Protesters Give Many Reasons to Stop Canadian Keystone XL Coming South

By Carol Freedenthal, Midstream Editor | March 2013, Vol. 240, No. 3

One issue still a hot topic for the Obama administration is whether to approve the second and final phase of the Keystone XL Pipeline. This will include another pipeline coming from Canada into the U.S. bringing another million barrels per day of tar sand crude oil also known as “diluted bitumen” to Gulf Coast refineries.

The first phase, already in operation, brings bitumen to Mid-America, Cushing, OK storage facilities. Construction is under way on the southern leg from Cushing to the Gulf Coast to refine and market the oil from the existing supply and the potential supply. The final phase needs federal approval since it crosses international borders. That decision was due in 2012 but was postponed because of requested additional studies and really, the coming election and rejection of the whole project by environmentally concerned groups.

There are almost no questions as to the major benefits of the project – supply, economics, security, business, etc. – of getting this large quantity of relatively clean crude oil from a friendly country into the U.S. supply pool.

That is the nice, easy and clean side of the project! Opposition – from wrestling the crude from the ground to refining and marketing the products - is just out of this world. Starting at the very beginning where the resource is mined – crude from tar sands is mined rather than using conventional drilling, pumping, etc. methods for oil extraction – to the refineries themselves – the opposition is fighting to stop the whole project – period. Opposition is in Canada, U.S. and even around the world.

Some object to the extraction because of what it might do to the region of Canada where the resource production is located. There are those opposed to the pipeline and shipping of the diluted bitumen - as it is called once it is ready for shipping - because there might be a spill or leakage from the pipeline and the objectors describe the contents as poison since they are believed so toxic and so dangerous.

These reasons have been the main emphasis of the group protesting the building of the southern leg from Oklahoma to the Gulf Coast. Many local groups as well as national environmentally concerned organizations are protesting this construction and have actively participated in trying to block the pipeline.

There are those opposed because of the belief that refining such a bad raw material, as they picture bitumen, for commercial products, causes major pollution and environmental problems. On top of all this, there are those opposed to developing such a large source of hydrocarbon fossil fuels because of it is their belief – not a fact, even though many make it sound like a fact - carbon dioxide released when burning the fuel would seriously affect the earth’s climate and future. A doomsday forecast.

To make their point – to persuade regulatory authorities and the public of the alleged disadvantages of the project - the opponents’ claims include everything imaginable. Everything from total earth destruction to moving a deadly poison is the hue and cry. Much of the opposition is from civic groups like the Sierra Club and others. Like everything else in the world that is controversial – there are some truths but an awful lot of exaggerations.