Maybe that’s not quite what Marie Antoinette (“Let them eat cake!”) would say today, but oil is as much king in North America today as Louis XVI was in France way-back-when. The current royal demands include the not only approval of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, but also nearly doubling the capacity of an existing tar sands pipeline that runs across northern Minnesota to Wisconsin.
Enbridge is looking for state approval to increase the capacity of its Alberta Clipper pipeline from 450,000 barrels per day to more than 800,000 barrels per day. That’s the pipeline that runs from Canada through northern Minnesota to Wisconsin. Enbridge says there’s “increased demand” for the tar sands oil, though the pipeline only opened in 2010. The claim of increased demand is all the more specious since U.S. government figures show a decline in U.S. consumption of crude oil and petroleum products — from 7,592,789 thousand barrels in 2005 to 7,000,746 in 2010 and to 6,790,973 in 2012.
At the same time that Enbridge is asking to pump more oil, a blockade of the pipeline is taking place on the Red Lake nation.
“For over two weeks now, Nizhawendaamin Inaakiminaan (We Love Our Land) has been occupying land directly above four pipelines across an easement that Enbridge has claimed since 1949 when the company, then called Lakehead Pipe Line Company, installed the first of four pipelines across land owned by the Red Lake Band of Chippewa despite not having an easement from the Red Lake Chippewa Nation. These pipes carry toxic tar sands, Bakken oil, as well as Canadian crude. By threatening the local lakes, these pipes endanger the lives and economic livelihood of Red Lake Band members.”
The Alberta Clipper is not the only pipeline carrying Canadian oil. A few years before it was built, the Minnesota Pipeline Company built the MinnCan pipeline, operated by Koch Pipeline Company, and running for almost 300 miles, from Clearbrook to the Flint Hills Refinery in Rosemount. (At least one spill has already been reported from this pipeline.)
Imperial oil’s dynasty seems almost as incestuous as the 18th century European royal families, and as difficult to sort out — Enbridge, Koch, Minnesota Pipeline Company, Transcanada, BP. The current royal favorite is the Keystone XL pipeline.
The Keystone XL pipeline needs U.S. State Department approval and Republicans as well as some Democrats have been pushing hard for President Obama and the State Department to approve the pipeline. Environmentalists are pushing just as hard to block approval — but they don’t have the resources of imperial oil. There are millions of pages written about the pipeline and the debates and the environmental studies.
Among other concerns: the potential for oil spills to pollute the aquifers that supply our water. Take a look here at a Reuters summary of Enbridge oil spills, and then explain why we shouldn’t worry about our water.
Summing up environmental concerns, the New York Times recently editorialized:
“The State Department’s latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem. …
“To its credit, the State Department acknowledges that extracting, refining and burning the oil from the tar-laden sands is a dirtier process than it had previously stated, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent higher than the average crude oil used in the United States. But its dry language understates the environmental damage involved: the destruction of the forests that lie atop the sands and are themselves an important storehouse for carbon, and the streams that flow through them.”
In Minnesota, Senator Amy Klobuchar is apparently planning to vote to in favor of legislation that would require approval of Keystone XL, and Minnesota350 will demonstrate outside her office on Monday, March 18, trying to convince her to vote against it. (Click here for info on the demonstration.)