April 10, 2015

Alberta #tarsands oil is already here; why not OK #KeystoneXL?

Climate Central has a good piece on the facts on the ground, starting with that map above and including its header, especially the word "alternatives."

If US President Barack Obama were to deny KeystoneXL, it wouldn't stop Canadian tar sands oil from getting to market. In fact, via those alternative pipes, about 400,000 barrels of tar sands a day is already coming to the Texas Gulf Coast. And Embridge is expanding that system of pipes.

The rest of nearly 2 million barrels a day is going to refineries in either the US or Canada by either small pipelines or rail, and both are worse options than Keystone.

The latest iteration of railroad tank cars supposed to replace the old, dangerous DOT-111s, the CPC-1232s, have already shown that in rail collisions, they too can rupture and ignite. Plus, the heavy burdening of our rail system with massive oil-tanker freight trains has snarled other rail on the High Plains, including harvested agricultural crops.

Smaller pipelines may not well withstand the special pipeline transportation needs of the dilbit into which tar sands oil is converted, especially if they're older.

I'm an environmentalist. I'm also a left-liberal in American terms. I'm also a skeptical left-liberal in terms of applying philosophically and psychologically skeptical reasoning practices to my own political stances as well as others.

Ergo, I know that blocking KeystoneXL won't block the mining, distribution or production of tar sands oil.

I do know that the one thing that might put a dent in that is a carbon tariff. And that requires a domestic carbon tax, too, which we need anyway.

So, again, I get back to a blog post of a few weeks ago.

We need a grand bargain: Carbon tax+tariff in conjunction with approval of KeystoneXL, which will not be perfect, but which will be safer than methods being used today to transport dilbit.

Again, it won't be perfect. But KeystoneXL itself will be better than what we have now, and connecting it with a "grand bargain" would be much, much better, I think. No pipeline is perfect, but newer pipelines are relatively good, and don't have collisions.

In other words, Alberta tar sands oil is already coming to the US, more of it is coming every day, and yet more will come in the future. Having it shipped her in the most reasonable way possible, and while trying to make that part of a bigger "grand bargain," seems to me to be the best way of addressing the issue.

It will just keep coming by rail and older pipeline if there is no Keystone. And, a group of Bill McKibbens trying to play oil Posse Comitatus at the border would get more than just civil disobedience jail time.

While holding on to ideals, I live in the real world on issues like this.

I also leave in a real world which notes that the GOP, and even most elected Democrats, would in no way countenance a carbon tax, even if tied to a carbon tariff. I also live in a real world that notes that most greens, and most Green Party folks, would never OK Keystone, even as part of a grand bargain like this. Since, per my "grand bargain" blog post link, some greens (don't know whether Green Party or not; I'm referencing an environmentalist with a green group who probably represents others) can't even tell the truth about Alberta oil already coming into the US right now, this doesn't surprise me either.

This is part of why, if I didn't live in Texas, I'd probably fight a legal battle if I were told I had to register by political party as part of voter registration.

Like John Randolph of Roanoke, I guess I'm a tertium quid.

Grist, meanwhile, in a new piece, says that some of these issues are straw men. I think it's partially right, but not totally so. It's true that Keystone won't substantially help North Dakota oil. It's true that we can get even stricter on railcar design than the CPC-1232.

Reducing speed on trains by as much as Grist wants is not realistic, though. And, if a pipeline is better, or even sending a pipeline to connect to Keystone, then let's do it.

The train slowdown, when Bakken oil trains already slow High Plains' crops delivery to market, isn't feasible. That said, reducing volatiles in train-shipped oil is a good idea.

I think my ultimate objection is that Grist is playing this as a, not necessarily a zero-sum game, but as a game, in the game theory sense, with a different expected sum and a different equation, even, than I see. So, I agree with the first three proposals it has on rail cars, but not the speed.

And, per the map above? Let's build a short stub pipeline up into Canada from North Dakota. Combine that with Keystone approval, if necessary. Oh, I'm sorry; the Canadians already have plans for just such a pipe, which Adler, for whatever reason, didn't mention.

That, then addresses North Dakotans who note the current pipelines won't help Bakken a lot. And, removes what, while technically real at the current time, as far as what's possible, is itself a bit of a straw man. It can be part of that "grand bargain."

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