 U.S. cities from here to San Francisco…
(17 February 2013)
Link to the story of of the protest from

Some Environmental Issues Surrounding Keystone XL

Excerpts from Congressional Research Bureau via Econbrowser
For the pipeline project represented in the August 2011 final EIS, approximately 95% of the land affected by pipeline construction and operation was privately owned, with the remaining 5% almost equally state and federal land. Private land uses were primarily agricultural—farmers and cattle ranchers.

The pipeline’s construction and continued operation would involve a 50-foot-wide permanent right-of-way along the length of the pipeline. Keystone agreed to compensate landowners for losses on a case-by-case basis. However, a concern among landowners and communities along the route is the potential for their land or water (used for drinking, irrigation, or recreation) to be contaminated by an accidental release (spill) of oil. That concern is heightened in areas where the pipeline will be located near or would cross water or is in a remote location…

The size of potential spills and the type of oil that would likely be released from the Keystone XL pipeline have been issues of concern to opponents of the project. In its July 16, 2010, comments on the draft EIS for the Keystone XL pipeline, EPA expressed particular concern over the potential adverse impacts to surface and ground water from pipeline leaks or spills. That concern stemmed from two areas—the toxicity of chemical diluents that may be used to allow bitumen to be transported by pipeline and the lack of risk assessment for potential “serious or significant spills,” including an evaluation of spill response procedures in the wake of such a spill.

Concerns reflected in EPA’s letter were realized 10 days later when the Enbridge Energy Partners’ Alberta Pipeline ruptured near Marshall, MI. The resulting spill released dilbit crude into a tributary creek of the Kalamazoo River and traveled approximately 40 miles downstream in the Kalamazoo River….
(19 February 2013)
Full CRS report

Ten Reasons to Take Peak Oil Seriously

Robert J Brecha, sustainability
Forty years ago, the results of modeling, as presented in The Limits to Growth, reinvigorated a discussion about exponentially growing consumption of natural resources, ranging from metals to fossil fuels to atmospheric capacity, and how such consumption could not continue far into the future. Fifteen years earlier, M. King Hubbert had made the projection that petroleum production in the continental United States would likely reach a maximum around 1970, followed by a world production maximum a few decades later. The debate about “peak oil”, as it has come to be called, is accompanied by some of the same vociferous denials, myths and ideological polemicizing that have surrounded later representations of The Limits to Growth. In this review, we present several lines of evidence as to why arguments for a near-term peak in world conventional oil production should be taken seriously—both in the sense that there is strong evidence for peak oil and in the sense that being societally unprepared for declining oil production will have serious consequences…

View full report PDF
This report was included in the special issue of Sustainability: 40th Anniversary of ‘The Limits to Growth’
(12 February 2013)

Arctic needs protection from resource rush as ice melts, says UN

Reuters via The Guardian
The Arctic needs to be better protected from a rush for natural resources as melting ice makes mineral and energy exploration easier, the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

The UNEP Year Book 2013 was released on Monday to accompany the opening of talks in Nairobi attended by environment ministers or senior officials from around 150 nations, aimed at making the world economy greener at a time of weak economic growth.

"What we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fuelled the melt in the first place," said Achim Steiner, U.N. Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director…
(18 February 2013)

Shale oil fails to dent Middle East shipments

Javier Blas, FT via Gulf News
Will the US be able to say goodbye to its costly military involvement in the energy-rich Middle East because of the shale oil revolution at home?…

…the US is still importing nearly as much crude oil from the Gulf as it has done in the past. The latest monthly data from the US Energy Information Administration, indicate Washington bought 2.1m bpd, equal to 25 per cent of its crude oil imports, from the region….
(20 February 2013)

Image credit: Oil well pump jacks – Richard Masoner/flickr