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This is the route of the pipeline that Governor Palin mentioned in her speech at the RNC:

"I fought to bring about the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history.

And when that deal was struck, we began a nearly 40 billion-dollar natural gas pipeline to help lead America to energy independence."

There are many lies and myths being spread like manure in the roll-out of Sarah Palin, but her pipeline deal with TransCanada is the one that needs some fact checking. Sure, it has the usual corruption and fleecing of US taxpayers, but worse than all of that is the environmental impact.

It’s a disaster.

To the jump...

This is going to be a very long Diary. There is a lot here to unpack and it is important. From this, I hope a thousand Diaries and stories bloom. Perhaps you will write one of those.

Sarah Palin’s Pipeline should be a major issue in this campaign. It is a disaster and a major scandal unfolding in real time. Here are three things that Voters should know about Sarah Palin’s Pipeline deal:

  1. It will cost US Tax Payers Billions of dollars.
  1. It does not guarantee delivery of natural gas to US markets.
  1. It will Accelerate Climate Change and the destruction of our planet

And here is what you need to know:


The Palin Pipeline is a deal conceived and nurtured in the corrupt intersection of Alaskan politics, Republican politics and the Oil & Gas Industry.
President Carter’s Administration approved the concept of a natural gas pipeline to bring Alaskan natural gas to market. Since then, it has been a constant fight between competing groups of grifters to get a pipeline built that maximizes profits while passing on the risks to others. In 2006 Palin became Governor during the that year’s battle over the pipeline.  

The Palin Pipeline finally hits the sweet spot—it will maximize profits and dump the risks. Under the Palin Pipeline plan, American taxpayers are the "easy marks" of the scam. At the heart of the Palin Pipeline is the concept that the US Federal Government should shoulder all the financial risks—in fact, without massive Federal aid and loan guarantees, the pipeline will never be built. Perhaps, this is why Palin is on the ticket.

Not surprisingly, the law firm that Palin hired to put the deal together, review the applications and defend the TransCanada proposal is Greenberg Traurig (GT). Not only were they Jack Abramoff’s employer at the height of his corruption, they are also tied to many, many other scandals and questionable deals. While Jack was a lobbyist for GT he hired an Alaskan lobbyist, Steven Silver, to work on "Issues Relating to Indian/Native American Policy" and "Exploration for Oil and Gas". It turns out that  Silver was also Palin’s lobbyist and that Jack hired him at the same time that GT moved into the "Oil & Gas" business by opening offices in Texas. Another aspect of the corrupt nature of this deal is that the Palin Pipeline will continue the long tradition of stealing resources from the indigenous peoples of North America while destroying their land and cultures.

Greenberg Traurig’s entry into the international Oil & Gas business began after they hired Jack Abramoff and his scandal became a major problem for the firm. The firm’s involvement with Abramoff’s work for his clients and the Republican Party threatened Greenberg Traurig with a corporate death sentence similar to the one that Authur Andersen got in the wake of Enron. The firm was saved from this fate when they hired McCain’s advisor Randy Scheunermann to "advise" GT on how to "work" with John McCain. It was a good investment. McCain’s investigation cover-up of the Abramoff scandal gave Greenberg Traurig a "clean" bill of health and placed 750,000 pages of Abramoff documents that might prove otherwise into cold storage for 50 years. Since then the firm has given McCain over $160,000 and now John McCain has chosen their pipeline deal employer, Sarah Palin, as his running mate.


The Palin Pipeline is a proposal that puts Alaska First.
On the campaign trail, the Palin Pipeline is being sold as something that is great for the United States of America. Perhaps it will yield some good, but combing through the TransCanada application and the review of that application by Governor Palin and her Team, benefits to the United States are not mentioned. The focus is on benefits to Alaska—as if the people negotiating the deal thought Alaska was a separate county or something.

The deal is also very concerned with the needs of the Oil & Gas companies who will use the pipeline and how to maximize their profits. The deal is extremely concerned with ensuring that TransCanada is guaranteed a profit. The deal relies on loan guarantees, earmarks, appropriations and open-ended financial commitments from the Federal Government (aka US Taxpayers) to build and complete the pipeline. In return, there are no guarantees that the natural gas from the North Slope of Alaska will ever make it to the lower Forty-Eight States.

The Palin Pipeline will only move gas to Alberta, Canada. But it also offers a plan to divert some of the gas for shipment to China in the form of Liquid Natural Gas from a yet to be built facility in Valdez, Alaska.

