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Oil tankers in Albany
Tanker cars full of Bakken crude in downtown Albany

When Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York  and New Jersey coast,  politicians and media people actually pronounced the words “climate change” without immediately stressing that there is no way to attribute any one extreme event to a changed climate. Looking at the flooded Brooklyn-Tunnel in November, I thought to myself that everything had changed. But, judging by the silence around here on our own rail-and-water version of the XL Pipeline, I’m less optimistic.

Bloomberg did endorse Obama on the grounds that he believed in the reality of climate change. Chris Christie left no doubts that he thought Romney's response to Hurricane Sandy was pathetic. And Governor Andrew Cuomo spoke out:

It’s a longer conversation, but I think part of learning from this is the recognition that climate change is a reality, extreme weather is a reality, it is a reality that we globe…You can expect that you'll hear more from me in the coming months and years about how we can shape an agenda that garners bipartisan support and helps move this agenda forward," are vulnerable. Climate change is a controversial subject, right? People will debate whether there is climate change … that’s a whole political debate that I don’t want to get into. I want to talk about the frequency of extreme weather situations, which is not political … There’s only so long you can say, ‘this is once in a lifetime and it’s not going to happen again.”

After avoiding any mention of climate change during the campaign, President Obama said what all rational people have known for years:

"I am a firm believer that climate change is real, that it is impacted by human behavior and carbon emissions. And as a consequence, I think we've got an obligation to future generations to do something about it….What we do know is the temperature around the globe is increasing faster than was predicted even 10 years ago. We do know that the Arctic ice cap is melting faster than was predicted even five years ago. We do know that there have been an extraordinarily large number of severe weather events here in North America, but also around the world…”
This would, it seems, imply that this issue trumps all others. However, the president went on to make it clear that was not the case:
"Understandably, I think the American people right now have been so focused and will continue to be focused on our economy and jobs and growth that, you know, if the message is somehow we're going to ignore jobs and growth simply to address climate change, I don't think anybody's going to go for that. I won't go for that.”
President Obama is, in fact, betting the future on a real gamble that we can do it all – wind, solar, coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear – and somehow renewables will win the race against rising CO2 in time to avoid a collapse of civilization. Pretty high stakes, and the other otherwise rational politicians of New York and New Jersey are going along with him, undismayed by the sheer amount of crude oil that has been moving past the City in recent months.

Since the summer, long trains of rail cars full of crude oil have been arriving in Albany, 150 miles north, and can be seen lined up a few blocks from the State Capitol, waiting to be offloaded into tank farms just south of the city, and from there into tankers bound for East Coast or possibly foreign refineries – something entirely new on the Hudson River.

Buckeye and Global Partners, the two companies active at the port, have maintained a very low profile  about their role in transporting the crude from the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota and Montana– and of course the port and rail areas are not open for public visits.

According to an October 28 article by Brian Nearing in the Albany Times Union, neither the state Department of Environmental Conservation nor the Coast Guard have seen a need to update plans for containing any possible oil spill resulting from the increased traffic. And these kind of shipments are unprecedented in this area, according to port manager Richard Hendrick, who said,” "I am not aware that a drop of crude was ever shipped out of the port until the Bakken oil showed up this year.” The amount of crude moving through this area will be enormous, according to the Albany Times Union:

Between Houston-based Buckeye Partners and Global Partners, located in Waltham, Mass., up to 395,000 barrels of oil a day could come into Albany on rail cars, and then move 150 miles down the river on tankers and barges to the Atlantic.
That is nearly 16.6 million gallons of oil a day, nearly half the potential output of a massive field thousands of miles away that is estimated to hold more than two billion barrels of oil, or even more, making it one of the largest oil reserves in the country. Locked in shale rock formations, the oil became reachable only after new rock-fracturing drilling technology was developed in 2008.
tanker seen from Ferry Point
River traffic on the upper Hudson

I am sure that if there’s an oil spill in the beautiful Hudson Valley, there will be a loud outcry. But as long as these huge amounts of oil pass quietly along our rail lines and waters, there seems to be no grounds for concern. If anything, supportive politicians will be able to boast about their role in assuring “North American Energy Independence.” And when the next climate-induced storm surge goes all the way to Times Square, our elected leaders here in New York will once again say all the right things.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 09:01:07 AM PST

  •  Yes, the obsession with the Keystone (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noor B

    Pipeline here at DailyKos while Bakken (and Tar Sands oil for that matter) continue to expand and move about by different means is really strange.

    It costs something like $18 bbl IIRC to get the oil to the east coast via rail  - IOW, it is really expensive.  And way more prone to accidental spill than a pipeline as well.

    Perhaps the dirty little secret here is that Warren Buffet - every progressive's favorite billionaire - is profiting off of this so it's kept all hush hush.

