Eastern Canada will be importing oil by tanker from Texas instead of piping tar sands extract from Alberta because Canadians don't trust the pipeline companies to follow environmental standards according to Thomas Mulcair, the leader of Canada's New Democratic Party.

Athabasca River - south of Fort McMurray, Alberta 2.
Athabasca River - south of Fort McMurray, Alberta 2.
Photo David Dodge, The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society via Pembina Institute

Western Canada is producing more crude oil than it knows what to do with. So guess where Eastern Canada is going to get crude oil from this summer? By ship from Texas.

Thomas Mulcair, the leader of Canada’s official opposition, brought up the coals-to-Newcastle story in a visit to Bloomberg on Thursday. .... Canadians are resisting pipeline projects because they don’t trust the government and the pipeline companies to follow the environmental review process to the letter, Mulcair said.

Texas is producing (by fracking) so much sweet light crude oil from the Eagle Ford formation in Texas that it has run out of refining capacity. Eastern Canada has excess refining capacity for light sweet crude, so a deal has been cut making an exception to the U.S. crude oil export ban. Texas has excess refining capacity for heavy crude which can be processed to finished products for export to Europe and the Americas. The Keystone XL would break the bottleneck out of Canada that is slowing the rate of development of Alberta very heavy tar sands. The deal swaps clean sweet Texas crude for a super-sized pipeline transporting dangerous toxic diluted bitumen from Canada.

After (not the identical location)
Syncrude tailings and mined landscape
Syncrude tailings and mined landscape. Tailings ponds near the Syncrude upgrader, north of Fort McMurray.
Photo David Dodge, The Pembina Institute

What do Canadians know about tar sands pipelines that most of us south of the border don't understand?

The heavy tarry substance extracted from tar sands is not oil. It has to be diluted with solvents to get it to flow. One of those solvents is carcinogenic benzene. The exact mixture of solvents is a proprietary company secret, but experience shows that it's very toxic. Experience also shows that when the diluted bitumen - dilbit - spills, the solvents evaporate and the heavy oil sticks to sediments and sinks to the bottom of rivers, lakes and ponds. It's hell to clean up.

A must read story by Inside Climate News on the "Dilbit Disaster", exposing the dangers of tar sands pipelines, begins with these chilling paragraphs.

MARSHALL, Mich.—An acrid stench had already enveloped John LaForge's five-bedroom house when he opened the door just after 6 a.m. on July 26, 2010. By the time the building contractor hurried the few feet to the refuge of his Dodge Ram pickup, his throat was stinging and his head was throbbing.

LaForge was at work excavating a basement when his wife called a couple of hours later. The odor had become even more sickening, Lorraine told him. And a fire truck was parked in front of their house, where Talmadge Creek rippled toward the Kalamazoo River.

LaForge headed home. By the time he arrived, the stink was so intense that he could barely keep his breakfast down.

Something else was wrong, too.

Water from the usually tame creek had inundated his yard, the way it often did after heavy rains. But this time a black goo coated swaths of his golf course-green grass. It stopped just 10 feet from the metal cap that marked his drinking water well. Walking on the tarry mess was like stepping on chewing gum.

LaForge said he was stooped over the creek, looking for the source of the gunk, when two men in a white truck marked Enbridge pulled up just before 10 a.m. One rushed to LaForge's open front door and disappeared inside with an air-monitoring instrument.

The man emerged less than a minute later, and uttered the words that still haunt LaForge today: It's not safe to be here. You're going to have to leave your house. Now.

President Obama is apparently receiving exceptionally bad advice on Keystone XL. The Guradian reported that Obama is moving towards approving it based on conclusions that are just plain wrong. As you can clearly see from the in-depth reports I have linked to, dilbit is very different than oil. But Obama's official representative spoke of dilbit as if is oil.
Meanwhile, White House officials briefing reporters on the plane gave strong indications that the president is inclined to approve the Keystone XL pipeline – which activists have cast as a test of Obama's commitment to the environment.

A few dozen protesters from the group 350.org, which has led opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, held a demonstration outside Argonne labs on Friday afternoon.

The official dismissed environmental groups' contention that building the pipeline would open up vast deposits of the Alberta tar sands, and so increase the emissions that cause climate change. "There have been thousands of miles of pipelines that have been built while President Obama has been in office, and I think the point is, is that it hasn't necessarily had a significant impact one way or the other on addressing climate change," the official said.

He added that Obama's environmental policies would more than make up for any negative impacts from the Keystone XL project. "There's no question of that."

Please inform the President that dilbit is not oil.

STOP the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Week of action March 16-23. Click to see what's happening near you.

Virginians against Keystone XL march to Senator Mark Warner's Office
Virginians march to Senator Mark Warner's office

Tell President Obama: "Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline"

Sign up to protest Pres. Obama's Fundraiser in SF April 3, 2013.

Join activists from CREDO, 350, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth and others, to send President Obama a big message: Stop Keystone XL! Details are still being finalized, please RSVP so we can keep you updated.
The last time we protested the President's San Francisco fundraiser we shocked the President with a huge crowd of 1,000 people. We know from insiders that we caused a big buzz in the White House, and our pressure worked. Now, with the President again considering Keystone XL, we need a huge crowd outside his San Francisco fundraiser to deliver the message: Stop Keystone XL.

When: 03 Apr, 5:00 PM
Where: San Francisco, exact location TBD
2870 Broadway at Baker
San Francisco, CA 94115 (Map)
Host: Elijah Zarlin
Status: Public, open for RSVP, 629 Guests (Max 2000)

What is dilbit?

Dilbit stands for diluted bitumen.

Bitumen is a kind of crude oil found in natural oil sands deposits—it's the heaviest crude oil used today. The oil sands, also known as tar sands, contain a mixture of sand, water and oily bitumen. The tar sands region of Alberta, Canada is the third largest petroleum reserve in the world.

What makes bitumen different from regular or conventional oil?

Conventional crude oil is a liquid that can be pumped from underground deposits. It is then shipped by pipeline to refineries where it's processed into gasoline, diesel and other fuels.

Bitumen is too thick to be pumped from the ground or through pipelines. Instead, the heavy tar-like substance must be mined or extracted by injecting steam into the ground. The extracted bitumen has the consistency of peanut butter and requires extra processing before it can be delivered to a refinery.

There are two ways to process the bitumen.

Some tar sands producers use on-site upgrading facilities to turn the bitumen into synthetic crude, which is similar to conventional crude oil. Other producers dilute the bitumen using either conventional light crude or a cocktail of natural gas liquids.

The resulting diluted bitumen, or dilbit, has the consistency of conventional crude and can be pumped through pipelines.

What chemicals are added to dilute the bitumen?

The exact composition of these chemicals, collectively called diluents, is considered a trade secret. The diluents vary depending on the particular type of dilbit being produced. The mixture often includes benzene, a known human carcinogen.

If dilbit has the consistency of regular crude, why did it sink during the Marshall spill?

Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Mon Mar 18, 2013 at 04:11 PM PDT.

Also republished by South Dakota Kos.

Your Email has been sent.