Skip to comments.Yedlin: New York Times editorial attacks oilsands with clear vitriol, murky facts
Posted on 04/03/2013 1:16:30 PM PDT by thackney
Its one thing for citizens to have a healthy debate about a controversial issue affecting a jurisdiction but its another entirely to take the discussion outside those boundaries.
Thats exactly what Thomas Homer-Dixon did with his editorial page piece that appeared in the New York Times on Monday, excoriating the oilsands and suggesting it would be good for Canada if President Barack Obama does not allow the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Waterloo University professor who is at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School for International Affairs makes an assertion in the third paragraph of his article that Keystone is not supported by 42 per cent of Canadians.
For that to appear in prime real estate in the New York Times is anything but helpful.
But he isnt telling the whole story.
The Nanos poll from 2012 that he quotes actually showed 45.2 per cent support for the project and when you drill down into the numbers opposed, its clear a segment of the opposition is related to a concern regarding the need to diversify markets beyond the United States and to keep more jobs in Canada by boosting upgrading and refining capacity. In other words, while the environment is a concern and primarily in Quebec, which is far away from Alberta its not the whole.
Homer-Dixon also states many in the country want to see the tar sands industry wound down.
In survey after survey, the number of people in this country that want to see the oilsands shut down is between 12 and 15 per cent. The vast majority prefer to see continued development that addresses issues of sustainability and the environment, said Janet Annesley, vice-president of communications for the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.
Has Homer-Dixon interviewed the owners of companies in Ontario who supply the so-called tarsands with equipment and pipe? What about the individuals who work at those companies who have jobs which enable them to pay taxes and provide for their families? And what of those workers in Ontario who travel to and from the oilsands region and wouldnt have as many options for work in the province without the oilsands? Those tax receipts help Ontario coffers and fund programs within the province.
Surely Homer-Dixon is aware of the challenges facing Ontarios economy. One would think that he would understand the economic theory of income distribution and the benefits of a mobile labour force.
And then theres the simple fact that energy is part of the everyday economy.
One wonders how Homer-Dixon chooses to travel. Does he ride a bicycle to and from his office? Does he eschew foods grown outside a 100-kilometre radius of where he lives? And is his clothing made from fabric grown in Canada? Do the labels of his clothing say Made in Waterloo, Ont.?
Homer-Dixon also asserts that the energy sector is causing Canada to take on petro-state characteristics. The revenues flowing from the development, production and sale of the resource, he says, is preventing Canada from investing in research and innovation at a level that it should be.
That may well be true but to put the blame entirely on the energy sector is to engage in, as economists say, spurious correlation. In fact, were Homer-Dixon to take a closer look, hed realize there has been plenty of innovation in the increasingly technologically heavy energy sector.
Lets take the development of technology that has unlocked the millions of barrels of light oil from tight formations in Canada and in the U.S. Thats the result of technological innovation. Then there are all the advancements in the oilsands extraction business that have contributed to greenhouse gas emissions per barrel dropping by 26 per cent since 1990.
What Canada and the energy sector do need to do a better job of is examining how the technology being applied in the energy sector could be used in other industries.
Oh, and one more thing. He needs to take the time to learn about COSIA the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance formed last year for the purpose of accelerating the environmental performance of oilsands producers through collaboration. There is no mention made of the progress made by Suncor on its tailings pond reduction operations, which will dramatically reduce the time it takes to reclaim the tailings generated by its mining operations.
Homer-Dixon also needs to check a few facts.
He asserts oilsands operations sucks up huge quantities of water from local rivers.
Clearly he is unaware that the energy sector as a whole is allocated seven per cent of the available water in the province. Yes, the Athabasca River is the primary source of water but the oilsands producers use less than three per cent of the lowest weekly winter flow of the river. In other words, not huge quantities.
He also appears to be unaware that when it comes to in situ development, almost all the water used is brackish cant be used for anything else because of the high salt content. And its recycled.
The biggest user of water in Alberta remains agriculture at 45 per cent where recycling isnt as easily done.
And, for the record, the oilsands industry uses 40 per cent of the water consumed by the city of Toronto.
Finally, there is the comment about the oilsands undermining Canadian democracy.
Now thats really funny.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper may call Calgary home, but the energy sector is anything but in his pocket. Can we start with the elimination of the royalty trust structure in 2006, which happened with nary a word of consultation with the industry and was simply presented as a fait accompli?
More than $30 billion in the value of oil and gas companies was erased overnight; if the industry was in bed with the government, one could argue this would not have taken place.
To suggest the country is prevented from having a debate is ludicrous. To debate and discuss is part of our Canadian values, said Annesley.
Homer-Dixon has done himself, and the country he calls home, a huge disservice.
He has chosen to interpret poll results in a manner that does not tell the full story. And he used the energy sector as a way to show his deep frustration with the federal government.