There is very little about benefits for the rest of the United States in the proposal. The Federal Government only comes up when discussing regulations to get around; how to guarantee that any private sector money put into the project will get a return on their investment; and how any possible loss will be absorbed by US Taxpayers. Only a liar would call this "the largest private-sector infrastructure project in North American history." It is a typical Republican project. Guaranteed profits are outsourced while risks and problems are owned by the Government (and that really means that the risks are owned by us—"We the people").

The Palin Pipeline ensures that gas will get to homes and business in Alaska, but it does not guarantee that the gas will get to consumers and businesses in the lower Forty-Eight. The Palin Pipeline will only get the gas to Canada and then it will be up to the invisible hand of the markets to get the gas across the border. The end point of the Palin Pipeline does not connect to an existing gas pipeline to carry the gas South—that would have to be built by somebody else. Of course if the gas stays in Canada it can earn more money for investors by pulling oil out of the Alberta Tar Sands, but I’m sure that the McCain Campaign will tell you that in this case the "invisible hand" will put Country First. Oh, you betcha.


The Palin Pipeline will cost US Taxpayers Billions of dollars
Since Jimmy Carter approved building an Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline roughly 30 years ago, various grifters have been getting US Taxpayers to fund various different schemes and plans as the Republican politicians, Alaskan politicians and the Oil & Gas Companies have fought a battle to control the energy resources of Alaska. Here we go again.

The Palin Pipeline plan guarantees that Alaskan taxpayers will give TransCanada $500 Million just to help cover the cost of getting the proposal through US and Canadian regulators, environmental reviews and negotiations with Alaskan and Canadian indigenous peoples. Now, of course Governor Palin says the money comes from "Alaskan Taxpayers", but in reality it is US Taxpayers who are picking up the tab. Perhaps this payoff to TransCanada is how Governor Palin is choosing to spend the almost $500 Million that US taxpayers gave Alaska for the Bridge to Nowhere. Or the money could come from the Billions of dollars in earmarks, giveaways and payoffs that Federal Government keeps sending to Alaska. In 2005 Alaska got $1.84 for every $1 sent to the Federal Government. It is an energy rich State that is subsidized by the tax payers of New Hampshire, Michigan and the rest of the lower Forty-Eight.

US Tax Payers are already on the dime for Federal loan guarantees to build the pipeline. $18 Billion was appropriated as part of the Alaskan Natural Gas Pipeline Act of 2004 and more funds and loan guarantees will need to be committed if the pipeline is ever to be built. And if anything goes wrong, taxpayers will fund the bail-out of TransCanada.

The TransCanada pipeline proposal not only pushed the idea of even more Federal Loan Guarantees, it also promoted the concept of the Federal Government acting as a "Bridge Shipper" to guarantee TransCanada payment for gas NOT shipped through the pipeline.  The Anchorage Daily News reported that "this means the government would agree to pay some of the pipeline transportation fees -- potentially billions of dollars -- should gas producers not commit enough gas initially to operate the line at full capacity."

This reminds me of an old Marx Brothers routine where Groucho asks Chico what it would cost for him NOT to work and Chico replies "You couldn’t afford it".

A McCain/Palin Administration will ensure that all the financial risks of this project will be paid by US Taxpayers. Hang onto your wallets. Your pockets are being picked and—as a bonus—don’t expect to ever see the gas.


The Palin Pipeline will divert natural gas to the tar sands of Alberta
When the McCain/Palin Campaign and their supporters brag about the Palin Pipeline they point to it as a "free-market" response to our dependence on foreign oil and the high costs of energy. They may even go so far as to claim that the pipeline will reduce the clear and growing threat of Climate Change because natural gas is a cleaner burning fuel than oil or coal. They may point to the pipeline as the "Invisible Hand of the Market" solving the energy problem and the climate crisis at the same time. This is, of course, nonsense.

The Paline Pipeline is different from past Alaskan pipeline proposals because it does not place a lot of emphasis on how natural gas would get from Alberta to the lower Forty-Eight. This is a detail to be worked out later—if at all. Even the proposed spur of the pipeline to ship Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) from Valdez, Alaska is a secondary goal. It seems to have been added to the TransCanada proposal to win support for the plan from that part of Alaska.

Way back in 2006 there were a number of competing pipeline plans. There was an "All Alaskan Plan" that would build a pipeline from the North Slope to a LGN shipping facility in Valdez, AK. There was the long discussed "Southern Route" that would build a pipeline that tracked the Alaskan Highway into Canada and connect with existing pipelines delivering gas to the lower Forty-Eight. A third proposal took a different route to get the gas to US and international markets.

The Palin Pipeline just goes to Boundary Lake, Alberta. Curious.

