Last month, nearly 400 people were arrested in Washington, DC protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. This pipeline is designed to carry 830,000 gallons of oil per day, travelling over 1,000 miles from Canada to the gulf. The Keystone XL pipeline will ensure that oil will be available to use as a fuel in the U.S. for decades to come. The problem with this is that the tar sands are incredibly polluting sources of oil and they are guaranteed to cause massive environmental destruction along with immediate risk to communities that the pipeline will pass through.
Tar sands are actually a type of rock formation that contains oil within its structure. Extracting this oil is much more polluting than drilling, as the tar sands contain huge amounts of carbon. The processing of the tar sands will release 10-17 percent more carbon emissions than crude oil. Keystone XL will release 27 million megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. According to James Hansen, a former NASA climate scientist who resigned after criticizing U.S. climate policy, if Keystone XL becomes fully operational it will mean game over for the planet – climate change will be irreversible if this much carbon dioxide is released.
In addition to the greenhouse gases the Keystone XL pipeline threatens to release, the processing of tar sands creates a danger of pollution from spills.
The extraction of oil from the tar sands requires boiling it in huge amounts of water – a process that produces toxic waste-water. The tar-sands oil pumped from these sites is also incredibly toxic and communities with pipes running through them are in danger of mass-poisoning. Already, tar sands leaks have caused toxic pollution in Marshall, Michigan and Mayflower, Arkansas. Residents of these towns have reported nausea, headaches, and other health problems.
While Keystone XL threatens life on the planet, the politicians in Washington continue to support its development. President Obama has pledged to support the construction of Keystone XL, as long as scientists carry out a thorough study of its impact on the environment. But what is there to study!
There is no question: the Keystone XL pipeline will be a massive disaster. Why is it receiving the support of Washington? Because Oil companies such as Shell and Trans-Canada stand to make billions of dollars from the development of the Keystone XL pipeline and the tar sands.
The battle over Keystone XL is not over. We should do everything we can to stop the advance of these destructive projects, and raise the question: what is worth more – the profits of the oil corporations or our lives and our planet?