Friday, April 20, 2012

Allen West backs Ted Nugent

Allen West (left) and Ted Nugent are pictured. | AP. Reuters
Allen West said Ted Nugent was just expressing his opinion. | AP, Reuters
Ted Nugent doesn’t bear “any ill will” toward President Barack Obama, Rep. Allen West said Thursday despite the rocker’s appointment with the Secret Service over his controversial comments.
“I think he was just expressing maybe his opinion about something and of course everyone wants to sensationalize things but let's leave it up to the Secret Service to interview him and get to the bottom of it,” West, a Florida Republican, told CNN’s Soledad O’Brien when asked about Nugent’s comments.

West: Nugent expressing opinion

“I don’t think the Motor City Madman has any ill will toward the President of United States of America,” he said.
But O’Brien argued that Nugent’s feelings about Obama have been clear – it’s the violent intentions that are debatable, she said, adding “No, I don’t think he likes him at all. I think there’s a lot of ill will.”
West then said that the Nugent incident needed to be put in perspective.
(See Also: 10 little-known facts about Ted Nugent)
“Well, there’s a lot of people who didn’t like President [George W.] Bush and we didn’t have to cart them in front of the Secret Service, so let’s just let the people who are responsible for investigating take care of it,” he said.
Speaking at the National Rifle Association convention, Motor City Mad Man said, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
Nugent stands by his comments and is expected to meet with the Secret Service on Thursday.

House Republicans Revive Bid to Advance Keystone Pipeline

By Jim Snyder on April 16, 2012

U.S. House Republicans, unsuccessful in overturning President Barack Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline permit, will try again this week, using legislation to extend highway spending for three months.
Passage in the House would give Republican leaders another chance to advance the pipeline as gasoline prices remain higher than $3.90 a gallon. Language in the legislation, which would pay for highway, bridge and transit programs through September, gives the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission 30 days to issue a permit for the pipeline. A vote may be scheduled on April 18.
Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the House Energy and Commerce Committee chairman, said in the Republican’s April 14 weekly radio address that Keystone would “have decreased our dependence on oil from unstable regions of the world.”
The Keystone section in the highway bill is identical to legislation the House approved on Feb. 16 as part of a larger transportation package that some Republicans said cost too much.
In the Senate, Democrats on March 9 blocked an amendment to the transportation bill that effectively would approve Keystone without further federal action, with 11 Democrats joining Republicans in support.
“Gas prices have doubled under President Obama, but the Senate-passed transportation bill does nothing to help,” Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said in an e-mailed statement.

‘Too Early’

Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, said Senate leaders haven’t been able to assess whether support exists among lawmakers for the Keystone XL project if FERC is given jurisdiction to issue the permit. Senators return today after a two-week recess.
“It’s too early to say,” Jentleson said today.
The $7 billion TransCanada Corp. (TRP) pipeline would carry crude from Alberta’s oil sands to refineries along the Gulf Coast. Obama rejected in January the company’s application because he said a deadline set by Congress for action, imposed after the project was delayed until 2013, didn’t allow sufficient time to weigh potential environmental risks.
Officials in Nebraska objected to the pipeline’s route across Nebraska’s Sandhills region, which overlays the Ogallala aquifer that provides drinking water for 1.5 million people.
The House highway bill would extend funding for three months. While the Republican-led House and the Democratic- controlled Senate passed a 90-day extension before the two-week congressional recess at the end of March, the two sides have been unable to agree to a longer-term deal.
The Senate passed a two-year extension of the highway bill without language on Keystone in March. The Republican highway measure may allow the House and Senate to begin a conference committee to try to reach a compromise on the impasse.

House passes Keystone XL pipeline - again

Construction of a pipeline is shown. | Reuters

The Keystone XL pipeline seems to be the issue that that simply refuses to die. | Reuters

It’s the issue that simply refuses to die.
House Republicans wrote a new chapter in the long-running debate over the Keystone XL pipeline Wednesday by approving it as part of a 90-day extension of surface transportation law.

Wednesday’s 293-127 vote on the transportation extension was the fifth time the House voted on the proposed oil pipeline project in the last two years.
It was the third time House Republicans adopted the language authorizing the FERC to approve the pipeline — and there’s no indication either side will let up.
“We keep fouling them off,” said Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.), lead author of the FERC plan. “We’re going to keep swinging until we finally hit it.”
Critics of the pipeline say Republicans are just treading water.
“It’s a big game of chicken the Republicans are playing,” Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said. “They’re trying to play to their base in saying, ‘We’re going to pass it again through the House.’ But they’ve passed a lot of things through the House that haven’t gone anywhere. I have a feeling this may be among those.”
The White House on Tuesday threatened to veto the Keystone language.
“Good, let him veto it,” Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) said. “I hope that we just keep putting Keystone in there. He’ll just keep vetoing it and I think the more he does it the more he does damage to himself.”
Republicans are trying to force a showdown with the White House and Senate Democrats in a conference committee that would feature Wednesday’s House bill and a two-year, $109 billion Senate-passed transportation bill the Obama administration enthusiastically backs.
The Keystone amendment failed last month in the Senate 56-42 — four short of the needed 60 — after Obama personally called senators to lobby them to oppose the amendment directly before the vote.
But 11 Democratic senators still voted for the amendment.
In December, Republicans secured a symbolic victory when they were able to include language in the must-pass payroll tax cut extension deal forcing Obama to make a decision within two months on granting a presidential permit to Keystone XL.

Romney: I'll build Keystone pipeline even ‘if I have to do it myself'

Mitt Romney vowed Friday that, if elected president, he would build the controversial Keystone Pipeline linking oil deposits in Canada to refineries on the Texas gulf coast.
"I will build that pipeline if I have to do it myself," Romney said during a speech before state Republican Party leaders gathered at a retreat in Arizona.
It was Romney's first major appearance before party officials as the party's presumptive presidential nominee. But Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, who was chairing the event, stopped short of formally endorsing the former Massachusetts governor as the GOP nominee, because Romney has not officially clinched the necessary number of delegates required to claim the nomination.
Romney, who took the stage to a standing ovation, delivered essentially the same speech he has given for the last two days, attacking President Barack Obama on everything from his handling of the economy to his policies on energy, health care and education.
"The president has failed," Romney said.
He took specific aim at the Democratic Party's ties to labor unions, accusing Obama of putting union heads above the needs of the American people.
"That's where they get their money," Romney said. "And that's where they pay obedience."
He accused Obama of setting the country back on foreign policy, including in the Middle East where he said the president had jeopardized the U.S.'s relationship with Israel.
"We are not any closer to peace," Romney said.
Romney stayed away from hot-button issues in which he's come under fire from members of his party—including social issues like abortion.
Instead, he kept his focus squarely on Obama. He told the audience he had met Obama at a dinner in Washington, D.C., about "four or five years ago."
"I think he's a nice person," Romney said of Obama. "I just don't think we can afford him any longer."

Key Facts on Keystone XL


Keystone XL pipeline

Energy Security: Tar Sand will not Reduce Dependence on Foreign Oil
Keystone XL will not lessen U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but transport Canadian oil to American refineries for export to overseas markets.
  • Keystone XL is an export pipeline. According to presentations to investors, Gulf Coast refiners plan to refine the cheap Canadian crude supplied by the pipeline into diesel and other products for export to Europe and Latin America. Proceeds from these exports are earned tax-free. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.
  • Reducing demand for oil is the best way to improve our energy security. U.S. demand for oil has been declining since 2007.  New fuel-efficiency standards mean that this trend will continue once the economy gets back on track. In fact, the Energy Deptartment report on KeystoneXL found that decreasing demand through fuel efficiency is the only way to reduce mid-east oil imports with or without the pipeline.
More info:
Gas prices: Keystone XL will increase gas prices for Americans—Especially Farmers
  • By draining Midwestern refineries of cheap Canadian crude into export-oriented refineries in the Gulf Coast, Keystone XL will increase the cost of gas for Americans.
  • TransCanada’s 2008 Permit Application states “Existing markets for Canadian heavy crude, principally PADD II [U.S. Midwest], are currently oversupplied, resulting in price discounting for Canadian heavy crude oil. Access to the USGC [U.S. Gulf Coast] via the Keystone XL Pipeline is expected to strengthen Canadian crude oil pricing in [the Midwest] by removing this oversupply. This is expected to increase the price of heavy crude to the equivalent cost of imported crude. The resultant increase in the price of heavy crude is estimated to provide an increase in annual revenue to the Canadian producing industry in 2013 of US $2 billion to US $3.9 billion.”
  • Independent analysis of these figures found this would increase per-gallon prices by 20 cents/gallon in the Midwest.
  • According to an independent analysis U.S. farmers, who spent $12.4 billion on fuel in 2009 could see expenses rise to $15 billion or higher in 2012 or 2013 if the pipeline goes through. At least $500 million of the added expense would come from the Canadian market manipulation.
More information:
Jobs: TransCanada’s jobs projections are vastly inflated.
  • In 2008, TransCanada’s Presidential Permit application for Keystone XL to the State Department indicated “a peak workforce of approximately 3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel” to build the pipeline.
  • Jobs estimates above those listed in its application draw from a 2011 report commissioned by TransCanada that estimates 20,000 “person-years” of employment based on a non-public forecast model using undisclosed inputs provided by TransCanada.
  • According to TransCanada’s own data, just 11% of the construction jobs on the Keystone I pipeline in South Dakota were filled by South Dakotans–most of them for temporary, low-paying manual labor.
  • Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) both oppose the pipeline. Their August 2011 statement: “We need jobs, but not ones based on increasing our reliance on Tar Sands oil. There is no shortage of water and sewage pipelines that need to be fixed or replaced, bridges and tunnels that are in need of emergency repair, transportation infrastructure that needs to be renewed and developed. Many jobs could also be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation—jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency.”
More Information:
Safety: A rupture in the Keystone XL pipeline could cause a BP style oil spill in America’s heartland, over the source of fresh drinking water for 2 million people. NASA’s top climate scientist says that fully developing the tar sands in Canada would mean “essentially game over” for the climate.
  • The U.S. Pipeline Safety Administration has not yet conducted an in depth analysis of the safety of diluted bitumen (raw tar sands) pipeline, despite unique safety concerns posed by its more corrosive properties.
  • TransCanada predicted that the Keystone I pipeline would see one spill in 7 years. In fact, there have been 12 spills in 1 year. The company was ordered to dig up 10 sections of pipe after government-ordered tests indicated that defective steel may have been used. KeystoneXL will use steel from the same Indian manufacturer.
  • Keystone XL will cross through America’s agricultural heartland, the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, the Ogallala aquifer, sage grouse habitat, walleye fisheries and more.
  • The agency was not adequately accounting for threats to wildlife, increased pollution in distressed communities where the crude may be refined, or increases in carbon emissions that would exacerbate climate change, and a variety of other issues.

Climate Change: Keystone XL is the fuse to North America’s biggest carbon bomb.
  • In a study funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, a group of retired four-star generals and admirals concluded that climate change, if not addressed, will be the greatest threat to national security.
  • The State Department Environmental Impact Statement fails to adequately analyze lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the pipeline. Extraction and refinement of oil sands are more GHG-intensive compared to conventional oil. The EIS estimates that the additional annual GHG emissions from the proposed pipeline could range from an additional “12-23 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent… (roughly the equivalent of annual emissions from 2 to 4 coal-fired power plants)” over conventional crude oil from the Middle East. [8] The EPA believes that the methodology used by the State Department is inaccurate and could underestimate GHG emissions by as much as 20 percent.[9] Given that the expected lifetime of the Keystone XL pipeline is fifty years, the EPA notes that the project could yield an extra 1.15 billion tons of GHGs using the quantitative estimates in the EIS.[10]

  • Jobs:

    The pipeline company, TransCanada, says the project should create 20,000 "man years" of new jobs. That could be 10,000 jobs for 2 years, or 5,000 jobs for 4 years, but it is NOT 20,000 jobs for multiple years, it's 20,000 jobs spread out over multiple years. Furthermore, many of those jobs will NOT be filled by Americans, they will be filled by Canadians and people from other countries. And that's according to the company building the pipeline.
    The US State Department, the lead federal agency on the project, estimates 6,500 temporary jobs will be created. The only independent study, conducted by Cornell University’s Global Labor Institute, concludes that it may generate 6-7,000 temporary jobs but no more than 50 permanent jobs when the work is done. Even TransCanada only claims that “hundreds” (their exact term) of permanent jobs will be created by the project.

    Pipeline Route:

    TransCanada has, at the request of Nebraska’s REPUBLICAN Gov. Dave Heineman (who called legislators in to a special session on the issue) ALREADY AGREED TO CHANGE THE ROUTE OF THE PROPOSED PIPELINE. The old route crossed over an aquifer that provides ONE THIRD of the irrigation water used in the US. Nebraskans were legitimately concerned about this fact. This new route has not been subjected to the necessary review process (including but not limited to environmental reviews) which FEDERAL LAW requires from the State Department AND other agencies. This will EASILY take more than a year, which makes it basically impossible for ANYONE to meet the ridiculous 60 day deadline imposed by the GOP. Republicans know this and that’s why their demand is absolutely ridiculous!