    •  Remind me again... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wonton Tom

      ...how much oil is Keystone XL going to deliver to the East Coast.

      The reason some of us are "obsessed" with Tar Sands oil is that it's dirtier to extract, dirtier to clean up if there is a spill and dirtier to refine than other oil. The big Keystone XL pipeline is not just one more conduit for fossil fuel—it's a project with a 50-year life span for a product that we should stop burning long before 25 years passes. Getting it out of the ground not only wrecks the land and threatens water resources, it provides impetus for getting at an even dirtier, more environmentally damaging fossil fuel, the oil shale of the Green River Formation.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 10:50:52 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't get your point (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FG

        Blocking Keystone apparently provides impetus to send Bakken oil to the East Coast (as described in this diary), which is REALLY crazy.

        Rail transport of crude in North America has jumped by about 360,000 barrels a day in the past year — the equivalent of adding a “major” pipeline, according to Steven Paget, an analyst at FirstEnergy Capital Corp. in Calgary. Those shipments have soared as community protests slow new pipelines and oil finds occur outside the current pipe network.
        link

        So basically a major pipeline (i.e., rail shipments) have come on line over the past year with nary a peep (except for me, I've mentioned it a few times - and now this diary)

        Anyways, the same link describes how rail transport - with the precedent set by shipping the Bakken oil - is now coming online for the Tarsands oil:

        Canadian National has the only rail line into Fort McMurray, the hub of Alberta’s oil sands region, as well as the Montney gas fields. The terminal being built with Tundra Energy Marketing Ltd. near Cromer, Manitoba, will be able to load 30,000 barrels of crude, the equivalent of about 50 tank cars, daily starting in the second quarter of 2013.

        More Partners

        “To get to something like 60,000 carloads of crude next year, we need to have more origin points going to more destinations,” Mongeau said. “That will take place with partnerships like the one we just announced with Tundra.”

        Talks are under way with “many” potential partners, he said, while declining to identify them. The smaller, pop-up terminals can handle five to 15 tank cars daily and be ready “within a couple of months,” he said in the interview.

        And I agree that the Tarsands project is really, really stupid.  But in the larger scheme of things it is rather inconsequential - and not really that much dirtier than any other fossil fuels project out there (MTR coal mining, the Bakken itself, and widescale NG fracking all come to mind as being just as bad or worse).
      •  BTW, another similarity (0+ / 0-)

        with the rail shipments described in this diary and the Keystone pipeline is that this oil is apparently (also) destined for export, according to the link provided in the diary.

        Which has been a major sore point amongst some for the Keystone pipeline (who apparently want cheap and plentiful oil right here at home . . . )

        The bottom line is that one can fight supply all day long but as long as there is demand, this stuff is going to get to market.   You'd think that we'd have already learned that from alcohol during prohibition and, more recently, illicit drugs.

  •  "North American Energy Independence" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noor B, Meteor Blades, Roadbed Guy

    has no more meaning than "clean coal."

    Oil is sold on a world market. No matter where it comes from we buy it - with dollars. If I had oil reserves on my land and I paid a premium to extract it with expensive technology and I extracted and used it all right now rather than buying available oil on the world market and keeping mine in the ground - to save it for the future - "independent" is not what I'd be. "Stupid" is what I'd be.

    "Energy Independence" is a cheap slogan which means "Drill it all right now for immediate short term profits."

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 09:28:51 AM PST

    •  Actually, as the link in the diarist's comment (0+ / 0-)

      below shows, oil is NOT sold on a world market due to logistical issues.

      In particular, the Bakken crude fetches $28 /bbl less than "world" prices, which makes it economical to ship to east cost refineries by rail, which costs $22 /bbl thereby making it a tad cheaper for them to get oil this way compared to by supertanker from the middle east or africa

  •  Rail is the new pipeline (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    Readers might be interested in this view from RBN Energy entitled: Rail it on over to Albany.  The writer, Rusty Braziel, describes the large and growing rail infrastructure being built in North Dakota to carry out the millions of barrels of Bakken oil to the world market - and ultimately into the planet's ever-warming atmosphere.

    Mr. Braziel notes that the Albany port can handle 80 car trains, which can be seen daily inching along the track just downhill from the State Capitol, as seen in the photo at the top of this article. Other trains are parked in the yards along I-90 near the SUNY campus.  I am not sure if the delays that keep the tankers waiting in Albany are due to a shortage of holding tanks or of the relatively small tanker ships that can navigate the 150 miles upriver from the New York harbor.

    If my soldiers were to begin to think, not one would remain in the ranks. -Frederick the Great

    by Valatius on Mon Dec 31, 2012 at 07:25:35 PM PST

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