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Time for a reality check. I wish it weren't so, but that nasty oil from Canadian tar sands is coming to the U.S. even if President Obama nixes the expanded section of the Keystone XL pipeline through other parts of the U.S. It will be transported the old fashioned way - via rail, the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe, to be exact.

The oil from the Athabasca tar sands in Alberta already comes here via the original segments of the Keystone pipeline in the U.S. that went live in 2010 and carry the sludge to refineries in Illinois and a storage hub in Oklahoma.

If you look at a system map of BNSF track, you see it goes to the exact same areas as the proposed XL pipeline extension. The railways are hurting due to reduced shipments of coal, which are the result of lower natural gas prices and increasingly successful efforts by environmental groups in getting utilities to switch to renewables for energy production. They're adapting by increasing their capacity to ship oil.

According to a Slate article earlier this week:

The Keystone XL is designed to transport 830,000 barrels per day... Over the past two years or so, domestic railroads have increased their transport capacity by an amount equal to about 55 percent of what Keystone is supposed to provide... U.S. and Canadian railroads have been hauling record amounts of oil. Last year, the volume of oil delivered by rail in the United States jumped by about 46 percent compared with 2011...U.S. and Canadian oil producers aren’t waiting for the Keystone XL or other pipelines; they are building rail-car terminals so they can ship their product to market. In North Dakota alone, oil producers have built rail terminals capable of handling nearly 1 million barrels of oil per day...Refineries are also building rail terminals. Last month, Delek U.S. Holdings, a subsidiary of the Israeli energy company Delek Group, announced that it will begin refining 15,000 barrels of Canadian crude at its El Dorado, Ark., refinery. All of that oil is being shipped in by rail.
So while it is certainly better for the environment if the Keystone XL pipeline extension is never built, everyone needs to understand there's an even greater and more crucial battle to be fought: stopping those nasty tar sands from being scraped out of the earth and burned in the first place. Because that's already happening right now.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

    by Citizen Earth on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 02:19:37 PM PST

  •  that railway has a tiny capacity (7+ / 0-)

    compared to the pipeline.

    Yes, it will come, but at a much slower rate, and at much greater expense.  Both are very good things.

    Hay hombres que luchan un dia, y son buenos Hay otros que luchan un año, y son mejores Hay quienes luchan muchos años, y son muy buenos. Pero hay los que luchan toda la vida. Esos son los imprescendibles.

    by Mindful Nature on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 02:49:08 PM PST

    •  Irony - if we put more people on trains, invest (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      in new train systems, high speed and local lines, update the existing rails, we'd need far less oil, perhaps enough less to make the economics of mining the tar sands even more untenable. And, bonus, wouldn't have to convert any more train capacity to haul the destructive XL tar sands.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 05:47:01 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, hello, (0+ / 0-)

      slated to produce 5 million barrels a day for 85 yrs, oh wait, try and make up for the lack of a 900kbpd pipeline with tank cars...

      Yeah sure

      ...... Social Security blogathon March 25th thru March 29th. #HandsOffmySS FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 08:45:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Of course it is! (4+ / 0-)

    We know that very well here in MI.  It comes through Enbridge pipes and it eats through them and pollutes rivers and streams.  Just like it will inevitably do in the Keystone pipes.  

    A learning experience is one of those things that says, 'You know that thing you just did? Don't do that.' Douglas Adams

    by dougymi on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 02:57:24 PM PST

  •  Utah tar sands, 32,000+ acres (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Just Bob, Roger Fox

    Ready to go

    It's difficult to be happy knowing so many suffer. We must unite.

    by War on Error on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 03:01:24 PM PST

  •  Yes it's been happening and so much tar sands (7+ / 0-)

    bitumen is getting to Oklahoma it's creating a glut and bringing down the price of crude. Tar Sands crude went down $2.00/barrel yesterday. The multinational conglomerate in the Tar Sands has been shipping tar sands crude to the US for 20 years. Since the US demand is declining, they are trying to reach foreign markets. Since their projected aim is to ship 8 million barrels a day, they need to get that land locked tar out to the rest of the world. Shipment by rail is tedious and slow and will not replace the pipelines for 8 million barrels a day.

    Blocking the pipeline, stopping the pipeline scares away investors and might even lead to a tar sands bust. It's a very good thing to do for the climate.

    •  And yet the price of refined gasoline climbs... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      supply & does not seem to be working out like a rational 'free market' should.

      When life gives you wingnuts, make wingnut butter!

      by antirove on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 05:49:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  8mbpd? I didn tknow it was that much (0+ / 0-)

      but your point is well taken, there aint enough tank cars in North Anerica to ship 4mbpd.....

      A point CE seems to completely miss.

      WTI is down 3 bucks in the last week, about $93, ALberta light syncrude is about $94.50. Thats what will sell in the EU very well. Unless we stop it.

      ...... Social Security blogathon March 25th thru March 29th. #HandsOffmySS FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 09:00:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Not yet, the industry is aiming at 8 mbpd (0+ / 0-)

        It's at 1.8 mbpd right now last I heard. The writer of the book Tar Sands : Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, advocates a cap at 2 mbpd. He says that way the owners of the resource, the people of Alberta "will have control of the pace of development." It's really out of control right now with Shell competing with BP to produce more bitumen faster.

        Alberta heavy crude is $30 a barrel.

        Canada currently exports about 2.2 million barrels of crude oil a day to the U.S., an amount that could easily double if additional pipeline capacity were available. At present, there is little spare capacity, which is why some shippers are turning to rail transport. This limited pipeline capacity contributes to the sharply discounted price ($30 a barrel) for Canadian crude, a discount that negates some $6-billion in taxes and royalties annually for the Alberta treasury.
  •  trains are more prone to accidents than pipeline (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox

    and more energy is lost in the loading, unloading, and transport. Better than trucks, but not as good as tankers and nowhere near as good a way to move oil as pipe.

    How big is your personal carbon footprint?

    by ban nock on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 06:57:11 PM PST

  •  Ok, the tar sands partners are fighting a multi (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DawnN, KenBee

    front battle.

    2-3 pipelines thru BC, plus KXL. In war if you beat your opponent on one front it make the other fronts more difficult to defend.

    Stopping KXL puts the pressure on the BC routes.

    ALso moving 5 million barrels a day of bitumen by tank car is a not a viable long term solution. CE - you might think so, but I would suggest you think it thru.

    ...... Social Security blogathon March 25th thru March 29th. #HandsOffmySS FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

    by Roger Fox on Fri Feb 22, 2013 at 08:51:41 PM PST

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