Mr. Green Car: Why you should care about Keystone XL

By Allen Penticoff
Free-lance Writer

At first glance, you would think a Keystone XL is a large can of beer. But that would not be the case if you are talking about what many project could be the final nail in our global climate-change coffin.

In a previous (Dec. 1-7, 2010, issue of The Rock River Times) Mr. Green Car, I explained the nature of oil sands, or tar sands, oil that is produced largely in Canada. This oil is somewhere between being oil and coal, both in energy content, carbon dioxide content and in overall pollution. Oil sands are a gooey material that is mined across vast tracts of Alberta. Only because Canada has plenty of cheap natural gas can these sands be filtered and processed into oil.

It is the goal of the Canadian and U.S. oil companies to build a big pipeline extension from the mines where it is extracted and pumped to big U.S. refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. Not only have huge tracts of forest been destroyed by the mining, but the potential pipeline must cross several rivers and the Ogallala Aquifer, which provide fresh water to much of the Midwest in the United States. Since these oil pipelines have never been reliable — a much smaller pipeline has leaked 14 times in the last year — we can only assume an Extra Large pipeline will cause Extra Large oil spills, wreak havoc on our drinking water and destroy sensitive land, despite company assurances it will be the “safest pipe ever.” The native people of Canada are very much opposed to this pipeline.

The threat of a major oil spill into a major American river is enough to oppose this pipeline — but it is a threat to the whole planet when this very dirty oil makes it to our refineries on the coast. Once processed into fuels, they will likely be exported to the rest of the world and not really affect the cost of gasoline here.

The release of the carbon trapped in the oil sands into the atmosphere to satisfy the world’s lust for oil will only hasten the arrival of major changes in the global climate — changes we’ve already seen take place all year long in unprecedented floods, fires and droughts. Climate scientists predict we can expect to see more extreme weather.

Cheap, dirty oil is not the answer. Clean solar power is, and it is not coming any too soon as we continue to dip into the earth’s dirty oil resources.

Believe it or not, one person can stop the building of this pipeline — none other than President Barack Obama. Since the proposed Keystone XL pipeline must cross our international border, the president must certify it is in our best national interests for it to proceed. Big Oil is knocking on his door with campaign money, and environmentalist voters are picketing him to “Just Say No” everywhere he goes. Some protesters have even been arrested; more are likely to be. Nov. 6, they hope to encircle the White House with a giant human “O.”

Those who know what a disaster this pipeline will bring to the planet are lining up to make this Barack Obama’s defining moment. Will he live up to his campaign promises to reverse our filling the atmosphere with greenhouse gases, or will he cave to big money?

The jobs created in building the Keystone XL will only be a few thousand and temporary, while tens of thousands of jobs could be generated in abandoning our energy ways of the past and embracing a new solar-powered economy. Take some time to tell the president to make the right choice. He’s the sole decider this time.

From the Oct. 5-11, 2011, issue

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