FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Emperor’s New Pipeline

by DAVID LILLARD

I often learn more from answering my 6-year-old son’s endless questions than he does. Usually we make it a game, searching out answers together to queries like, “How many stars are there?” or, “What is in our air?” (it’s almost 80 percent nitrogen).

But he stumped me recently when—after quizzing me about what I was reading—he asked why some people want to build the Keystone XL TransCanada pipeline to pump tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Texas coast.

Like most people, I thought this controversial pipeline was just another fight between an oil company and environmentalists (yawn) until my son insisted I learn something.

It turns out that tar sands oil isn’t really oil at all.

The thick goo of tar sands only becomes oil when treated with toxic chemicals, heat, and pressure. This process is so dirty that even the Canadian government—which backs the project—says that this high-sulfur crude is polluting lakes 50 miles from the tar sands with cancer-causing contaminants.

My kid is into maps, so we studied the pipeline route. It crosses over the Ogallala Aquifer, part of the High Plains Aquifer System, a vast shallow underground water table. That aquifer waters about 27 percent of the irrigated farmland in the U.S., and provides drinking water to 82 percent of the people living inside the aquifer’s boundaries.

How do I answer my kid when he asks: “What happens to people when the pipeline leaks?” I can’t. Groundwater, once polluted, stays polluted forever.

“Why build this?” he asks again. I grasped for facts about investment and jobs. However, TransCanada hasn’t been forthright about this. They say the project means $7 billion in U.S. investments. But most of that has either already been spent on design or would be invested on the Canadian portion of the pipeline, according to a Cornell University study. And the steel used to construct it will come from Canada or India.

At least the price of gasoline will go down, right?

Sorry. No. TransCanada, the builder, admits gas prices will go up 10 to 20 cents a gallon in the Midwest. That’s because refineries there already get some tar sands oil. If the pipeline gets built, all that oil will go straight to the Gulf, where it will be refined for shipment to China.

That’s right. Keystone XL will actually reduce the amount of oil available to the U.S. And the leading project investors, it turns out, are Saudi and Chinese oil interests.

One question leads to another: “Whose backyard will the pipeline go through?” my son asks. The answer: Anyone’s TransCanada wants it to.

The project has been granted eminent domain rights in Midwestern states, allowing TransCanada—a foreign company—to take the private property of American citizens so it can transport Canadian oil to China.

For my son, who protects our backyard from neighborhood dogs intent on pooping there, this was the greatest injustice of all.

“So emm-nant doh-mane means someone can poop in somebody else’s backyard even if they don’t want them to?” he asked.

Yes. That’s exactly what thousands of farmers and ranchers in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and elsewhere are learning.

That’s when my own inner 6-year-old woke up and asked, “So, why are we doing this?”

Certainly not for my son. Dr. James Hansen, NASA’s most respected climate scientist calls the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” If all the carbon stored in the Canadian tar sands is released into the earth’s atmosphere, says Hansen, it will mean “game over” for the planet – for my kids and for yours.

I can’t bear to tell my son this.

“Why do some people want to build the TransCanda pipeline?” I ask myself again. The only credible answer: Because some people stand to make a lot of money, and their political allies want to help them.

Millions of Americans have asked President Obama to kill Keystone XL. His authority can stop the pipeline at the Canadian border. I hope he will.

If he does, I’ll have no trouble explaining the reasons to my son.

David Lillard is editor of The Observer newspaper in Jefferson County, W.Va. Comments: lillard@blueridgepress.com.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

December 06, 2016
Anthony DiMaggio
Post-Fact Politics: Reviewing the History of Fake News and Propaganda
Richard Moser
Standing Rock: Challenge to the Establishment, School for the Social Movements
Norman Solomon
Media Complicity is Key to Blacklisting Websites
Michael J. Sainato
Elizabeth Warren’s Shameful Exploitation of Standing Rock Victory
David Rosen
State Power and Terror: From Wounded Knee to Standing Rock
Kim Ives
Deconstructing Another Right-Wing Victory in Haiti
Nile Bowie
South Korea’s Presidency On A Knife-Edge
Mateo Pimentel
Some Notes and a Song for Standing Rock
Bill Fletcher Jr – Bob Wing
Fighting Back Against the White Revolt of 2016
Peter Lee
Is America Ready for a War on White Privilege?
Pepe Escobar
The Rules of the (Trump) Game
W. T. Whitney
No Peace Yet in Colombia Despite War’s End
Mark Weisbrot
Castro Was Right About US Policy in Latin America
David Swanson
New Rogue Anti-Russia Committee Created in “Intelligence” Act
George Ochenski
Forests of the Future: Local or National Control?
December 05, 2016
Bill Martin
Stalingrad at Standing Rock?
Mark A. Lause
Recounting a Presidential Election: the Backstory
Mel Goodman
Mad Dog Mattis and Trump’s “Seven Days in May”
Matthew Hannah
Standing Rock and the Ideology of Oppressors: Conversations with a Morton County Commissioner
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
#NoDAPL Scores Major Victory: No Final Permit For Pipeline
Fran Shor
The End of the Indispensable Nation
Michael Yates
Vietnam: the War That Won’t Go Away
Michael Uhl
Notes on a Trip to Cuba
Robert Hunziker
Huge Antarctica Glacier in Serious Trouble
John Steppling
Screen Life
David Macaray
Trump vs. America’s Labor Unions
Yoav Litvin
Break Free and Lead, or Resign: a Letter to Bernie Sanders
Norman Pollack
Taiwan: A Pustule on International Politics
Kevin Martin
Nuclear Weapons Modernization: a New Nuclear Arms Race? Who Voted for it? Who Will Benefit from It?
David Mattson
3% is not Enough: Towards Restoring Grizzly Bears
Howard Lisnoff
The Person Who Deciphered the Order to Shoot at Kent State
Dave Archambault II
Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Statement on Dakota Access Pipeline Decision
Nick Pemberton
Make America Late Again
Weekend Edition
December 02, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
The Coming War on China
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: The CIA’s Plots to Kill Castro
Paul Street
The Iron Heel at Home: Force Matters
Pam Martens - Russ Martens
Timberg’s Tale: Washington Post Reporter Spreads Blacklist of Independent Journalist Sites
Andrew Levine
Must We Now Rethink the Hillary Question? Absolutely, Not
Joshua Frank
CounterPunch as Russian Propagandists: the Washington Post’s Shallow Smear
David Rosen
The Return of HUAC?
Rob Urie
Race and Class in Trump’s America
Patrick Cockburn
Why Everything You’ve Read About Syria and Iraq Could be Wrong
Caroline Hurley
Anatomy of a Nationalist
Ayesha Khan
A Muslim Woman’s Reflections on Trump’s Misogyny
Michael Hudson – Steve Keen
Rebel Economists on the Historical Path to a Global Recovery
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail