Driving on Oily Sands: The Future of the American Dream

November 15, 2011 § 1 Comment

We live in an America that primarily runs on dirty fuel. We find ourselves floundering in an economy reliant on the acquisition of expensive commodities. We drive our gas guzzling SUV’s and commute extensive distances, without even considering the energy needed to make that single trip. Often, we overlook the cost of the very resources we rely most heavily; most of which are non-renewable. The time to reconsider the future of American ethics and energy is HERE & NOW.

An Oily History

Alberta Tar Sands Canada

Alberta (Tar) Sands, Canada

On February 9th, 2005, a corporation known as TransCanada proposed a plan to construct a 1700 mile underground oil pipeline. This pipeline would cross 6 states (Kansas, Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas), several major rivers and a critical Aquifer. It would allow U.S. BIG oil to purchase and pump low grade crude oil from Alberta (tar sands), Canada to Texas refineries along the Gulf Coast. Russ Girling, President and CEO of TransCanada, claims construction of the pipeline will alleviate some of America’s interactions with unfriendly oil controllers in the Middle East. These claims are unlikely since the oil produced from “strip-mining” is of such low quality. The 500,000 barrels a day of cheap oil will most likely be resold to oversees markets, making strained relationships with the Middle East still necessary.

The Bigger (Oil) Picture

The Intercontinental Exchange (ICE) is the primary trading floor upon which all oil transactions are traded. ICE is owned by big oil companies and big banks and is not at all regulated by the U.S. government. In April 2010, ICE acquired control over Climate Exchange (CLE) which operates the European CLimate Exchange (ECX) and the Climate Futures Exchange (CCFE). That same year the Chicago CLimate Exchange (CCX) crashed. It was the only voluntary, legally binding greenhouse gas trading and carbon “offset” project in North America and Brazil. In short, American oil companies and big banks will answer to no one regarding their ecological decisions. To top it all off, the world’s six largest publicly traded oil companies reported a combined $38.1 billion in first-quarter profits. That’s a pretty huge profit for such a craptastic economy?!

TransCanadian Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

The projected cost of the Keystone XL Canada to Gulf extension was $7 Billion. The project is said to add $20 Billion to U.S. economy. However, by the year 2020, oil-sands operators and their partners will have invested more than  $100 Billion making this pipe dream come true. The construction and manufacturing of the pipeline was projected to create 20,000 permanent U.S. jobs – permanent because America’s reliance on fossil fuels  will increase due to this new “reliable” and “affordable” energy source. Don’t get too excited! The gasoline prices are not expected to see much relief; resting right around $3.90-4.10/Gal.

Further Reading: Tyranny of Oil BY Antonia Juhasz

Don’t Drink the Water

Nebraska Aquifer

Pipeline Protestors

One of the most frightening concerns regarding the pipeline was the initial decision to navigate it directly through a portion of Nebraska where lies the Ogallala Aquifer. This source of water provides drinking and agricultural water to over 2 Million people across 8 states. The Sierra Club reported the pipeline would “ONLY leak once every seven to eleven years.” But they neglected to include the pipeline’s pumping stations, which have already sustained 11 reported spills in their first year of operation.” The question was not IF the drinking and irrigation water-table would be contaminated but WHEN.

TransCanada, as of today, will be forced to re-direct their route around the Sandhills area of Nebraska (where the aquifer lies). President Obama delayed the decision of a permit to go forward, given all other areas of re-routing had been discussed. The new route has not been established as of yet, but it is said to require 30-40 additional miles of pipeline and one more pumping station. State department officials say the final decision and alternative route could take another 12-18months to determine. A decision is said to be made following the next Presidential election. Truth be told, if U.S. does not exploit Canada’s Tar Sands, Asian markets will.

An Ethical Decision

Keep the American Dream Alive

A member of the Occupy Wall Street movement shows his sign as he protests on 5th Avenue while marching through the New York against economic inequality. Photograph: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

This conversation (however lengthy it has been) is about more than just oil and BIG banks. It’s about preserving the core values that are nestled inside that great package we call “The American Dream”. It’s about teaching our children the important things in life; the value of a dollar, the importance of good work ethic and the general sense between Right and Wrong. The future of this country (much like the past) will be grounded in the morals and standards that we set forth today.  Our strategy as a people should not be to build, drill, & take all in our power. Instead, we need to become a culture that empowers youthful innovative leaders to be responsible, teaches respect for people, and sustains on renewable resources. It’s time to build a new American Dream!

“A long habit of not thinking

a thing is wrong

gives it a superficial appearrance

of being right.”

~Thomas Paine


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