Raise your hand if you know why that might be the case. Did you say oil sands or
tar sands? If you did, give yourself a gold star.

Now Canada has the world’s second largest reserves of oil. Estimates are that our neighbor to the North is sitting on over 179 billion barrels of oil. Unfortunately for Canada and our planet, 95% of those reserves are embedded in the tar sands of Alberta. To pull oil out of those tar sands requires up to 4 barrels of fresh water per each barrel of oil and up to 1000 cubic feet of natural gas to heat the water and separate the oil from the tar sands. As thing stand today, pulling oil from tar sands requires about 0.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day. By 2015 the natural gas needs are projected to need 1.6 billion cubic feet of gas per day. By the time the Palin Pipeline comes online in 2017 the gas per day requirements are projected to be higher—and energy needs to pull oil out of the tar sands will only keep growing if our only energy policy is to always feed our oil addiction until the system collapses.

It used to be that the cost of a barrel of oil was less than what it cost to pull oil out of the tar sands. It is an energy, resource and labor intensive process and cost at least $28 per barrel to produce. In 2006, the price of a barrel of oil started climbing. No wonder, the former pipeline plans that bypassed the tar sands had to be changed.

The price of natural gas is not rising nearly as much as the price of oil. If you are an energy company, would you rather ship your gas to heat homes in the lower Forty-Eight for the market price of natural gas or would your move the your gas to your tar sand fields in Alberta, convert the gas to oil and then reap the profits. For example, in their 2006 Annual Report Royal Dutch Shell bragged about doubling their profit per barrel of oil from their Alberta tar sand field when compared to the profits they were making from other means of oil production. Moving gas to the Alberta tar fields is a cash cow.

And the Palin Pipeline is designed to maximize those profits. TransCanada is not a competing oil company. They’ll make their profits from a piece of the action as the gas moves through their pipes (or payments from the US taxpayers when the gas flow is less than they need for their bottom line). Your energy companies, BP, Exxon, Shell and the like will have a low cost and low risk way to convert gas from Alaska into crazy profits. And all of it will be protected for any downside by Treasury of the United States.

We get the risks and they get the profits. We also get a doomed planet because pulling oil out of the Alberta Tar Sands is a Climate Change Acceleration  Machine


The Palin Pipeline will Accelerate Climate Change and cause massive damage to people and the planet
If none of the above was true. If everything about the Palin Pipeline was on the up and up (and it isn’t) this pipeline would still be a Global disaster because it will accelerate oil production from the tar sands of Alberta.

The current levels of oil production in Alberta is already a major contributor to the growing Climate Crisis. These fields rival coal power plants as a major contributor to Climate Change, and that is saying a lot. The only way to extract oil from these tar sands is to use massive amounts of energy. And once the oil is pulled out it also will contribute to the climate crisis. The Carbon Footprint of oil production in Alberta is massive. Increasing production and the size of that Carbon Footprint is insane.

Because it terminates in Alberta to feed to energy needs of extracting oil from tar sands, the Carbon Footprint of the Palin Pipeline in massive, reckless and dangerous to the future of our planet. This is a boondoggle that must be stopped.

Why only a person who does not believe in Climate Change and/or is a
Champion For Big Oil could approve, push and promote such a reckless plan. And only a fool would give such a person a chance to carry out the plan as Vice President.

And yet, here we are.

I could go into great depth on each of the points I made above and the details of this corrupt and dangerous pipeline. This is a problem that transcends the election, but it is solvable if we defeat John McCain and elect Barack Obama.

Now, I think it is a good idea to build a natural gas pipeline in Alaska. Way too many people in that energy rich do not have access to natural gas to heat their homes and businesses. This is a problem that Jimmy Carter proposed solving 30 years ago and all the delays have been caused by an endless series of Republican grifters. Governor Palin is just the latest one scamming the people of her state.

There are ways to build a pipeline that provides energy to the people of Alaska, protects the rights of indigenous peoples, protects the environment and that takes the Carbon Footprint of such a project into consideration as it is designed and used.

Barack Obama gets the simple concept that people come first and that energy can be delivered without destroying the planet. In his June statement to Alaskan Democrats he discussed the State’s energy problems starting at the 3:06 mark:

He comes out in favor of a pipeline and when he is President I am sure that we can get a sane pipeline built—especially is we also defeat professional grifters like Don Young, Ted Stevens, Sarah palin and John McCain.

The Palin Pipeline is an insane plan. It must be stopped. We can not let this Climate Change Acceleration Machine deliver billions of cubic feet of gas every day to fuel tar sand oil production in Alberta, Canada.