What he should have and could have done is aired his concerns within the confines of the country. In this way it could have formed part of what is really needed a national dialogue on energy strategy.
Instead, by taking the approach he did, Homer-Dixon has effectively excluded himself from any national discourse that will, eventually, take place.
The Tar Sands Disaster http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/opinion/the-tar-sands-disaster.html?_r=1&
They are leftists dont’cha know....they don’t have to have proof, the lo-info’s will believe anything....
Goody Goody Goody. Once AGAIN the NY Slimes validate the wisdom of my FR tagline. Such a warm fuzzy feeling.
Thinking about an alternative tagline that also works:
NY TIMES: “We print the news IF it fits our views.”
Since when does a President decide on his own whether or not a pipeline gets built? What the hell is wrong with the voters in this country who have allowed this perversion to permeate our three-branched system of government and our free market economy? Hell, why is the government being entrusted with responsibility for ANY kind of investment decision in the private sector? What "skin" does it have in the game? What happened to the concept of private venture capital? More to the point, why are we so quiet when the news media continues the mantra of the federal government doing this or that to create jobs? How can the government create anything? It can print money. That's all it can do. It has no "bottom line", it doesn't need to show a profit, it can't be fired for doing a lousy job (don't make me laugh about the ballot box scam), no shareholders to answer to. It's a loose cannon. It's like we're living in Soviet Russia. A government CANNOT run a free market economy. It's been proven over and over again on the world stage. Why is everyone so ignorant as to the historical failure of governments to control economies? WHY do we have to go through this lesson afresh in the U.S., destroying the country in the process?
Frack the New York Times!
Watse of pressure. All you could pump up after doing so would be toilet offel.
Oil/gas pipelines crossing international borders requires State Department approvals due to the import/exports. State Department works for the Executive Branch, hence the President can force the approval/denial. This is not the case for pipelines within the US border although other Federal Permits will apply.
I had not been following the XL pipeline issue very closely until I heard about the Kalamazoo River oil spill. Anyone here heard about that? At any rate a 30 inch pipeline carrying the highly toxic, acidic, and abrasive sludge called “dilute bitumin” (dilbit) got a 6 foot rupture, and it was at least a day before the pipeline operators realized they had a problem. This was in 2010, and $1 billion has been spent on clean up and they are not done yet. The XL pipeline in the US would cross at least 4 significant rivers. I urge everyone to Google “Kalamazoo River oil spill”,and see just how bad it can get. Dilbit is not like regular oil, it is far more toxic, nasty, and expensive to clean up when it spills.
In what way do you think dilbit differs from crude oil?
Do you have any understanding how common petroleum type pipelines are?
Did you walk to work or drive a car? Do you expect a delivery system of petroleum products or do you just walk everywhere?
Most people are oblivious to this reality.
As I said in my comment, you need to Google Kalamazoo River oil spill and related like clean up, cost, etc. The current billion dollar cost is way more than Solyndra. When tar sands oil is brought out of the ground it is peanut butter consistency. In order to make it flow, it is mixed with volatile and toxic solvents. It is high in sand and acidic sulfur. It has to be put under pressure to make it move. It is moved in intermittent bursts as is called for downstream. The reason it leaked so badly is that pumpers did not realize that the lack of pressure was due to a big leak, not lack of volume. Read the details, its complicated. The slurry is highly toxic, abrasive, very acidic and under pressure. It is nothing like a regular oil pipeline setup. Surface transportation is a lot safer. Besides it is mostly being sent out of the US. Rather than burden our rivers and highways, let them build a pipeline to the Pacific since most of it is going to China anyway.
The substance recovered from the Athabasca oil sands is sand that is saturated with bitumen. Bitumen is the remains of carbon-based plants and animals that have been transformed into an energy rich fossil fuel by millions of years of decay and compression underground. These naturally-occurring deposits in northern Alberta have been utilized for various purposes by humans for centuries. Using steam and hot water, raw bitumen is separated from the sand. Bitumen is then either upgraded by removing carbon and adding hydrogen to create synthetic crude oil or blended to create synbit or dilbit. Synthetic crude oil, is a form of crude oil that closely resembles conventional light crude oil. Dilbit and synbit approximate the characteristics of typical conventional heavy crude oil. Oil sands-derived crude oils have been travelling through North American pipelines for decades and are well understood by the industries responsible for producing, transporting and refining them.
While every batch of crude oil has its own unique characteristics, they all must meet the specifications of the refineries that process crude oil into gasoline and other refined petroleum products. TransCanadas Keystone Pipeline transports more than 500,000 barrels per day of Canadian crude oil to U.S. refinery markets and has transported more than 340 million barrels since it opened in July 2010. Each batch of oil that enters the pipeline at Hardisty Terminal is tested for viscosity, temperature, water content, suspended solids and other characteristics. The physical and chemical properties of the crude oils transported by the Keystone are very similar to the heavy crudes refined in the U.S. from sources including California, Venezuela, Nigeria and Russia.