    Plans for the CANADIAN oil:

    TransCanada’s existing contracts and business plans indicate that most of their output will be destined for export, mostly to Asia and Europe, NOT for US domestic consumption. Currently, a good portion of the oil in question is shipped from Canada to the Midwestern US via the existing Keystone pipeline (that's right, the XL project is just an EXTENSION to an existing line). Once at the end of the line in the Midwest, most of that oil is refined there and consumed there, which has helped keep gas and oil prices relatively low in the Midwest for the past few years. Once/if the pipeline is completed, most of that oil that is currently consumed in the Midwest will flow South (mostly to Texas) where it will be refined and MOST OF IT WILL BE EXPORTED. So, in the long run, the XL project may very well result in LESS of the oil being consumed in American. Which leads us to....

    Effect on Price of Oil in US:

    Here's a little something you don't hear the Republicans and proponents of this project talking about: TransCanada, THE COMPANY BUILDING THE PIPELINE, has said that this project will actually INCREASE the price of a barrel of oil in the USA! Don't believe me? According to a Feb 2011 story from Reuters:
    "Although the pipeline, if approved, would increase the supply of oil reaching the U.S., a 2009 market analysis conducted by TransCanada, builder of the pipeline, forecast higher prices. The analysis, which TransCanada conducted as part of its Canadian permit application, projected that prices would increase about $3 per barrel as a result of the pipeline.
    That would send at least an additional $2 billion from American consumers to Canadian and multinational oil interests, despite the increase in supply."
    Now do you believe me? In addition to this fact, the project will greatly benefit the dastardly Koch Bros who own businesses that "already import and refine 25 percent of oil sands crude reaching the U.S." according to the same story in Reuters.
  • Meagan2u
    Very nicely written and informative comment. I wonder, how many like myself, don't know that it is an extension of an already existing pipeline. Be that as it may, I think it is far too dangerous and risky to be pursued by this country. Nobody else wants the stuff. Yes, those darn Koch bros. just won't go away! When you hear they are involved in a project like this alarm bells should go off in your head! Again, Thank you for the informative article on this nasty crude oil.

    Keystone XL really is a bad idea, dangerous for the American midwest, opening too few jobs with too short a work-lifetime. I do not believe that by stopping the XL upgrade, we can have much influence on the really dirty processing that is going on in Alberta. The best we can do is protect our own environment. My own analysis is at The New York Times yesterday showed that TransCanada is applying Eminent Domain to confiscate property along the path, right now, before Obama makes his decision.
    Charles Armentrout

    Let's try this again. The Keystone pipeline (the basic line that became active in February 2011) already carries the petroleum product to refineries in the US. It is one of maybe 4 or 5 that enter the US from Canada, not counting the line to Vancouver and the one being built to a the Pacific port. XL is an "upgrade" that bypasses the American heartland refineries and is to send its product to refineries on the Gulf coast, and then directly to tankers for sale everywhere *but* in the U.S.
    The problems with XL are (A) it is not about energy security, (B) it is directly over the mid American Ogallala aquifer, (C) it carries a rough slurry of bitumen in an rective fluid base, and (D) it is do this using poorly tested, extra thin walled tube, at extra high pressure.
    Pipelines do leak and enter waterways by devious paths (ref Enbridge & Michigan last year). (D) means it could leak higher than norm, (B) means it could be devastating. To deny XL does not stop the tar sands output into US refineries. This has nothing to do with you getting access to new gasoline sources, but with the big guys getting access to more big money. We should say no to XL. My full analysis at
    Charles Armentrout,

    You know, the problem with BULL SHIT Sites like this is that they promote INACCURATE AND ERRONEOUS INFOBLAB AND PRESENT IT AS "FACT" to Poor Misinformed people who then pass the BS along! The ONLY thing flowing in the new XL Pipeline will be Desulfured Crude Oil! The Refineries in Houston, TX have no use for Slurries of Bitumin! If you think about this ASININE STATEMENT, what you are claiming is that the Pipeline will carry coal dust in water suspension! The Fort MacMurray area is being surrounded with Refineries that will De-Sulfur the Oil and send Stabilized Crude Oil down to the US Gulf Coast Refineries. The Crude Oil is going there ANYWAY despite your nonsense posts here, but it was felt that a Pipeline was SAFER than shipping by Tanker Fleets along the California Coastlines to Pipelines already moving Crude to Texas! Additionally, you might want to tell your misguided readers that this Pipeline is Paralleling 5 EXISTING Pipelines, all without any impact on Aquifers in Nebraska! ALso, US Refineries DO NOT EXPORT REFINED PRODUCTS in the manner your useless Site claims! Other garbage sites claim we will export to Latin America, which is so laughable a concept as to make me ROFL! Mexico, Brazil, and Your Marxist Friend Venezuela are the main players in South America!

Keystone XL pipeline: New route, new problems for Obama?

President Obama blocked the Keystone XL pipeline in January, saying Congress didn't allow enough time to assess the project. TransCanada has now proposed a new route though sensitive areas of Nebraska, and Republicans are trying to do an end run around Obama. 

By Mark Clayton, Staff writer / April 19, 2012

A truck travels along highway 14, several miles north of Neligh, Neb., Thursday, near the proposed new route for the Keystone XL pipeline.
Nati Harnik/AP

 Workers use heavy machinery in the tailings pond at an oil sands extraction facility near Fort McMurray, Canada.

Nebraska officials on Thursday unveiled TransCanada's newly proposed route for its controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would jog eastward to avoid the key aquifer underlying the Sand Hills region of the state.
Related stories
TransCanada, a Canadian pipeline company, hopes to build the 1,400-plus mile Keystone XL down to Cushing, Okla., connecting it there with a second, southern leg. That 480-mile leg would take the diluted heavy bitumen oil from Alberta's tar sands region to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
President Obama in January rejected the pipeline, saying legislation passed by Congress didn't allow enough time to evaluate the pipeline's environmental impact or whether it is in the national interest. Congress had given the White House 60 days.
The potential new route is being unveiled just as a Republicans in Congress are considering an attempt to wrest authority for its review from the Obama administration.
Currently, the State Department must approve the permit. But the Republican-controlled House of Representatives has inserted language into a key transportation bill that would essentially mandate federal approval of any route that Nebraska approves.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to back the House's language, and Mr. Obama has said he would veto such a bill with such a stipulation. But the moves create a new wrinkle in the election-year political maneuvering by both parties to blame the other for delays in the pipeline's construction.
Last week, the Nebraska Legislature voted to separate the state's review of the project from previous coordination with the State Department in an attempt to jump-start the process. According to the Nebraska plan, the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality (NDEQ) will evaluate the route of any currently proposed or future pipeline in the state. If approved by NDEQ and Republican Gov. Dave Heineman, the pipeline route would have state authorization to proceed.
“Nebraska will move forward on the review process of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline and any future pipelines that will create jobs and reduce US dependence on Middle Eastern oil,” Governor Heineman said in a statement after signing the legislation on April 17. “The review process is a top priority for Nebraska.”
TransCanada's new proposed route would still cross the Ogallala aquifer, which underlies much of the state, but would avoid the Sand Hills, where groundwater is very close to the surface.
Critics of the plan say the new route still winds its way perilously close to, and across, sensitive aquifer areas and would receive only a cursory review under the new state law. What's needed, they contend, is a thorough environmental impact study in accord with federal law.
"TransCanada hasn't even applied for a federal permit yet," says Jane Kleeb, executive director of Bold Nebraska, which opposes putting the pipeline through the aquifer area. "All they're trying to do is get Nebraska to get rubber stamp this route so they can then go to the State Department and say: 'We've solved Nebraska's problem, they've approved our route, so now give us our permit.' "
TransCanada officials say the new pipeline route will meet requirements laid out by the state and solve the problem of future pipeline spills tainting vital groundwater.
"This report ... identifies a proposed preferred corridor to advance the Keystone XL pipeline project while realigning the route around the Nebraska Sandhills," Shawn Howard, a spokesman for TransCanada said in a statement. "Once again, this process is back in the hands of Nebraskans, who overwhelmingly support the safe construction and operation of this critical North American energy infrastructure project."
But other observers say the move by TransCanada and Heineman is designed to apply fresh pressure on Mr. Obama during an election year.

