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Disaster Capitalism at the Local Level

Tar Sands to Toledo II

by Dr. TRUDY BOND

The system counts on you to believe that you’re powerless, but nobody is enslaved until he or she buys into it.  The first step is knowledge. The second is resistance.  Resistance is still possible in this police state, but no one can say for how long.  To block Exxon in this deal is to start breaking chains.—- Lanny Colter and Paul Edwards, ClassWarFilms

The two-week-long protest in front of the White House, urging Obama by way of civil disobedience, to refuse the creation of the Keystone XL pipeline was indeed the largest environmental protest ever seen. Over 1250 people were arrested to protest the escalation of this human-made disaster, which would carry the “oil” from the tar sands of Alberta’s Boreal Forest to the southern tip of the United States, withextensions of the pipeline along the way.

Barack Obama can, of his own accord, veto this tragedy that is playing out on the North American continent. Or he alone can permit this travesty of our earth. 

As a primer by way of Josh Fox, for those who have had their heads buried in the (tar) sand:

•  Tar sands or oil sands development is one of the dirtiest and most contaminating processes of oil development ever known in history.

•   Canada’s Boreal Forest, in Alberta, Canada, home of the tar sands, is one of the largest and last pristine forests in the world. It is being destroyed acre by acre, mile by mile, day after day. The industry admits that the damage will be irreversible.

•   The oil is stuck in tar sands, it has to be mined out of the ground, squeezed and boiled.

•    The tar sands uses more water than a city of 2 million people.

•    The tar sands produces an unbelievable 36 million tons of carbon dioxide per day.

•   It causes as much green house gas per day as 1.3 million cars.

•  To produce oil from the tar sands huge quantities of natural gas has to be used.  In 2007 alone, the tar sands used about 1 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, gas in many cases that was obtained by fracking.

•   Wastewater is stored in toxic ponds so big that you can see them from outer space. The toxic lakes leak 11 million liters of toxic water a day into ground water and into nearby rivers used as drinking sources for the local communities.

In spite of these documented environmental tragedies and ongoing protests, it is a safe bet that Barack will sign off on the pipeline.  A look at supposed “progressives” in the Democratic Party reveals why it is so easy for him to do so: the Democrats have no widely-shared understanding of the threat of climate change and the portents of their disastrous energy policies.  Take ostensibly liberal Marcy Kaptur of Ohio’s Ninth District (Toledo) as an example.

Kaptur has proclaimed:  ”Continentally, the Alberta sands deposits hold vast potential to yield new reserves as large as two Gulfs of Mexico. This is likely to mean substantial jobs and economic development in our community for many years to come,” ignoring that the synthetic heavy crude produced from tar sands is laden with more toxics than conventional oil.  Communities (like Toledo) adjacent to tar sands oil refineries face increased carbon dioxide emissions, and increased exposure to heavy metals, and sulfurs.

There are currently 16 states with refineries equipped to process tar sands oil, and the BP refinery outside Toledo is one of those. Ms. Kaptur has said that she is ” . . . extremely pleased with the announcement that BP has given the green light for the Sunrise project in Alberta.”  This in spite of the fact her statement came shortly after the Deep Water Horizon disaster, and eight months after the U.S. Department of Labor’s OSHA proposed more than $3 million in fines for42 violations of employee safety at the BP/Toledo refinery.
Ms. Kaptur is not an uninformed representative.  In protesting the NAFTA Super Highway in 2008, she blasted the “foreigners”:  “They are so filthy rich!”  Meanwhile, ExxonMobil, the producer of the tar sands oil, ripped off a record $40 billion in quarterly profits during a depression while millions of American lost jobs and homes, as cited by Lanny Colter and Paul Edwards in their hard-hitting video ¡Stop the Megaloads Now!  Can you repeat, Ms. Kaptur,  “filthy rich“?  $40 billion in one quarter?  Exxon.  BP.  Tar Sands.

Colter and Edwards do not mince words when it comes to the actions of the people and their elected representatives:

What about American states helping promote the dirtiest oil extraction in the world? . . . Maybe you don’t care about dirty oil extraction or destruction of a natural ecosystem.

What about States assisting the biggest contributor to rapid climate change on the planet? . . . Maybe you don’t care about CO2 pollution.  Maybe you don’t believe in global warming.

Well, if not, you better ask yourself what would trouble you.  How much arrogant contempt for you and your world would it take to make you fight back?

What would it take, Ms. Kaptur, for you to criticize BP for the refinery in your district that is currently being retrofitted to process oil from the tar sands?  For you to hold BP responsible for this environmental raping as you did for the Deep Water Horizon disaster?

Repeated requests by the author for a comment from Ms. Kaptur regarding the Keystone XL pipeline were brushed off with a statement that she had voted against expediting the review of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Voting with the democratic bloc against rather meaningless republican legislation is not a statement, and no further statement was forthcoming.

Not only are civil disobedience and large protests necessary in DC.  Local representatives and senators who allow the processing of the tar sands oil in our communities, toxic sludge brought in by dangerous pipelines, must be lobbied and held accountable for their positions.  Ms. Kaptur must be held accountable to her description of herself as a “strong advocate of environmental responsibility and policies,” if she is to be considered a politician with any integrity.

* I know – they don’t really exist.   

Dr. Trudy Bond is a psychologist who has lived in Toledo, Ohio for 34 years.  She attended fundraisers and supported Ms. Kaptur the first year she ran for Congress.  She can be reached at drtrudybond@gmail.com.