Former State Dept official: Sludge-carrying Keystone Tar Sands pipeline approval “likely”

It looks like a done-deal, and that Secretary of State Clinton will approve the sludge-bearing pipeline. The Huffington Post:

David L. Goldwyn, who until earlier this year had served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, said in an interview aired over the weekend that Clinton would likely approve plans for a contentious pipeline to deliver oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Texas Gulf Coast.
“I think that balancing jobs, energy security — a country which has increased production potentially the size of Libya — I think the case for a pipeline is overwhelming, and she will approve it,” Goldwyn said, speaking to Platts Energy Week, an energy-themed television program.

On Friday, the State Department issued its final Environmental Impact Statement, concluding that the proposed 1,700-mile pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the environment and recommending that the project move forward, despite warnings from environmental groups that, among other things, the project would help accelerate the warming of the planet.

The department was quick to say that the EIS did not represent a final decision and that a public comment period — as well as public meetings to be held in states though which the pipeline would run — lay ahead.

Maybe so, but the sludge-wheels are greased — with money, no doubt. There are a lot of Canadian dollars at stake, not just American ones, which is likely why the State Dept is point-person on this deal.

And with Clinton’s mitts all over this, Obama can pretend to have clean hands when he signs off on this dirty deal.

Just a reminder: The stuff in that pipeline is not oil, it’s toxic sludge from tar sands. It will poison any environment it spills into. In addition, the pipeline must be heated the whole way, since the stuff is so thick it doesn’t want to flow. [Correction: The pipeline itself won’t be heated, but the sludge must be heated to high temperatures, up to 160°F, and pumped under high pressure to make it flow.]

Finally, if the project succeeds in delivering all those tar-sludge oils into the atmosphere, it’s “game over” for global warming. Bill McKibben:

Forget the abstract and consider the down-and-dirty instead. You can undoubtedly guess some of the reasons for opposition to such a pipeline. It’s wrecking native lands in Canada, and potential spills from that pipeline could pollute some of the most important ranchlands and aquifers in America. (Last week’s Yellowstone River spill was seen by many as a sign of what to expect.)

There’s an even bigger reason to oppose the pipeline, one that should be on the minds of even those of us who live thousands of miles away: Alberta’s tar sands are the continent’s biggest carbon bomb. Indeed, they’re the second largest pool of carbon on planet Earth, following only Saudi Arabia’s slowly dwindling oilfields.

If you could burn all the oil in those tar sands, you’d run the atmosphere’s concentration of carbon dioxide from its current 390 parts per million (enough to cause the climate havoc we’re currently seeing) to nearly 600 parts per million, which would mean if not hell, then at least a world with a similar temperature. It won’t happen overnight, thank God, but according to the planet’s most important climatologist, James Hansen, burning even a substantial portion of that oil would mean it was “essentially game over” for the climate of this planet.

But why not look on the bright side — a small handful of wealthy power-freaks will have successfully converted a large pool of toxins into money, proving the old adage: Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

It’s a lesson for us all. Seriously.


Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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