Alternate route for controversial stretch of Keystone pipeline unveiled


The company behind the controversial pipeline that's become an environmental lightning rod -- not to mention a presidential campaign issue -- has unveiled its preferred alternative for a stretch that got bogged down in Nebraska and triggered an Obama administration review.

Unveiled on Thursday, the map of TransCanada's preferred alternative steers the new Keystone pipeline route well east of the sensitive Nebraska Sandhills region. Both Democrats and Republicans in the state had raised concerns about potential impacts by the pipeline to farms as well as water supplies in that area.
The U.S. State Department, which has federal jurisdiction because the pipeline comes from abroad, i.e. Canada, has held off approving the project because of those concerns.
Nebraska said it plans to hold public hearings and receive comments on the new proposal, which is now likely to get strong support in the state.


TransCanada's preferred alternative is seen in green to the right of the brown area, which represents the Sandhills region. Its initial route, seen in blue, ran through the region.
At the national level, Republicans have accused President Barack Obama of trying to undermine the pipeline.

Last month Obama traveled to an existing stretch of the pipeline in Cushing, Okla., to show support for extending it farther south to Texas, where refineries would turn crude into oil and other petroleum products.

"I am directing my administration to cut through red tape, break through bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority," he said on March 22.

He also indicated he wasn't opposed to the Nebraska section as long as it passed an environmental review.

"To be extra careful that the construction of the pipeline in an area like that wouldn't put the health and safety of the American people at risk, our experts said that we needed a certain amount of time to review the project," he said.

The Keystone Pipeline is dominating the headlines recently, as some analysts say we're at the start of a new energy pipeline boom, reports CNBC's Bertha Coombs.

Environmentalists still oppose the overall project because it would carry a type of crude oil known as tar sands that they say is more damaging that traditional oil wells.  
TransCanada's new proposal
Keystone Pipeline

Planet Unprepared For Solar Storms That Could Cost Trillions: Researcher

Thursday, April 19, 2012 2:47 PM EDT

By Amir Khan

(Photo: REUTERS)
The sun erupts with one of the largest solar flares of this solar cycle in this multi-colored NASA handout photo taken on March 6, 2012. This flare was categorized as an X5.4, making it the second largest flare -- after an X6.9 on August 9, 2011 -- since the sun's activity segued into a period of relatively low activity called solar minimum in early 2007. The current increase in the number of X-class flares is part of the sun's normal 11-year solar cycle, during which activity on the sun ramps up to solar maximum, which is expected to peak in late 2013.

Earthlings are woefully unprotected from solar storms that, if powerful enough, could cause trillions of dollars in damage from widespread blackouts and disrupted satellite navigation, according to an editorial from RAL Space, a UK-based space research organization.

Solar storms generate intense bursts of solar radiation that hits Earth at speeds exceeding 3 million miles per hour (5 million km/h) and can wreak havoc on the power grid, according to NASA researchers.

A strong solar storm could expose people's dependence on electricity and GPS satellites, RAL Space researcher Mike Hapgood wrote in a commentary published in the journal Nature on Thursday.

"Over the past few decades, we have become much more dependent on technology to sustain our everyday lives: e.g., electricity to pump clean water to our homes and remove sewage, just-in-time supply chains to feed us, ATMs and retail card readers to provide money for everyday shopping," Hapgood told "Do we know how to recover quickly from the simultaneous disruption of a huge range of systems?"

Strong solar storms have wiped out electrical infrastructure. In 1989, a solar storm knocked out power across parts of Canada for hours, leaving millions in the dark. The largest solar storm in history, called the Carrington event, caused telegraph lines to short out and catch fire in 1859. Technology was scarce back then, Hapgood said. If a storm like the Carrington event hit today, it would cause pandemonium, he estimated.

"If we had a repeat of the Carrington event, I would expect several days of economic and social mayhem as many critical technological systems failed - e.g., localized power grid failures in many countries, widespread loss of GPS signals for navigation and timing, disruption of communications systems [and] shutdown of long-haul aviation," he told

Solar storms increase the electric current of the ionosphere, a part of Earth's atmosphere. Many communications systems, such as AM radio, transmit signals over long distances using the ionosphere as a reflector. Increases in electric current can disrupt that reflection. Airlines rely on radio to communicate with ground control, and solar storms can disrupt that communication.

Published on Apr 16, 2012 by
SPECTACULAR EXPLOSION: Magnetic fields on the sun's northeastern limb erupted around 17:45 UT on April 16th, producing one of the most visually-spectacular explosions in years. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the blast at extreme ultraviolet wavelengths. The explosion, which registered M1.7 on the Richter Scale of solar flares, was not Earth-directed. A CME produced by the blast is likely to hit NASA's STEREO-B spacecraft, but probably no planets. This event confirms suspicions that an active region of significance is rotating onto the Earth-facing side of the sun. Using data from SDO, Steele Hill of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center has assembled a must-see movie of the event. The movie shows the explosion unfolding at 304 Angstroms, a wavelength which traces plasma with a temperature around 80,000 K.

Flares also cause a change in the density of the ionosphere and cause GPS systems to become less precise, experts said. Magnetic fields that accompany solar storms can short electrical grids and knock out power.

Solar storms also cause more innocuous auroras, a collection of green, red and blue lights strongest around the poles. Strong solar storms can create auroras as far south as the Great Lakes.
The sun maintains an 11-year solar cycle of two periods: solar maximum and solar minimum, measured by the number of sunspots. Solar storms usually occur in the presence of sunspots, according to NASA.

During solar maximum, several hundred sunspots dot the sun each day, but several days may pass without any sunspots during solar minimum. The sun entered solar minimum in 2007.

The Space Weather Prediction Center warns of strong solar storms up to 60 minutes in advance with approximately 50 percent accuracy, an inadequate window of time for power companies to prepare, experts said. The center relies on data from spacecraft in order to predict coming storms, but many of the crafts are outdated, Hapgood wrote. He recommended updating the instruments on the spacecraft in order to optimize them for space weather monitoring.

Hapgood also recommended upgrading transformers to withstand strong solar storms and digitizing records of previous solar storms for further study.

Most importantly, decision makers need to be aware of the problem, Hapgood wrote. People regard it as a far-off possibility, but while a strong solar storm may not hit anytime soon, it's a matter of when, not if.

Some government officials are starting to take notice.

"This threat of geomagnetic disturbance has a lot of attention in Washington," William Bryan, a deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, told Florida Today. "This is not science fiction. It's real. These things are really happening and could really have an impact on us."

But until more people are aware of the potential dangers and the planet begins to take protective measures, the Earth is in real danger, Hapgood said.

"These events often transcend the experience of any individual because they happen so rarely," he told "But these events will happen sometime. We need to understand them and decide how far we should (i.e., can afford to) protect against them -- and definitely not leave them until it's too late."

Published on Mar 7, 2012 by
Take a closer look at the flare that erupted on March 6, 2012.
This movie of the March 6, 2012 X5.4 flare was captured by the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in the 171 and 131 Angstrom wavelength. One of the most dramatic features is the way the entire surface of the sun seems to ripple with the force of the eruption. This movement comes from something called EIT waves -- because they were first discovered with the Extreme ultraviolet Imaging Telescope (EIT) on the Solar Heliospheric Observatory. Since SDO captures images every 12 seconds, it has been able to map the full evolution of these waves and confirm that they can travel across the full breadth of the sun. The waves move at over a million miles per hour, zipping from one side of the sun to the other in about an hour. The movie shows two distinct waves. The first seems to spread in all directions; the second is narrower, moving toward the southeast. Such waves are associated with, and perhaps trigger, fast coronal mass ejections, so it is likely that each one is connected to one of the two CMEs that erupted on March 6.

Oil Sands Development: A Health Risk Worth Taking?

Oil sands development

Lots of good info found on this site.

This article, authored by David J. Tenenbaum, appeared first in Environmental Health Perspectives—the peer-reviewed, open access journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The article is a verbatim version of the original and is not available for edits or additions by Encyclopedia of Earth editors or authors. Companion articles on the same topic that are editable may exist within the Encyclopedia of Earth.
Bitumen, a tar-like hydrocarbon that can be converted to oil, is the key to oil sands' value. Canada's oil sands hold an estimated 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, but realizing that potential is a costly undertaking. (Source: <a href='' class='external text' title='' rel='nofollow'>NIEHS</a>; Credit: Lara Solt, Dallas Morning News-Corbis.

Bitumen, a tar-like hydrocarbon that can be converted to oil, is the key to oil sands' value. Canada's oil sands hold an estimated 175 billion barrels of recoverable oil, but realizing that potential is a costly undertaking. (Source: NIEHS; Credit: Lara Solt, Dallas Morning News-Corbis.

As traditional petroleum supplies dwindled and prices soared over the past few years, oil companies have shifted their attention to oil sands, a mix of sand, water, and a heavy, viscous hydrocarbon called bitumen that can be converted to oil. With the plunge in oil prices in fall 2008, many producers began canceling or postponing plans to expand oil sands development projects, but this turn of events could yet reverse, as Canada’s vast oil sands deposits are lauded as a secure source of imported oil for the United States. At the same time, however, oil sands present troubling questions in terms of the effects associated with their development.

Raw Resource

Oil sands are found in about 70 countries. Alberta, Canada, is home to the largest known oil sands deposits, underlying about 140,000 square kilometers of boreal forest. In the 2006 report Alberta’s Energy Reserves 2005 and Supply Outlook 2006–2015, the entity then known as the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board estimated the amount of recoverable oil in Canada’s oil sands at 175 billion barrels, second only to Saudi Arabia’s reserves (which consist largely of conventional oil).
Other major deposits are located in Venezuela and Utah. According to figures cited by Argonne National Laboratory, the Utah deposits, if developed, could yield 12–19 billion barrels of oil. However, says Philip Smith, a professor of chemical engineering and director of the Institute for Clean and Secure Energy at the University of Utah, the Utah bitumen cannot be recovered using the water-intensive technologies pursued elsewhere for one simple reason: “In Utah, we just do not have that kind of water.”
At surface mining facilities (photo, top), trucks carrying hundreds of tons each transport ore to processing facilities. However, most of Alberta's oil sand deposits lie deep underground, and the bitumen must be pumped to the surface using techniques such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (illustration, above). (Source: <a href='' class='external text' title='' rel='nofollow'>NIEHS</a>; Credit: David Dodge,The Pembina Institute.

At surface mining facilities (photo, top), trucks carrying hundreds of tons each transport ore to processing facilities. However, most of Alberta's oil sand deposits lie deep underground, and the bitumen must be pumped to the surface using techniques such as steam-assisted gravity drainage (illustration, bottom). (Source: NIEHS; Credit: David Dodge,The Pembina Institute.

Over the past five years, production at Canada’s oil sands has reached about 1.3 million barrels per day, more than 1% of global oil production, according to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). This constitutes the bulk of the 1.9 million barrels Canada exported to the United States each day in 2008, an amount equal to 12% of U.S. total petroleum consumption, says Greg Stringham, vice president for oil sands at CAPP. In North American Oil Sands: History of Development, Prospects for the Future, a report last updated in January 2008, the Congressional Research Service estimated production would soar to 2.8 million barrels per day by 2015.
Shallow deposits containing about 8–20% of Alberta’s oil sands (depending on the estimate) are surface mined using giant shovels and enormous trucks. Deeper deposits more than 75–80 meters underground are accessed using methods such as steam-assisted gravity drainage, in which steam is used to heat the bitumen so it becomes fluid enough to be pumped to the surface. This is known as in situ production.
Unprocessed oil sands contain 3–18% bitumen by weight, along with 2–10% water and 80–85% mineral matter (sand, clay, etc.). Bitumen is composed chiefly of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), sulfur, lead, mercury, arsenic, nickel, vanadium, chromium, and selenium. It contains far more carbon and far less hydrogen than conventional crude oil; mixed with crushed stone, bitumen forms asphalt pavement. Once the bitumen is separated from the ore, it is “upgraded” through the addition of hydrogen and the subtraction of carbon, and natural gas is added to enable the material to be pumped to a refinery for processing. The remaining water and solids, including a small amount of unextracted bitumen, are discharged into vast tailings ponds.

Tailings: A Threat to Water Quality

A good deal of the controversy about oil sands development centers around those tailings ponds, which cover more than 130 square kilometers in northern Alberta, according to the 2008 report 11 Million Litres a Day: The Tar Sands’ Leaking Legacy from Canada’s Environmental Defence. Some large tailings ponds are separated by earthen dikes from the Athabasca River, which joins the Mackenzie River to form the major watershed of Northwest Canada. The water in these ponds often contains arsenic, mercury, PAHs, and other toxics found in the bitumen.
Oil sands operators maintain interceptor ditches and wells to catch leakage from the tailings ponds, but the Environmental Defence report calculated that 11 million liters of contaminated wastewater nevertheless escapes each day. This rate was based on data from oil companies’ environmental impact assessments; for ponds for which there were no publicly available data, the authors calculated an average seepage rate using industry-reported figures.
Opponents of oil sands development are concerned about the potential for adverse health effects if the leaking wastewater contaminates drinking water supplies. George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, says chemicals leaking from tailings ponds “affect anybody or anything that relies on water as a source of drinking or a place to live in [including fish, moose, and birds]. The majority of our people rely on the traditional diets, on moose.”
Ecologist Kevin P. Timoney of Treeline Ecological Research believes the 11 million liters/day estimate is conservative; the actual rate, he says, is probably much greater. In A Study of Water and Sediment Quality as Related to Public Health Issues, Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, published in November 2007, Timoney described his analysis of published data on water and sediment quality indicators at the titular community, which is located at the northernmost edge of the Athabasca oil sands. He noted that Fort Chipewyan lies within a depositional basin in which metals and other contaminants tend to accumulate in fine-textured sediments. Concentrations of arsenic, mercury, and PAHs are especially high in water and sediment, and many other metals (including cadmium, chromium, cobalt, and lead) and agricultural chemicals also are present.
Timoney’s analysis further noted that studies of local fish have shown that all the walleye and female whitefish and almost all the male whitefish tested exceeded U.S. guidelines for mercury consumption. Although treated local water appeared safe, untreated water in Lake Athabasca had levels of arsenic, total mercury, and PAHs sufficient to pose a threat to wildlife or humans.
Aerial view of a tailings pond north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. One of the chief human health concerns associated with oil sands development is the leakage of contaminated wastewater into drinking water supplies. (Source: <a href='' class='external text' title='' rel='nofollow'>NIEHS</a>; Credit: Jiri Rezac.

Aerial view of a tailings pond north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. One of the chief human health concerns associated with oil sands development is the leakage of contaminated wastewater into drinking water supplies. (Source: NIEHS; Credit: Jiri Rezac.

Glen Van Der Kraak, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario, says studies of fish exposed to oil sands wastewater consistently find endocrine disruption and impairments of reproductive physiology. For example, in research published in the 1 May 2008 issue of Aquatic Toxicology, Van Der Kraak and colleagues found that goldfish exposed to wastewater from tailings ponds had dramatically lower plasma levels of testosterone and 17?-estradiol than control fish. The prime suspect behind these effects, says Van Der Kraak, is naphthenic acids, compounds that are often present in tailings pond water.
John O’Connor, a doctor who practiced in Fort Chipewyan between 2002 and 2007, first raised the alarm about human cases of cholangiocarcinoma, reporting six possible cases in this community of about 900. This rare cancer of the bile duct typically strikes about 2 in 100,000 people. In Alberta, the incidence of cholangiocarcinoma has increased progressively over the past 30 years, and rates are 2–3 times higher in First Nations communities compared with non–First Nations populations.
In August 2007 a working group was convened to support the Alberta Cancer Board in performing a cluster investigation using guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of observed cancer cases in the community, as determined through the Alberta Cancer Registry, was compared with the number of cases expected over a 12-year period. Expected cases were determined by applying yearly Alberta rates to the Fort Chipewyan population, taking into account the size and composition of the population.
In the February 2009 report Cancer Incidence in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, 1995–2006, the group reported that only two of the cases in Fort Chipewyan were confirmed as cholangiocarcinoma. A third case was not a cancer, and the remainder were confirmed to be other cancers. Given these numbers, the incidence of cholangiocarcinoma fell within the expected range. However, the study found higher-than-expected numbers of cancers of the blood and lymphatic system, biliary tract, and soft tissue (all statistically significant findings), as well as all cancers combined (51 observed versus 39 expected cases—a finding deemed to be of borderline statistical significance). Lung cancers as a whole were within the expected range, but when women were looked at separately, the number of cases was 3.5 times higher than expected.
The study was not designed to determine the cause of any of the cancers observed, and because of the small population size and limited number of cases, the working group cautioned that the findings could be due to chance and/or increased detection. Given that the numbers rose in the latter half of the 12-year study period, however, the group wrote that closer monitoring of cancer occurrences in Fort Chipewyan will be justified in the coming years and that future studies should track a cohort of residents who have lived in the area within the past 20–30 years.
The authors also noted that a 2006 analysis of the health status of Fort Chipewyan residents showed that residents have elevated prevalence rates of diabetes, hypertension, renal failure, and lupus. All these diseases have been linked with one or more of the toxics commonly found in tailings pond water. The working group suggested that, in order to examine risks for cancer and other chronic diseases, assessment of the overall health status and risk factor profile of Fort Chipewyan residents would be needed. Future studies should also evaluate the occupational history and employment-related migration pattern of the cancer patients in the community, because many of the Fort Chipewyan residents work or had worked in the oil sands or uranium industries. As the authors pointed out, “Previous studies of cancer risk and occupational exposure have suggested increased risk of leukemia and lung cancer in oil field workers, and increased risk of leukemia, lung cancer, and cancers in gallbladder and extrahepatic bile ducts in uranium miners.”

Scientists and local subsistence fishers have observed cancerous tumors on whitefish caught near Fort Chipewyan, a community on the northern edge of the Athabasca oil sands. A 2009 study reported a higher-than-expected number of human cancers in the community but was not designed to determine the cause of those cancers. (Source: <a href='' class='external text' title='' rel='nofollow'>NIEHS</a>; Credit: Jiri Rezac)

Scientists and local subsistence fishers have observed cancerous tumors on whitefish caught near Fort Chipewyan, a community on the northern edge of the Athabasca oil sands. A 2009 study reported a higher-than-expected number of human cancers in the community but was not designed to determine the cause of those cancers. (Source: NIEHS; Credit: Jiri Rezac)

Long-Term Restoration Challenges

Although the authors of Cancer Incidence in Fort Chipewyan avoided assigning a cause for the cancers they observed, many critics of oil sands development believe it is only a matter of time before a link is established with tailings pond leakage. Moreover, in his 2007 report, Timoney asserted that abandoned tailings ponds could pose a major health threat to surrounding communities for years to come. “While a mine is in operation, monitoring and pumping of tailing pond leaks is continuous,” he wrote. “No one knows what will happen when a mine has exhausted a site, shuts down its operation, and leaves. Tailings pond abandonment is an unproven technology whose success is predicated on modeling rather than real world experience. . . . The [Alberta oil sands formation] is known to be porous with active subsurface water movements. Billions of cubic meters of contaminated water soon will be sitting untended, with no active pumping, in abandoned ponds adjacent to the Athabasca River.”
The challenges of restoring the tailings ponds and other elements of development sites have been underestimated, says E.A. Johnson, a professor of biological sciences at the University of Calgary and co-author of a report on the science behind reclamation in the oil sands published in The Year in Ecology and Conservation Biology 2008. “Restorations are usually small projects, a few hectares in size, but now we are confronted with whole landscapes in which the reconstruction must start with the central template, the groundwater, and then the soil. . . . We are going to have to reconstruct the drainage, the groundwater flow, and these are things about which we have little knowledge. It is not clear to me that everybody understands how complicated this is.”
Many years are needed to evaluate a restoration, Johnson adds. “Traditionally, even in small restoration projects, it takes much longer than anyone imagines, especially for the monitoring. This calls for a 40-year attention span or more, and it will be hard to keep that going.”
According to Alberta’s Oil Sands. Resourceful. Responsible, a 2008 publication from the government of Alberta, as of March 2008 approximately 65 square kilometers of land were in the process of being reclaimed, meaning the land would “be able to support a range of activities similar to its previous use before oil sands development.” However, the province has certified only 104 hectares (at a facility run by major producer Syncrude) as restored.
Both opponents and proponents of oil sands development agree that liquid tailings are a problem. “We need to prohibit the creation of liquid tailings that require these tailings ponds,” says Simon Dyer, oil sands program director at the nonprofit Pembina Institute in Calgary, Alberta. “There are new technologies that are close to commercialization that would not require the creation of liquid tailings, but there is no incentive for companies to implement these when the government is willing to approve their projects.”
“The ultimate goal is dry tailings,” agrees Stringham, who notes that the industry is, in fact, working on near-term solutions, such as injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) into tailings so the clay can settle more quickly, allowing the water to be drawn off and reused.

A Carbon-Intense Industry

The carbon intensity of oil sands development poses other environmental health questions. The extraction and refining of oil sands produces 30–70% more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil production, according to estimates by Alex Farrell and Adam Brandt published in the October 2007 issue of Climatic Change. If the greenhouse gas impact of oil sands is calculated to include the CO2 released when the fuel is burned, the discrepancy drops to 10–30%, says Aimee Curtright, an analyst at the RAND Corporation and coauthor of the 2008 report Unconventional Fossil-Based Fuels: Economic and Environmental Trade-Offs. “For both [conventional and unconventional] oil, most CO2 release occurs in burning; the smaller portion of greenhouse gases is related to the production process,” she says.
The primary global impact of oil sands production comes through the release of greenhouse gases created when about 800 million cubic feet of natural gas (approximately 10% of Canada’s total natural gas consumption) is burned daily to create heat for extraction and upgrading, says Stringham. In the 2006 report The Canadian Oil Sands in the Context of the Global Energy Demand, Eddy Isaacs, director of the Alberta Energy Research Institute, wrote that 176 cubic meters of natural gas are required to liquefy, extract, and purify each cubic meter of bitumen produced.
According to the 2008 Congressional Research Service report, the government of Canada expects that by 2010 the oil sands will produce half of Canada’s growth in greenhouse gas emissions and 8% of the country’s total greenhouse gas emissions. The longer-term picture is even more striking, says Dyer. “Even under government predictions, oil sands emissions will triple by 2020. This is inconsistent with meaningful action on climate change. [Oil] sands . . . are almost single-handedly taking us in the opposite direction of [the Kyoto Protocol].”
For 2005 Environment Canada estimated that industry and resource extraction accounted for 8% of deforestation in Canada, affecting less than 0.02% of the country's forests. Although deforestation can have adverse ecologic consequences, the greater greenhouse gas impact of oil sands development comes from the energy used to extract and refine the bitumen.(Source: <a href='' class='external text' title='' rel='nofollow'>NIEHS</a>; Credit: Louis Helbig)

For 2005 Environment Canada estimated that industry and resource extraction accounted for 8% of deforestation in Canada, affecting less than 0.02% of the country's forests. Although deforestation can have adverse ecologic consequences, the greater greenhouse gas impact of oil sands development comes from the energy used to extract and refine the bitumen.(Source: NIEHS; Credit: Louis Helbig)

 Chris Bourdeau, a spokesperson for Alberta Environment, says this is an unfair characterization of the impact of oil sands. Oil sands produced 33 metric megatons (Mt) of greenhouse gas emissions in 2006, he says. Canada’s Kyoto commitment is to reduce emissions to 6% below 1990 levels. Canadian emissions in 1990 were 594 Mt, whereas emissions in 2006 were 721 Mt. “Canada is 163 Mt over its Kyoto target,” he says. “Oil sands, with 33 Mt of total emissions, are not single-handedly taking the country in the opposite direction—there are many factors.”
That said, the oil sands industry is being prodded to reduce energy use by Alberta’s Specified Gas Emitters Regulation, which requires oil sands operators and other industries that release more than 100,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year to reduce their “emissions intensity”—or CO2 equivalents per unit of product—by 12% compared with a baseline measured during 2003–2005. “Alberta is the only jurisdiction in North America to have a regulatory system in place that creates mandatory emission reductions,” says Bourdeau.
Industries that cannot make the reduction can buy offsets, such as paying for reforestation inside Alberta or contributing Can$15 per metric ton of CO2 equivalent to the province’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Fund. Bourdeau says this program, in its first half-year of operation, resulted in a total reduction of 2.6 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent. Although the 12% reduction is a one-time cut, companies must pay annually for offsets or the technology fund if they cannot make the reduction. [For more information on carbon offsets, see “Carbon Offsets: Growing Pains in a Growing Market,” EHP 117:A62–A68 (2009).]
Carbon capture and storage (CCS), in which CO2 would be transferred to deep underground storage, is touted by oil sands advocates as the ultimate solution to greenhouse gases releases. In April 2008 the government of Alberta launched a council, led by former Syncrude president Jim Carter, to develop a roadmap for broad-scale implemention of CCS. In July 2008 the government committed Can$2 billion to support construction of “high-impact” CCS facilities starting this spring in the expectation that overall greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 5 million metric tons per year by 2015. However, although many experts believe CCS is viable in theory, it is largely untested on the scale proposed by the oil sands industry. [For more information on CCS, see “Carbon Capture and Storage: Blue-Sky Technology or Just Blowing Smoke?” EHP 115:A538–A545 (2007).]

Uncertain Future

With President Obama now in office, all sides in the oil sands issue are pondering the schedule and details on any upcoming restrictions on greenhouse gases and what those will mean for oil sands development. One possibility is that the United States will restrict import of fuels that entail extra releases of greenhouse gases.
But a complete halt to oil sands extraction is unlikely, and the price of oil could easily start to rise again. Instead of advocating a halt, most critics of oil sands development favor simply slowing or stopping expansion. “First, we want a moratorium on any new development, to stop granting new permits, new leases, and new in situ development sites,” says Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the Canada program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We think the governments in Alberta and Canada need to take stock of what has already happened to the land, the environment, and the people who live there, and try to remedy some of that harm. If they go forward, they need to figure out a way to do it that is environmentally sustainable.”

Can Nanotechnology Make Oil Sands Development Greener?

Some scientists are exploring a nanotechnologic approach to softening the environmental footprint of oil sands development. Understanding at the nanoscale how the molecules of heavy bitumen clump together could help reduce the industry’s thirst for fresh water, says Murray Gray, the Canada Research Chair in Oil Sands Upgrading at the University of Alberta. “If we understand better how oil behaves at the molecular scale, we might find solvents or detergents that separate the oil [from its native matrix of clay and sand].” Gray says the viscosity of bitumen results from strong attachment between nearby molecules. He suggests that nanoscale adsorbents specifically designed to interrupt the association between the molecules might be able to inhibit the unwanted clumping. He adds that water-free processes would also eliminate the need for tailings ponds, reduce the use of fresh water, and dramatically speed up the process of reclaiming land that otherwise would be devoted to tailings ponds.
Sergio Kapusta, chief scientist for materials at Shell, says nanotechnology might benefit oil sands development in other ways. “Nanoscale filters might be used to remove salt, heavy metals, and other impurities from tailings water,” he says. “In future this could help make extraction more efficient and reduce water consumption.” Kapusta also points to “nanobubbles”—tiny bubbles of air that attach to bitumen and help it to float on water—as a further way to help improve bitumen recovery rates

David J. Tenenbaum


Environmental Health Perspectives (Lead Author);Sidney Draggan (Topic Editor) "Oil sands development". In: Encyclopedia of Earth. Eds. Cutler J. Cleveland (Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment). [First published in the Encyclopedia of Earth July 6, 2009; Last revised Date December 7, 2010; Retrieved April 20, 2012 <>

An Open Letter to President Obama(Keystone Pipeline)

I was very impressed with this letter. It was a comment on an article I had read and it pretty much sumes up the way I feel.  An article that I have posted talks about the other pipelines that are found in that same area. If so why do we need another pipeline, why not tap into one that exists. We have done so much harm to the earth, as it is, do we need to kill it and our chances for survival.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Dear President Obama:

During your election campaign in 2008, you spoke eloquently about the need for a "new energy future," one unencumbered by addiction to foreign oil and marked by investment in "alternative" sources of energy, such as solar power, wind turbines, geothermal power and wave generation. You vowed that, if elected President, you would push strongly for investment in these areas. You reiterated this point again in the powerful State of the Union address that you delivered in 2010.
Throughout your Presidency, you have repeatedly claimed that, although fossil fuels and nuclear power are, in your view, parts of the energy picture for the foreseeable future, you are a strong believer in and advocate for the development of energy alternatives, not only in order to decrease America's dependence on foreign oil, and not just because of the enormous potential for jobs and economic growth that investment in the alternative energy sector could provide, but also because of the necessity of reducing, immediately and drastically, the amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere by the combustion of fossil fuels. Global warming is an urgent problem of global proportions, as you argued during your election campaign, and as you have repeated at times during your presidency. Your action requiring American car manufacturers to raise fuel efficiency standards is an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the problem and a significant move in the right direction.
That brings me to the Keystone XL pipeline for transporting bitumen from Alberta's oil sands to Texas to be refined.
Bitumen, or "tar," is a viscous, sticky oil-like substance that has been used for centuries as an adhesive and building material, but not as oil, because it is not the same as crude oil. To be burned like oil it first needs to be mixed with lighter hydrocarbons. It is nothing like "light sweet crude," the oil in reserves in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, etc. The process of transforming bitumen into liquid fuel requires energy for steam injection and refining, a process which generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the "production" of conventional oil.
Alberta's "tar sands" contain something like 85% of the world's reserves of bitumen, an amount that equals the world's total reserves of conventional crude oil. This kind of resource has only recently become thought of as profitable. It requires huge inputs of energy and water, but as conventional crude becomes more scarce, it will undoubtedly only become more profitable to extract unconventional oil and natural gas.
The reason why we have come to this point is because we have passed the era of peak oil. That is to say, global production of conventional oil has peaked and is now on the decline. We have passed through the era of easy oil - reserves that could be tapped simply by drilling into the ground, and releasing the pressure holding the oil in place - and into the era of difficult oil. This is why we are now drilling for oil 5 miles beneath the surface of the ocean, which is what led to the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This is why the government of Canada is now so actively pursuing the extraction of oil from the Alberta Tar Sands.
But Canada has no refineries capable of transforming bitumen from the tar sands into usable liquid oil anywhere near where the resource lies, beneath Alberta's boreal forests. Hence, the Keystone XL pipeline project, to bring the bitumen to the refineries of Texas to be transformed into a product the oil companies can transport and sell.
For months, thousands of Americans of every political persuasion bombarded the White House with demands that you reject this pipeline, which would carry the oil through the Ogalalla Aquifer, the groundwater resource accessed by eight U.S. states, from South Dakota to Texas, for drinking water. The project has been opposed by Republican governors, ranchers, farmers and civilians of every kind, as well as many environmental groups. Of course, you have also been lobbied intensely by the Canadian government and by oil industry representatives, for this project to go forward.
Many breathed a huge sigh of relief when, a month ago, you declared no decision on the pipeline this year. Now, however, it seems that, thanks to your political opponents in Congress, the issue has been raised from the dead and you must, again, issue a decision on it in the near future.
When considering what decision to make, keep in mind that this project isn't just about job creation or the economy. Yes, it would create a relatively small number of short-term jobs, and yes, it would increase profits for the oil industry, which some feel convinced somehow benefits everyone else as well. But it would also create, not just temporarily, but in the long term and for the foreseeable future, a drastic increase in greenhouse gas emissions just when we need to be working hard to achieve the exact opposite.
More to the point, approval of this pipeline represents a strong and enduring commitment to the very sources of dirty energy that you so eloquently and forcefully argued against as a presidential candidate.
This is a watershed moment.
If, as many Americans have loudly and clearly demanded, you stand by your promise to veto this project, you will reinforce your commitment to a clean energy future and a definitive move away from reliance on foreign oil.
If, on the other hand, you cave to the pressure of oil industry lobbyists and political calculations, you risk not just losing the support of Americans concerned about the environment that carried you into office, but also the health of our natural resources and the balance of the global climate. Make the right choice.
Seth Needler

Professor of Environmental Science
Portland Community College
Portland, Oregon