The first application was rejected outright prior to an election because the initial route crossed the sensitive Nebraska Sand Hills. The Nebraska Legislature has since approved a new route bypassing the Sandhills.
The second environmental assessment (EIS) stated that the project should go ahead and that shipping oil from Alberta would have little impact on the environment. The state department has been gathering comments since then and Secretary of State John Kerry continues to say that they are considering all the comments carefully. Of course the secretary is a climate change advocate. The final decision rests with President Obama, who was expected to make a decision this year.
It is expected that during the State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama will again address the environment and will, no doubt, emphasize that he and his administration must act. Since the president needs his environmental base, along with others on the far left, it is doubtful that the decision will come anytime soon.
Meanwhile Alberta crude oil and the oil from the Bakken Basin in North Dakota is traveling by rail. Most of the current tanker cars are not suitable for the heavy loads they transport and there have been several derailments as a result. The worst derailment was at Lac Megantic, where more than 30 buildings were destroyed in the towns center 42 bodies were found in the aftermath.
Rail transport is a problem both in Canada and the US and there is no doubt that regulations need to be tightened and railway operators have to be accountable. In the absence of approval for the presidential permit, Canada already plans to ship oil via a West-East pipeline to New Brunswick. Irving Oil, a Canadian business, has a refinery with plenty of capability and there is a port to ship oil throughout the globe.
The National Energy Board (NEB), Canada’s regulator has recently approved the go ahead of the “Northern Gateway Pipeline,” but the project is not without criticism and there is, rightfully, concern of oil spills in the sensitive waters off the west coast, with increased tanker traffic.
These risks have been highlighted in a study released by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. There are concerns that spills of the pipeline could affect Washington state and offshore spills the waters surrounding Alaska.
U.S. scientists are warning that there are environmental risks, regulatory holes and serious unknowns regarding the shipment of Alberta oilsands products to British Columbia by pipeline, rail and tanker.
The findings are in a 153-page report from last September by the emergency response division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The unit has expertise in preparing for, evaluating and responding to oil and chemical spills in coastal environments.
Enbridge (TSX:ENB), the company behind the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia coast, counters that most of the concerns raised in the report are out-of-date, overstated or being resolved.
The main stream media was quick to pick up on the study and applied it to all pipelines. President Obama’s base will certainly use it to put pressure on the Obama administration. In Nebraska where the new route was approved by the Nebraska legislature, TransCanada is dealing with holdout landowners and has offered as much as a 700 percent increase in their offers for access to the land. According to the Calgary Herald one families offer has increased from an initial offer of $8,900 to more than $61,000.
Cash offers have been skyrocketing, as much as seven-fold, for holdout Nebraska landowners who are willing to sign quickly to allow the Keystone XL pipeline onto their property.
The landowners say they’ve received written offers from pipeline builder TransCanada Corp. in the last few weeks offering exponentially more money than initially promised, on the condition that they sign soon.
Those offers are pouring in at a pivotal moment for the Canada-U.S. pipeline, whose proponents hope to start building this year.
Source: Calgary Herald
Currently the US still imports 40 percent of its oil mostly from the Middle East. While the Keystone pipeline has strong opposition from environmentalists, a viable inexpensive alternative is still a few years away. Even Germany, which wanted to adopt a switch to green energy yesterday, has been forced to burn dirty coal from the Ruhr Valley and increased its carbon emissions, rather than reduce them.
While Germans like the targets for green energy conversion (Energiewedende), they’re not too thrilled with its side effects. The problem is that the sun doesn’t always shine and the wind in unreliable. While on some days solar and wind power are able to power all the needs of the German economy, on others barely any green power is being produced. To make up for this lack of power, Germany is using coal producing energy.
Nothing in this life is without risk and this is true for the use of fossil fuels or any other type of energy, including the so-called sustainable green energy. While we must strive to develop and all of the above energy policy, which includes green energy, oil is with us for some time to come. A hold on ideology will not solve the problem. So for now the question is, do we continue to transport by rail or pipeline? The answer should be obvious.