Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tar and Sand

Tar & Sand

Ms Daryl Being Arrested

La Brea Tar Pits

Big Canadian Tar Pits

Yesterday morning I saw on the television machine videos of that long time actress and troublemaker, Daryl Hannah, getting arrested Tuesday in front of the White House, where the President lives.
I have no idea if Barack was watching when it happened. His Press Secretary, Jay Carney wouldn't say.
You may remember Ms Hannah from films such as "Blade Runner," "Splash," "Roxanne," "At Play in the Fields of the Lord," "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman," and the "Kill Bill" movies.
She wasn't littering, or trying to sneak inside, or anything like that. She was there with about 100 people protesting an extension of an oil pipeline that if Barack approves it, will traverse the entire country, from Alberta Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico.
It's called the Keystone XL pipeline.
Here's a video of her getting arrested and spewing her job killing, environment loving propaganda:
This isn't the first time she's been in trouble with the law. In 2006 she chained herself to a freaking walnut tree for three freaking weeks to protest the eviction of farmers from farmland in South Central Los Angeles (where the hell is farmland in South Central Los Angeles?!), and to protest mountaintop removal mining in West Virginia.
"We stand here today to just say no to slavery, to just say no to tar sands, oil and no to the Keystone pipeline." Hannah also added that she hoped President Obama would stand up to lobbyists.
The U.S. Park Police came by and asked politely for the protesters to leave. Ms Hannah, and about a dozen others of her ilk remained seated, so they threw her in the old hoosegow. She got out soon enough on $100 bail.
This was the 10th day of a two week planned "sit-in" protest over this pipeline. How silly. According to "Tar Sands Action. org" these people began acting up on August 20th, and will continue to do so until Friday, September 3rd. Yesterday, 111 people showed up in front of the White House. If they're all arrested the total will be 706 so far, making this the largest civil disobedience in the history of the climate movement, and the largest civil disobedience for the environmental movement in a generation.
No wonder our prison systems are overcrowded.
Daryl being a big movie star and all, got on the T.V. news programs, or at least she was on MSNBC yesterday morning, all proud of herself, talking about why she was so unruly.
It all has to do with tar... sandy tar with oil in it... and carbon dioxide.
Tar sands, or oil sands, or bituminous sands, are naturally occurring deposits of a form of petroleum. The petroleum in this case is a dense viscous (thick) substance known as bitumen, which is mixed in with sand, clay, and water. Bitumen is a term used for natural deposits of oil "tar" - such as at the La Brea Tar Pits (picture above).
There are great big deposits of oil in sand in Canada and Venezuela. Canada, as you may know, dear readers, is relatively close to the United States, which wants that oil. Or at least the U.S. wants to process it.
Normally oil is produced by drilling holes in the ground and sucking up the oil that's down there. It's getting more and more expensive to do that because the oil is running out. Our government, the oil industry, and the Republicans refuse to admit that though, and insist on drilling for more of it (remember the 2008 Republican cry, "Drill baby, drill"? I do). They don't care where we drill for it, in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (which President Bush supported and President Obama is against) to the Everglades, where presidential candidate Michelle Bachman wants to drill... if it doesn't hurt the environment too much she says. Hell they'll drill in your freaking living room if they think there's oil underneath the sofa.
But as I said, that kind of oil is getting harder and more expensive to produce.
There's all of this oil in the sand in Canada though, the largest deposit being in Alberta, which is called the Athabasca tar sands, and there are two other smaller bodies known as the Peace River and Cold Lake deposits. Together, these deposits cover about 54,000 square miles, or an area approximately the size of Florida. There are 175 billion barrels of proven oil reserves there. That's second to Saudi Arabia's 260 billion but it's only what companies can get with today's technology. The estimate of how many more barrels of oil are buried deeper underground is even bigger.
"We know there's much, much more there. The total estimates could be two trillion or even higher," says Clive Mather, Shell's Canada chief. "This is a very, very big resource."
The mined rock and dirt is hauled to a massive facility that upgrades the material and converts the otherwise almost unusable bitumen into synthetic crude oil for shipment to refineries in Canada and the United States.
The proposed pipeline would run from the oil sands of Alberta through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas. An existing Keystone pipeline brings 591,000 barrels of crude from the oil sands to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois, which became operational in June of last year. What Daryl and everybody is so excited about is the extension from Oklahoma to Texas... well they're excited about the whole thing really.
House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Henry Waxman (the "Mustache of Justice") urged the State Department to block Keystone XL (the pipeline), saying in a letter to the State Department that "this pipeline is a multi-billion dollar investment to expand our reliance on the dirtiest source of transportation fuel currently available." 50 other members of Congress spoke against it as well. What's going on?
One concern is that the pipeline could pollute air and water supplies and harm migratory birds and other wildlife. It will cross the Sandhills in Nebraska, the large wetland ecosystem, and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the largest reserves of fresh water in the world.
The Ogallala Aquifer crosses eight states and provides drinking water for over two million people. It also supports $20 billion in agriculture. A lot of people are concerned that a pipeline leak would be... disadvantageous to those who drink water... and the mid-western economy in the U.S.
But why would a new pipeline leak? How silly. Portions of it will cross an active seismic zone that had a 4.3 magnitude earthquake as recently as 2002, but what the hell, we need that oil. A 4.3 isn't that bad anyway. Look at all of that damage caused by last week's 5.8:

Opponents to the pipeline point out tar sand oil is is more acidic, thick, and sulfuric than conventional crude oil; is up to 70 times more viscous than conventional crudes; and contains 20 to 50 times higher concentrations of acid than conventional crudes, and five to ten times as much sulfur, and that "the additional sulfur can lead to the weakening or embrittlement of pipelines."
Others say that the pipeline will undermine America's clean energy future and increase its dependence of oil sands fuels.
Last Friday, the U.S. State Department gave it's okay to the pipeline saying it wouldn't pose a significant threat to U.S. resources along the pipeline corridor. That was a major indicator of how the President might decide the issue, opponents of the pipeline argued. They got all upset about that.
The liberal media too. That above action got the Obama administration the Bronze award on Keith Olbermann's Worst Person's List for August 29th.
There is also a problem with carbon dioxide, you know, that green house gas that Bachman and other Republicans always say is so "harmless." It seems that the production and refining of oil sands emit more carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases than production of other types of oil. That means more greenhouse gases allowed into the Earth's fragile atmosphere, which is already affected adversely by all of the other greenhouse gases we've been dumping into it since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, all of which increases climate change and global warming, evidenced by extreme weather events like hurricane Irene, drought, and floods, etc..
Exxon doesn't seem too worried about it though. You may have seen the commercials they've been running recently. I don't know how you could avoid them really, they're on so frequently. Here's one right here:
It's interesting to note that the engineer speaking in that commercial is also the Global Recruiting Coordinator for Exxon Mobil's Fuels Marketing organization. In other words a propagandist.
He's also a pretty good organ and footbass player, as can be seen here:
The progressive blog ThinkProgress, has seen that commercial too, and they say this about it:
“'Two Of The Most Important Challenges': Exxon deliberately ignores mention of the third related challenge that tar sands development affects: global warming. The Kearl tar sands mine contains over 5.5 billion barrels worth of bitumen — the tarry substance that gets processed into synthetic crude through an energy-intensive and ecologically destructive process. Even if the processing of the bitumen didn’t produce huge amounts of greenhouse pollution, using oil from the Kearl project would emit about 2 billion tons of greenhouse pollution. There will be no 'energy security and economic growth' in a world ravaged by rapid climate change.
'Hundreds Of Thousands Of Jobs': The industry study that claims there will be massive job creation from tar sands development — mostly in Canada — admits that 82 percent of the jobs 'created' aren’t actually in tar sands production. The oil and gas industry is one of the worst sectors for investment in job creation — green sectors create four times as many jobs with the same investment.
'Same Emissions As Many Other Oils': Kearl is expected to produce 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide annually, equivalent to 800,000 passenger vehicles. ExxonMobil is optimistic that experimental technology will reduce greenhouse pollution from oil derived from the Kearl tar sands by about 6 percent (a 25 percent reduction of production-related emissions, which are about 25 percent of total emissions, including combustion). Even with advanced technology, the tar-sands oil production will always be more polluting than conventional oil production.
Each year, the cost to civilization of each added ton of carbon dioxide increases. Exploiting the Canadian tar sands to fuel ExxonMobil’s profits would be suicidal... This is why thousands of people are heading to the White House to stage a mass protest to convince President Obama not to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline."
All of this concern over the pipeline and it's effects on the environment have prompted Dr. James Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, and is NASA's leading climatologist, to state: "We have a planetary emergency.” He argued that if humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, 20-40 percent of species on the planet will become extinct by the end of the century. He said if we go ahead and begin tapping these unconventional energy sources, of which the tar sands are the biggest example, it is "essentially game over for the climate."
Game over. Sounds like something out of one of those "Saw" movies.
And as in those movies, it sounds fairly permanent and irreversible.
The Republicans in Congress are very worried about our children. Exceptionally worried. They insist that we are paying for current programs like health care reform with borrowed money that our kids will be forced to spend their entire lives having to pay for. They say it over and over again. I wish they would have been as concerned when Bush was in office, you know when Bush turned that budget surplus into the beginnings of the deficit we now face. They didn't seem as concerned about all of our children then as they do now for some reason.
They don't seem all that concerned for them as far as the environment, and what kind of planet we leave for them either, as they're all for the expansion of this pipeline, and the continuation of our reliance on fossil fuels. They pick and choose their concern it seems.
“Fossil fuels are finite,” Dr. Hansen stated. “We’ll have to move to clean energy at some point so we may as well do it before we burn all the fossil fuels and ruin the future of our children.”
Dr Hansen, one of the earliest authoritative figures warning of the dangers of climate change, then sat with fellow protestors at the White House, and was summarily arrested.
Ms Hannah was asked on the morning news show isn't it inevitable that the country needs these new energy sources, and if they can be harvested safely and efficiently, why not? After all the State Department's environmental impact reports points out that while "spills are likely to occur during operation," it insists the they will not cause significant harm to the surrounding environments.
Daryl replied that since the operation began in June 2010, 12 oil spills have occurred, one of which was 21,000 gallons.
That doesn't sound too safe to me... especially with all of our drinking water so nearby.
She also said that most of the oil wasn't even destined for use in the U.S. It would be refined in Texas and then shipped overseas for other countries to use.
In this matter the decision is the Presidents alone. He can either approve the pipeline's extension, or not approve it. Congress is powerless to interfere in either case.
I think lovely Daryl has convinced me. Let's hope the president continues the policy he has initiated in the Arctic Refuge, and sustains a victory for our children and the very planet itself.
After all... he has kids too.

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