Lost in all this vetting and chatter about Governor Sarah Palin is a close examination of her pipeline deal with TransCanada. Voters should know that this pipeline:

  1. Will cost US Tax Payers Billions of dollars.
  1. Does not guarantee delivery of natural gas to US markets.
  1. Will Accelerate Climate Change and the destruction of our planet

Of the three points, it is the Acceleration of Climate Change that is the most dangerous and destructive. It is also a problem that can be fixed with a different pipeline route and a prohibition on using Alaskan natural gas to support oil extraction from the tar sands.

Take a look at a detail from the map above:


Notice all the blue lines. These are other pipelines owned by TransCanada. Most of these are oil pipelines. In fact, there is not a current gas pipeline that connects Boundary Lake, Alberta and the United States to the South. Now, one could be built in the future and a recent report from the Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI) looks into the issue:

CERI estimates that it will cost $1.8 billion Cdn to expand the TCPL Alberta system to handle Alaskan gas. [snip]

In the TCPL expansion scenario, Alaskan gas enters the TCPL Alberta system at Boundary Lake. Gas delivered to the Empress/ McNeill export location is then delivered to the U.S. Midwest area by means of the TCPL East main line and NBPL systems.

TCPL East connects to a point south of Winnipeg, Manitoba where the flow follows two separate paths--by the Great Lakes Gas Transmission System for delivery to Michigan markets and the St. Claire area and connection with the Dawn hub, or by TCPL Northern Ontario and TCPL Eastern Zone for delivery to the Toronto area and connection with the Dawn hub. Exchange volumes on the Union Gas Dawn/Parkway system, the Vector Pipeline and ANR Pipeline systems will result in gas being delivered to Chicago-area markets.

There are other possible pipeline schemes and routes being discussed to for pipelines between Alberta and the lower Forty-Eight, but they are not for moving natural gas. They are for moving oil, like this plan for a 2,000-mile pipeline from Alberta to Texas. While plans for pipelines to move natural gas between the US and Canada are thin, there are other plans moving ahead to move more gas to Alberta to feed the production needs of the tar sands (emphasis added):

The Globe and Mail reported today that, "TransCanada said yesterday that it has filed a regulatory application to build (a $1-billion) 300-kilometre... (North Central Corridor) pipeline to traverse northern Alberta, moving natural gas to 'feed' increasing oil sand production around Fort McMurray. It is expected to be in service by 2010..."

This is after a new National Energy Board forecasts that predicts tar sands production will almost triple by 2015 to three million barrels a day, all destined for the U.S. market. It's a lot of clear natural gas to waste on a filthy export, which even industry reps are willing to admit.

"Hal Kvisle, TransCanada chief executive officer, suggested in an interview yesterday that depending on natural gas for oil sands production is probably not the best use of a resource that heats the homes of most Canadians," reported the Globe today. "He said new technologies likely will eventually reduce the amount of gas needed but right now there is a market demand to 'feed Fort McMurray.'"

On November 16, the Globe reported on a NEB report that states, "Canada will become a net importer of natural gas by around 2028 if current production and price trends continue, with the shortfall from dwindling Western Canadian output being met by liquefied natural gas from overseas."

Canada now exports 61 per cent of the natural gas we produce each year to the United States. This figure would not include the natural gas that is consumed to produce the oil that we export to the United States. (Canada exported to the United States 2.3 million barrels per day of oil and petroleum products in 2006, according to the US Energy Information Administration.)

Hey, did you notice that Palin’s pipeline builder, TransCanada, got a name check. It looks like they are the natural gas supplier for the tar sand fields of Alberta and what do you want to bet that the Palin Pipeline they are building will feed into the gas pipelines they are building to power tar sand oil production.

That seems to be a safe bet, especially because it looks like Canada is running out of the natural gas that they will need to heat the water to extract oil from tar sands in the world’s second largest oil reserve. Saudi Arabia is number one in oil reserves and Canada is number two, but—as I’ve mentioned—95% of Canadian oil is locked in the tar sands of Alberta.

And to get the oil out you need water and energy.

How much?

Well, let’s turn to the Canadian Government and their Q&A on Canada's Oil Sands - Opportunities and Challenges to 2015:

What is the natural gas requirement relative to oil sands development?

It takes about 28 cubic metres (1000 cubic feet) of natural gas to produce one barrel of bitumen from in situ projects and about 14 cubic metres (500 cubic feet) for integrated projects. Currently, the oil sands industry uses about 17 million cubic metres (0.6 billion cubic feet) per day of purchased gas, or about four percent of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin production. By 2015, this increases to about 40 to 45 million cubic metres (1.4 to 1.6 billion cubic feet) per day, or nearly 10 percent, assuming gas production stay level at 467 million cubic metres (16.5 billion cubic feet) per day.

