Offshore spill not a reason to oppose an onshore pipeline

Bob Tippee
OGJ Editor

Follow the logic: A blowout in deep water causes a massive oil spill that soils beaches, disables wildlife, and disrupts fishing and tourism; therefore, a pipeline that would carry oil produced onshore over land shouldn’t be built. Isn’t something missing here?

Of course something’s missing, except to politicians exploiting tragedy to advance an antioil political agenda.

“If the spill in the Gulf of Mexico has taught us anything, it is that we must perform far more rigorous oversight and scrutiny of environmentally risky energy projects,” said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) as he and 49 other lawmakers disclosed a letter seeking to block a pipeline designed to carry oil from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

What does an offshore spill have to do with an onshore pipeline? It involves a substance that Welch and others dislike, as the congressman made clear in an elaboration of his statement about risky projects: “Further, it is a wakeup call for this nation to get serious about transitioning away from 19th Century fossil fuels to clean and renewable energy sources.”

The letter, to Sec. of State Hillary Clinton, requests that effects on climate change be considered in a permit under consideration for expansion of TransCanada’s Keystone Pipeline.

The pipeline now can carry 435,000 b/d of crude oil. The expansion and another project under way on the existing pipeline would raise system capacity to 1.1 million b/d and allow for deliveries to refineries around Houston.

But the oil would be produced from Alberta’s oil sands, which environmentalists stigmatize as exceptionally “dirty.”

The letter writers say, “Numerous scientific studies have found tar sands oil to produce much higher life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil.”

Actually, the increment is 5-15% above crudes typically processed in the US.

That’s not so large a shadow to cast over oil originating with an amiable trading partner that never travels in tankers, which cause many times more oil spills than blowouts do.

This, however, would represent balanced analysis, which the antioil agenda tolerates no more readily than it does discussion about the supply futility and economic intolerability of its objectives.

(Online June 25, 2010; author’s e-mail:

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