Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Tyranny of Oil

This is a look down an oil pipeline in Oklahoma, one of a spider web of such lines. I’m not a political person, but, in my opinion, there is so much wrong here it’s hard to wrap one‘s mind around it. Since the word “pipeline” is itself a political word, it‘s hard to put gas into your car without being political. The issue is that energy companies have free reign nearly anywhere and over everything. If you own land here, you don’t own the mineral rights. Someone else can buy the mineral rights from under your feet to make money off your land. The dynamics of this played out in the Fairview Republican, the local newspaper, over the last couple weeks. A land owner expressed a concern over an oil pipeline being run over the aquifer that supplies drinking water for the entire Northwestern area of the state. The next week, an owner of mineral rights sent an opposing letter to the editor saying the woman should be quiet so those that own the mineral rights can get their money.

Then the energy company can run a pipeline across your land any time they want, whether you like it or not. Oil companies can not only run pipe lines across your land, but they can also erect any support facilities they wish, whether it be pumping stations, or tank farms. The claim on your property is supposedly granted by the government because of eminent domain, meaning that the general public benefit overrides your personal right to protect its use. Eminent domain is supposed to be a governmental power, but the government has acquiesced and extended that power to the oil and gas companies. The public benefit usually claimed under the current economic environment is that it provides jobs. The truth, especially in the Keystone XL case, is that it is a foreign company doing the work, using foreign employees except for a token use of local laborers and truck drivers, and all that oil is not for American energy independence, but for the highest bidder, which means it is going to China. 
Major oil pipelines in the U. S.
There is no agency responsible for oversight or regulation if it‘s an in-state line, even if the pipeline passes over critical drinking water aquifers and rivers, and no enforceable safety standards apply until AFTER a rupture and spill occurs. The state foolishly grants the oil companies all kinds of tax breaks, supposedly to encourage them to drill here for oil and gas, as if they wouldn’t drill here anyhow. If there is oil, they will drill. With the energy companies not paying their fair share into the state coffers to cover the cost of repairing the damage they cause to roads and other infrastructure from thousands of heavily loaded trucks, the deficit falls on the local tax payer. Once the last gallon of crude has been sucked from the ground, the oil companies pack their trucks and move to the next sweet spot, leaving all their damage, and toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, behind for others to worry about.

When Enbridge planned to build the 731-mile Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta to Kitimat, BC, there was an uproar heard around the world. The people in British Columbia had suffered the damage done by the sinkings of both the Exxon Valdez and the Queen of the North in their waters. The pipeline would cross some of the most pristine and environmentally sensitive areas on earth, including the Great Bear Rainforest. Then the flood of tanker traffic needed to handle the oil coming from the pipe, and carry it through the twisting and rock-studded channels of the Northwest, on what would become a supertanker expressway, virtually guaranteed one disaster after another. Sierra Club, International Wildlife Federation, the National Geographic, Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and photographers and film-makers from around the world were summoned to support the First Nations’ native people’s desire to protect their homelands. Finally, on October 5th, Jeffrey Simpson of Canada’s ’The Globe and Mail’ reported that the Northern Gateway appears to be dead. After decades of fighting and hundreds of millions of dollars spent by Enbridge for publicity and court battles, the fire of enthusiasm for a Northern Gateway Pipeline seems to be smoldering and dying.

Gas pipelines in the U.S.
When Trans-Canada and Conoco-Phillips wanted to build a similar pipeline, a route was sought among a less resisting and more apathetic public. Why not build it across the United States? So, the Keystone XL was designed to be a 36-inch diameter pipeline that will run 2,100 miles and carry 590,000 barrels of oil each day from Canada, through Cushing, OK, and to the Gulf Coast, where much of it will be shipped to China. There has been some resistance. One 70-some-year-old woman in Texas tried to stop the pipeline from coming across 450 acres of her ranch and was arrested for trespassing on her own property. Meanwhile, Trans-Canada is rushing the construction to get the pipeline in place before too many people notice. The project has been underway since 2008, and still you seldom hear a word about it.



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