How much water is required to produce one barrel of oil from the oil sands?

The water requirements for oil sands projects range from 2.5 to 4.0 barrels of water for each barrel of bitumen produced.

That’s a lot of gas and a lot of water for each barrel of oil you pull from the tar sands. It is a dirty, labor and energy intensive process. And in the wake of each barrel of oil the process leaves behind pollution, toxins, destruction, danger and a massive carbon footprint.

In February of this year, Environmental Defence of Canada issued a major report on tar sands and their environmental damage.


They call the oil extraction effort in Alberta The Most Destructive Project on Earth. I’ve been looking into this and they very well may be right. The report is damning. They’ve also launched a campaign to fight the destruction that included an open letter to the 22 Governors of the Western Governors Association in the US (including Governor Palin). The trouble with tar sands was highlighted in the letter:

The environmental costs from tar sands oil extraction are high. Tar sands open pit mining and drilling are Canada’s fastest growing source of global warming emissions. Looking just at the production process, to produce a barrel of tar sands oil costs the climate three times the emissions as a barrel of conventional oil. For mining, up to four barrels of water are drained from the Athabasca River to produce one barrel of tar sands oil, resulting in tailings ponds of toxics that can be seen from space by the naked eye. Aboriginal communities downstream from the tar sands are concerned about high cancer rates.

Canada’s DeSmogBlog (a site dedicated to clearing the PR pollution that is clouding the science on climate change) recently posted the Top 10 Facts About the Alberta Oil Sands:

  1. Oil sands mining is licensed to use twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary uses in a year. The water requirements for oil sands projects range from 2.5 to 4.0 barrels of water for each barrel of oil produced.
  1. At least 90% of the fresh water used in the oil sands ends up in tailing lakes so toxic that propane cannons and floating scarecrows are used to keep ducks from landing in them.
  1. A 2003 report concluded that "an accident related to the failure of one of the oil sands tailings ponds could have catastrophic impact in the aquatic ecosystem of the Mackenzie River Basin due to the size of these lakes and their proximity to the Athabasca River."
  1. In April, 2008 a flock of migrating ducks landed on a tar sands toxic lake and died.
  1. Processing the oil sands uses enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes in Canada. Natural gas requirements for the oil sands industry are projected to increase substantially during the projected period from 17 million cubic metres (0.6 billion cubic feet) per day in 2003 to a range of 40 to 45 million cubic metres (1.4 to 1.6 billion cubic) feet per day in 2015.
  1. The toxic tailing lakes are considered one of the largest human-made structures in the world. The toxic lakes in Northern Alberta span 50 square kilometers and can be seen from space.
  1. Producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil. In 2004, oil sands production surpassed 160 000 cubic metres (one million barrels) per day; by 2015, oil sands production is expected to more than double to about 340 000 cubic metres (2.2 million barrels) per day.
  1. The oil sands operations are the fastest growing source of heat-trapping greenhouse gas in Canada. By 2020 the oil sands will release twice the amount produced currently by all the cars and trucks in Canada.
  1. The Alberta Oil Sands Operation are the largest single point source of greenhouse gas emissions in Canada.
  1. By 2015, the Alberta Oil Sands are expected to emit more greenhouse gases than the nation of Denmark (pop. 5.4 million).  

Without anymore production capacity, the Tar Sands of Alberta are already one of the greatest environmental problems on the planet. When the Palin Pipeline feeds the beast with as much gas as they can use, the Alberta Tar Sands will become a global environmental catastrophe. It will accelerate climate change. It will foul the land and waters of Canada and Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota and all the States downstream.

So far, Sarah Palin has escaped vetting on her Energy record. That needs to end.

A McCain/Palin Administration would be an environmental nightmare. It would be worse than any previous Republican Administration and that is a high bar the McCain has shown a willingness to leap over. He used to talk a good game about Climate Change, but like most everything he says, it was a lie.

With John McCain you have to watch his actions and ignore what he says. And in choosing a running mate, he selected a Climate Crisis Denier who is pushing a gas pipeline that will accelerate the destruction of our planet.

This is yet another reason why we must work as hard as we can to defeat McCain and elect Barack Obama on November 4, 2008.

Every day counts.


Register folks to Vote.

Take Action.


We have Country to Take Back and a planet to save.

We can do this.

Yes. We. Can.


Late Update:

A draft map with comments:
Pipeline to Doom Graphic

Originally posted to dengre on Sun Sep 07, 2008 at 10:25 PM PDT.

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