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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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