MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Yes, regardless of the earnest civil disobedience of groups and individuals protesting the 4th phase of the Keystone XL Pipeline, the reality is that within a month or two, tar sands oil from Alberta will be mainlining its way to Houston and Port Arthur, Texas.
How can that be, you ask, when President Obama has not yet made an official decision on the Keystone XL Pipeline?
The answer is simple: he has.
When Obama approved what is known as the southern leg of the pipeline (Phase 3 on the map to the right), the spigot was opened to transport the climate-killing tar sands oil to refineries and ports in Texas – and facilities along the way. The only issue outstanding is whether Obama will approve a northern branch of the Keystone XL Pipeline that will be more profitable and deliver much more volume than the current stitched together pipeline that is nearing completion. The southern leg of the pipeline that runs from Cushing, Oklahoma, to Houston and Port Arthur in Texas should be fully constructed, with oil flowing, before Obama might even decide on the northern "express" leg that is a more direct and lucrative option for its owner, TransCanada.
It is tragically ironic that the extremely crude tar sands oil will flow to Texas just after a new report indicates that "the amount of carbon in the atmosphere is on the verge of hitting 400 parts per million, a new milestone." The extremely large release of carbon-dioxide that is feared by pipeline opponents is a by product of the process at the source used to extract oil and bitumen (a sludgy form of petroleum) from the tar sands. In short, the ruinous pollution occurs in the production process in Alberta, and again in the refining process in Texas – and in processing facilities elsewhere along the way.
If you want to see some of the pollution caused by just the physical by product of tar sands oil extraction, take a look at this photo of bitumen coke tailings piled up next to a Detroit refinery owned by the Koch brothers through a company of theirs called, appropriately, Koch Carbon. The article also states the reality that most Americans are not aware of: "Almost 56 percent of Canada’s oil production is from the petroleum-soaked oil sands of northern Alberta, more than 2,000 miles north."
Candice Bernd, a journalist for Truthout (and an activist participating in the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas), recently wrote of how the Keystone Pipeline is actually just about finished, as TransCanada uses the legal classification of being considered a "common carrier" to acquire right of way through eminent domain. Journalist and BuzzFlash columnist Walter Brasch also discussed the tactics being used to seize property in order to fill the last gaps in the southern tar sands pipeline.
The reality of the nearly finished pipeline dispels the notion that the pending Obama decision about the northern leg of Keystone XL might forestall the ruinous carbon dioxide emissions created by tar sands processing is dismaying. But it can also be a wake up call that even the most laudable goals to save the planet can become the victim of a diversionary shell game.
As Truthout's Bernd sums it up:
More than two-thirds of the Keystone XL pipeline's southern leg has been constructed across Oklahoma and Texas, despite constant disruptions from groups like the Tar Sands Blockade and the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance. The pipeline's completion is expected by the middle of this year…
But while many environmental activists and organizations have been focusing on the project's northern, cross-border portion, the damage of increased tar sands production will inevitably occur when work crews with TransCanada's subcontractor, Michel's, finish the job…
"It's very disingenuous for the big national environmental groups to be claiming that the battle still has to be fought and the question is still out there, the decision hasn't been made, when clearly it's been made," toxicologist and author Dr. Riki Ott told Truthout. "It's sort of like a smokescreen because … [the pipeline] is being built; it's just been decoupled like a train and the last car is being built and all they have to do is slam the rest of the train in there and connect that last car, and their pipeline is done, ready to go…."
The pipeline became a flashpoint in the climate justice movement after leading NASA climate scientist James Hansen called the project "the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet." He stated that if all the carbon stored in the Alberta tar sands is released into the atmosphere, it would put us past the carbon parts-per-million tipping-point, calling it "game over" for the planet.
What most US citizens don't know – including most progressives – is that when the southern pipeline segment starts flowing with tar sands oil in a short while, the fuse will have already ignited the bomb.