As all eyes are on President Obama and his pending decision regarding the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project, new research released Thursday indicates that the pipeline’s impact is much more disastrous for the planet than previously thought, putting a “strong nail in the coffin of any rational argument for the further exploitation of the tar sands.”
Oil Change International’s new report “Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands” (.pdf) reveals that previous climate impact analyses of tar sands projects, though already appalling, are consistently underestimated because they have thus far failed to account for a devastating high-carbon byproduct of the refining process gifts the coal industry with an even dirtier, cheaper version of their black gold.
The menace, petroleum coke (known as petcoke), which is created during the tar sands refining process, emits 5 to 10 percent more carbon dioxide than coal and is “priced to move,” enabling the continuation of the carbon burning industry.
“Commonly used as a cheaper, more carbon-intensive substitute to coal” the substance has already hit the market; the largest global petcoke trader in the world is Florida based Oxbow Corporation, reportedly owned by William Koch, brother of Charles and David Koch.
Oil Change International estimates that between January 2011 to September 2012, the US exported over 8.6 million tons of petcoke to China, “most of which was likely burnt in coal-fired power plants.”
According to a press release by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “the petcoke produced from the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would fuel 5 coal plants and produce 16.6 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year.”
Despite the significant and damning emissions of this byproduct, they have been entirely excluded from all State Department estimates for the Keystone XL pipeline project; estimates show that factoring them in raises the total annual emissions of the pipeline by 13 percent.
“What we’ve uncovered is something industry doesn’t want you to hear: exploiting the tar sands and building the Keystone XL pipeline is even more damaging to the climate than has been previously reported,” said report author Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International. “Factored into the equation, petcoke puts another strong nail in the coffin of any rational argument for the further exploitation of the tar sands.”
As the largest proposed tar sands transportation project, the Keystone XL pipeline—which would carry this thick, carbon-intensive oil from Alberta, Canada, to ports on the American Gulf Coast—is key to the success or failure of what is understood to be one of “the most environmentally destructive projects on earth.”
Thus, greenlighting the pipeline is a two-fold climate diasaster, as it will dramatically accelerate the expansion of tar sands extraction and, consquently, the emission of dangerous greenhouse gas worldwide, argues Nathan Lemphers in his report “The Climate Implications of the Proposed Keystone XL Oilsands Pipeline” (.pdf) published Thursday by the environmental think tank, the Pembina Institute.
“With climate change chaos sweeping the nation, this new research shows why the Obama Administration should stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in its tracks,” said Danielle Droitsch, Canada Project Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
In anticipation of the State Department’s environmental review of the tar sands-carrying Keystone XL pipeline and the subsequent decision on whether it should go forward, pressure is on President Obama. On Tuesday, 18 of the nation’s top climate scientists delivered an open letter to the President urging him to show his “climate convictions” and reject the pipeline.
However, recent developments with domestic tar sands excavation show evidence that the US is headed in the wrong direction. The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Utah Division of Oil Gas and Mining has greenlighted Alberta-based U.S. Oil Sands “to move forward with the first stage of its mine on 213 acres in the arid high country between Vernal and Moab.”
Petroleum Coke, photo by Ken Ilgunas
This is a destiny that I pray and will work very hard to prevent the large expanses of empty land around Detroit from becoming. Keep the “Fields of Misery” away!
A Black Mound of Canadian Oil Waste Is Rising Over Detroit
Detroit’s ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked byproduct of Canada’s oil sands boom.
And no one knows quite what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it.
The company is controlled by Charles and David Koch, wealthy industrialists who back a number of conservative and libertarian causes including activist groups that challenge the science behind climate change. The company sells the high-sulfur, high-carbon waste, usually overseas, where it is burned as fuel.
The coke comes from a refinery alongside the river owned by Marathon Petroleum, which has been there since 1930. But it began refining exports from the Canadian oil sands — and producing the waste that is sold to Koch — only in November.
“What is really, really disturbing to me is how some companies treat the city of Detroit as a dumping ground,” said Rashida Tlaib, the Michigan state representative for that part of Detroit. “Nobody knew this was going to happen.”
My comment to this article may not be direct enough for publication, plus a 1500 character limit is imposed…
What I’m finding very sad to see is out of all the comments only one other is from anywhere in Michigan. The Koch Brothers have manipulated Michigan’s poorest cities into depressed silence. There will be a few who stand up to this. I’ve spent a month pleading with Detroit City Council to do something to stop the piles building up. I’ve made photo visits to the coke piles. I spoke with the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The response on Monday at the Public Health & Safety Committee meeting was in two weeks they will have an ANALYSIS as to whether an injunction will be filed requesting the petcoke removed. A zoning hearing wouldn’t be heard until June 5th. Honestly it isn’t good enough. The health and well-being of residents is a result of government regulating and ensuring. I know residents seeing petcoke blowing in their windows. I’m not backing down. More help is needed.
The State of Michigan has Detroit under an Emergency Manager for 16 months - this person trumps any local government. Local government tossed responsibility to the state more than a year ago. Private counsel held to make sure the turnover of local government was approved by elected officials.
The EM says the city charter needs to be revised - yet this administration never fully implemented provisions which would have placed more accountability in the neighborhoods. The EM isn’t interested in permitting self-governance. His staff is selected by Gov Snyder as gatekeepers to ensure information is filtered.
Photo Credits: 1) Fabrizio Costantini for The New York Times, 2) John Bolenbaugh of HELPPA.org, whistle-blower on Enbridge’s 2010 Kalamazoo River Oil Spill (which still has not been cleaned and people have been dying).
LEAD POISONING PROGRAMS CUT
Detroit has serious problems with lead poisoning. Many of its houses were painted with lead-based paint. Removing the paint is a hazardous procedure. Exposure to lead dust
Detroit removed its Department of Human Services in 2012 with many outcries from the public. Removal of DDHS eliminated investigators working on lead issues. The organization stepping in to fulfill DHS needs is Institute for Population Health.
According to the story in the news  over 2,300 children age 6 and younger need intervention due to lead poisoning according to new guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Early years are the most dangerous as the brain is developing and lead disrupts the development process.
- How lead poisons: A look at lead’s effects on children and adults, Detroit News, April 28, 2013
- Kids put at risk for lead poisoning as programs cut, Detroit News, April 28, 2013
2010 US Census data on metropolitan Detroit.
Maps of racial and ethnic divisions in US cities, inspired by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago, updated for Census 2010.
Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other, and each dot is 25 residents.
Data from Census 2010. Base map © OpenStreetMap, CC-BY-SA
2000 US Census data on metropolitan Detroit.
I was astounded by Bill Rankin’s map of Chicago’s racial and ethnic divides and wanted to see what other cities looked like mapped the same way. To match his map, Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Gray is Other, and each dot is 25 people. Data from Census 2000. Base map © OpenStreetMap, CC-BY-SA