Be that as it may, you are still talking about an engineering problem. With a little bit of knowledge and great engineering, you sent a payload to the moon. As to the stuffs ultimate destination, that is beside the point. Alaska oil goes to Japan because in the end, it all might as well come out of the same well. But it IS black gold, and anyone who wants to think they can have an 18th century environment in this century should be willing to go back to the whole technology of that time,
“As I said in my comment, you need to Google Kalamazoo River oil spill and related like clean up, cost, etc. The current billion dollar cost is way more than Solyndra. When tar sands oil is brought out of the ground it is peanut butter consistency. In order to make it flow, it is mixed with volatile and toxic solvents. It is high in sand and acidic sulfur. It has to be put under pressure to make it move. It is moved in intermittent bursts as is called for downstream. The reason it leaked so badly is that pumpers did not realize that the lack of pressure was due to a big leak, not lack of volume. Read the details, its complicated. The slurry is highly toxic, abrasive, very acidic and under pressure. It is nothing like a regular oil pipeline setup. Surface transportation is a lot safer. Besides it is mostly being sent out of the US. Rather than burden our rivers and highways, let them build a pipeline to the Pacific since most of it is going to China anyway.”
And in 1990 I saw the result of a gouge in an oil tanker, spreading oil onto the beaches of Huntington Beach CA.
Looked catastrophic at the time. Truly horrific. But mother nature cleaned it up surprisingly nicely.
The risks of mishaps are far outweighed by the benefits of reliable energy.
The difference being the company that caused the mess, Enbridge, will be made to pay the full clean up cost plus significant penalties. When this is all said and done, the government will actually make money on the spill, just like all major spills.
When tar sands oil is brought out of the ground it is peanut butter consistency. In order to make it flow, it is mixed with volatile and toxic solvents.
Volatile and toxic solvents? It is mixed with naptha, or other lights separated from crude oil. Crude oil is a mix a of heavy to light hydrocarbons. Bitumen, brought out of the Canadian oil sands are just the heavies. It is mixed with lights our of separated crude oil. It is no more toxic or dangerous than crude oil as it is essential the same at this point.
It is high in sand and acidic sulfur.
It is high in sand coming out of the ground. That sand is separated out at the production field. It doesn't go down the pipeline.
All crude oil has sulfur, some has a lot, some has a little. All crude oil has some sediments in it as well, that get settled out along the way and into the refinery process.
If you want to actually educate yourself on the fluid, rather than just parrot ignorance from NIMBYs and environMENTALists, I suggest you read:
Comparison of the Corrosivity of Dilbit and Conventional Crude
It has to be put under pressure to make it move.
No. Dilbit does not have this property. Bitumen out of the ground, still at the production unit does, although it is often heated as well. But we were talking about the pipeline product Dilbit.
It is moved in intermittent bursts as is called for downstream.
Absolutely false. The flow is always continuous unless there is an upset condition like a leak. You are demonstrating you don't know what you are talking about.
The reason it leaked so badly is that pumpers did not realize that the lack of pressure was due to a big leak, not lack of volume.
Read the details, its complicated.
Read real information, not made up crap by domestic terrorists trying to keep America down in the stone ages.
At least look at info from the EPA. They are hardly oil company support group.
There you will learn some of the delays in clean up were caused by the EPA.
The slurry is highly toxic, abrasive, very acidic and under pressure.
False. Dilbit is very similar to "regular" crude oil and moved under the same pressures and flow rates.
It is nothing like a regular oil pipeline setup.
False, not only is it the same setup, it is often moved in the same pipeline.
Surface transportation is a lot safer.
Surface transportation has a much higher spill rate per barrel moved than pipelines.
Besides it is mostly being sent out of the US.
False. Because our domestic demand is down, our refined product output now exceeds the domestic demand and the excess is exported, keeping our refineries online and the jobs at home, until our economy picks back up and the demand grows again. We don't export any real amount crude oil to anywhere except Canada in areas where that is the closest refinery.
The Japan export is basically a false legend. Look at a map.
It is 3,577 miles from Valdez, Alaska to Tokyo, Japan.
It is 1,274 miles from Valdez, Alaska to Anacortes, Washington. (largest Washington refineries)
It is 2,253 miles from Valdez, Alaska to El Segundo, California (major refinery near Los Angeles)
Until 1996 it was illegal to export Alaskan North Slope Crude oil because of the Congressional Approval used to create the pipeline.
In the mid-late 1990’s, because of a glut of oil on the West coast, this was relieved and less than 5% of ANS crude was exported. That quit by 2000.
I am not talking about the physical product but figures on paper, or a screen. It does not vary even if you are talklng about crude of different gravity. Like gold that stays in the vault, it still changes hands.
Thanks. I didnt know this stuff.