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U.S. Awash In Oil and Lies, Report Charges



The only reason U.S. citizens may be forced to endure a risky, Canadian-owned oil pipeline called Keystone XL is so oil companies with billion-dollar profits can get the dirty oil from Canada's tar sands down to the Gulf of Mexico to export to Europe, Latin America or Asia.

By Stephen Leahy
Nation of Change



With four times as many oil rigs pump­ing do­mes­tic oil today than eight years ago and de­clin­ing do­mes­tic de­mand, the United States is awash in oil. In fact, the U.S. ex­ports more oil than it im­ports, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion - and has done so for nearly two decades.

The coun­try's oil in­dus­try is pri­mar­ily in­ter­ested in who will pay the most on the global mar­ket­place. They call that "en­ergy se­cu­rity" when it suits, but in re­al­ity it is "oil com­pany se­cu­rity" through max­imis­ing prof­its, say en­ergy ex­perts like Steve Kret­z­man of Oil Change In­ter­na­tional, an NGO that re­searches the links be­tween oil, gas and coal com­pa­nies and gov­ern­ments.

The only rea­son U.S. cit­i­zens may be forced to en­dure a risky, Cana­dian-owned oil pipeline called Key­stone XL is so oil com­pa­nies with bil­lion-dol­lar prof­its can get the dirty oil from Canada's tar sands down to the Gulf of Mex­ico to ex­port to Eu­rope, Latin Amer­ica or Asia, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port by Oil Change In­ter­na­tional re­leased Wednes­day.

"Key­stone XL will not lessen U.S. de­pen­dence on for­eign oil, but rather trans­port Cana­dian oil to Amer­i­can re­finer­ies for ex­port to over­seas mar­kets," con­cludes the re­port, ti­tled "Ex­port­ing En­ergy Se­cu­rity".

Lit­tle of the 700,000 to 800,000 bar­rels of tar sands oil pumped through the 2,400-kilo­me­tre, seven-bil­lion-dol­lar Key­stone XL will end up in U.S. gas tanks be­cause the re­finer­ies on the Gulf Coast are all about ex­pand­ing ex­port mar­kets. One huge re­fin­ery op­er­a­tor called Valero has been tout­ing the po­ten­tial ex­port rev­enues of tar sands oil to in­vestors, the re­port found.

Be­cause Key­stone XL crosses na­tional bor­ders, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama has to issue a per­mit de­clar­ing the pipeline serves the "na­tional in­ter­est" in order to be ap­proved.

"The only way Key­stone XL could be con­sid­ered in the na­tional in­ter­est is if you equate that with prof­its for the oil in­dus­try," said Kret­z­man, who wrote the re­port.

Canada's huge tar sands de­posits, lo­cated mainly in the far north of the province of Al­berta, are the world's sec­ond largest oil re­serves, but they are land­locked. It's the in­dus­try's biggest worry and also Al­berta En­ergy Min­is­ter Ron Lieper's biggest con­cern.

Lieper re­cently said that with­out new pipelines "our great­est risk in Al­berta is that by 2020 we will be land­locked in bi­tu­men". Bi­tu­men is thick tarry oil from the tar sands that needs lots of high-en­ergy and chem­i­cal pro­cess­ing to be use­able - one rea­son it's widely con­sid­ered the world's dirt­i­est oil.

The short­est route to the big Asian mar­kets is through the Rocky Moun­tains to Canada's west coast via the pro­posed North­ern Gate­way pipeline. How­ever, Cana­dian na­tive peo­ple live on some of the land and are staunchly op­posed, so the in­dus­try thought it would be eas­ier to put an ex­port pipeline right through the U.S. heart­land, said Kret­z­man.

"The oil in­dus­try would have done the North­ern Gate­way first but gam­bled that re­sis­tance to the pipeline would be far weaker in the mid-west," he told IPS.

They were wrong.

Thou­sands of peo­ple, in­clud­ing landown­ers and re­li­gious lead­ers, have gone to Wash­ing­ton DC in the past two weeks to tell Pres­i­dent Obama to re­ject Key­stone. Nearly 850 peo­ple have been ar­rested for stand­ing on the side­walk in front of the White House in what pro­test­ers call the largest civil dis­obe­di­ence in the his­tory of the U.S. cli­mate move­ment.

"It's re­mark­able, a very dig­ni­fied and mov­ing protest much like the civil rights demon­stra­tions in the 1960s," said Maude Bar­low, chair­per­son of the Coun­cil of Cana­di­ans, a large en­vi­ron­men­tal NGO.

"This is about the rights of the en­vi­ron­ment and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. It is the blos­som­ing of a new move­ment," Bar­low told IPS from Wash­ing­ton.

Other mas­sive pipelines are being planned, in­clud­ing ones bring­ing tar sands crude to New Eng­land and the Great Lakes, she said. "Key­stone is just the be­gin­ning. Once these are built they will have to put some­thing in them."

In­fra­struc­ture dic­tates pol­icy, she stressed. Once pipelines, re­finer­ies or power plants are built, it is nearly im­pos­si­ble for gov­ern­ments to shut them down.

Last year, sci­en­tists writ­ing in the jour­nal Sci­ence con­cluded there is al­ready enough fos­sil fuel burn­ing ca­pac­ity to raise global tem­per­a­tures by 1.5 de­grees C by 2060. Any ad­di­tional power plants, ve­hi­cles, or other fos­sil fuel burn­ing equip­ment built from 2011 on­ward puts hu­man­ity at ever greater risk of cat­a­strophic cli­mate change.

"We con­clude that sources of the most threat­en­ing emis­sions have yet to built," the sci­en­tists wrote.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion knows this but the pow­er­ful oil lobby can use its un­lim­ited funds to at­tack De­mo­c­ra­tic of­fi­cials dur­ing the next elec­tion cycle if they don't ap­prove the pipeline, says Kret­z­man.

Changes to U.S. law in 2010 allow cor­po­ra­tions to spend as much as they want on elec­tions, and there is no sec­tor with more money than the oil in­dus­try.

"That scares the hell out of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion," he said.

It's never been clearer that cor­po­ra­tions wield the real power in the United States and Canada, ac­tivists say.

"This is the be­gin­ning of a very big fight for the fu­ture," Bar­low told IPS.

 

Related Video:

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