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MN2020 - Tuesday Talk: Oil Trains vs. Oil Pipelines
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Tuesday Talk: Oil Trains vs. Oil Pipelines

February 18, 2014 By John Van Hecke, Publisher

With petroleum production in the Bakken Shale booming, transporting oil and gas is stretching Minnesota’s rail capacity, putting people and property in danger.

The rail industry argues that it can handle the increase at lower cost, more safely and faster than constructing new pipelines such as the proposed Keystone project. Left unsaid, are the very real concerns about public return on public investment in public oil transportation infrastructure. Expanding oil production is outpacing transport capacity.

This is a tough choice because eventually we want to limit our need for these fuels, but what should we do in the meantime?

Do we build more pipelines? Do we double or even triple rail facilities? Who pays for what? And how?

Join IATP’s Dale Wiehoff, from 8-9:30am for a discussion about the challenges facing state public policy makers on this issue.

 

Post your comments or questions in the box below, scroll down to see the ongoing conversation, and use "refresh" to see new comments.

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46 Comments:

  • Alexandra Klass says:

    February 18, 2014 at 7:46 am

    I am a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School and a Resident Scholar at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. The questions raised by today’s issue must be addressed by policymakers both quickly and comprehensively. It is certainly true that both pipelines and rail transport of oil pose risks to human health and the environment. However, because much of the rail build-out can take place on existing tracks using existing tanker cars, there is not necessarily a trigger for environmental review or implementation of new safety features to minimize these risks. This stands in contrast to the federal and state oversight of oil pipeline safety and routing when a new pipeline is proposed. As a result, to the extent the nation continues to rely heavily on oil for its energy uses, pipeline expansion may be safer and more effective as the primary means of oil transportation.

  • Mike C says:

    February 18, 2014 at 8:44 am

    Build the pipeline.

    This is such a no Brainer.

    • Dale Wiehoff says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Thanks, Mike. In connection to tar sands oil, what do you say to the concerns about increased green house gases contributing to climate change?

  • Dale Wiehoff says:

    February 18, 2014 at 8:53 am

    Good morning. I’m Dale Wiehoff with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. I will be moderating our MN2020 discussion on Oil Trains vs Oil Pipelines.

    I became interested in the challenges faced by the region’s rail infrastructure while researching the impact of frack sand mining on Driftless Area of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Heavy demands are being placed on our national rail infrastructure in response to the complete supply chain of activities related to energy production. The same is true for pipelines, inland barge and truck traffic. The strain on the infrastructure grows as the volume increases. Derailments of oil tankers and petroleum pipeline leaks are becoming common place in the news. Minnesota finds itself at “ground zero for oil shipments.” I’m looking forward to our discussion and learning what you think can and should be done. 

  • Joe says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Dale, thanks for joining us. You had mentioned the costly upgrades our rail infrastructure will need to transport oil efficient and safely, how much money are we looking at?

    • Dale Wiehoff says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:08 am

      Hi Joe. It is hard discuss the issue of petroleum transport by just comparing one method of moving oil to another. The industry is entirely integrated and infrastructure upgrades need to happen along the entire supply chain. Oil and Gas weekly gave this estimate of infrastructure costs estimates on just frack gas and oil:

      Billions of dollars will be needed to build additional pipelines, terminals, and storage facilities to bring new US oil and natural gas resources to market, experts said on May 21 during Deloitte LLP’s 2012 Washington Energy Conference. Outlays of $10-20 billion/year could be required over the next 20 years to build new systems and facilities as well as modify existing ones, suggested Curt Launer, managing director of natural resources in Deutsche Bank’s Corporate Finance Coverage Group.

  • Deborah Nelson says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:03 am

    If understanding of global climate change was mandated to all. And we all knew the risks to all life on this planet….I think that the two scenarios would be off the table. North Dakota is number one in another resource, wind. Let’s be the Saudi Arabia of America. The jobs, infrastructure would be clean and lead us and the world into a new clean energy world.

    • Dale Wiehoff says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:11 am

      While alternatives are being developed what should be done to protect communities from spills, fires and polluted waterways?

      • Deborah Nelson says:

        February 18, 2014 at 9:45 am

        The fossil fuel companies should spend $ on protections. Should pay taxes to support regulatory government and tribal government inspections. Clean ups would be cost of doing the business. A carbon tax is the best answer to make dirty shale oil and tar sands oil too hefty a price to pay.

  • kevin terrell says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:18 am

    why is the cost even a question here? nobody is asking for public funding for anything. private interests are standing by, waiting to invest the billion of dollars needed to make this happen. we just need to set the proper parameters and let the market decide. if the rail industry wants to up its capabilities in a way that meets the safety standards we reasonably set, why not just say go?

    and btw, millions of gallons of dangerous chemicals already pass by your house on trains today, and the industry has handled it. oil will be no different.

    • Dale Wiehoff says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:35 am

      Thanks, Kevin. One reason we are having this conversation is that compared to very recent times, we are experiencing a tsunami of oil passing through the state. Given that current oversight laws and preparedness plans have done little to stop the hundreds of leaks and derailments, it becomes a matter involving more than the petroleum and transportation industries. When the trains go off the tracks and the pipelines split open, it is the public that ends up bearing the burden of fires, ill health, polluted water and risk to life.

      • Kevin Terrell says:

        February 18, 2014 at 9:38 am

        I agree on paying for the impact of transportation (e.g. fires) - I took your question to be focused on who will pay for the infrastructure itself.

        • Dale Wiehoff says:

          February 18, 2014 at 9:54 am

          Good point, Kevin. In a another one of my missives, I talked about how it is hard to do a comparison of one method of transport to another because it is an entirely integrated system. What is not being addressed more broadly is why, as part of our national energy policy, are we rushing to make any of these investments? We know that they contribute to increase greenhouse gases as well as posing other risks to communities. Much of the domestic oil is going to the export market. Maybe we would benefit by stepping back from business as usual and give careful consideration to what it is we want long-term and how we’ll get there. That could very well call for better, safer and more rail and pipelines, but leaving these decisions to the oil companies is what we’ve done too long.

        • Dale Wiehoff says:

          February 18, 2014 at 10:25 am

          We can expect to have a lot more discussion on pipeline vs rail transport of oil, and no doubt truck and barge transport as well. Here is a more developed description of the Oil Spill Defense Act that is likely to be the focus of many of our future discussions.

          The Oil Spill Defense Act (OSDA) amends Minnesota Statutes Chapter 115E, the state’s current unfunded oil spill response planning statute.  OSDA re-writes this law to:

          • Require the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency to issue planning, equipment and personnel standards that go beyond current weak federal railroad and pipeline spill response standards, including detailed requirements for equipment, personnel and response times.

          • Authorize a fee on railroad and pipeline companies of 1/100th of a penny per gallon of crude oil transported into the state to support first responders, pay for state oversight, and ensure that Minnesota’s taxpayers are not subsidizing the oil industry by using tax dollars to prepare for and respond to oil spills.

          • Require county-level planning in all counties crossed by major railroad lines and pipelines that transport crude oil. 

          • Allow citizen access to key information about spill response planning, because community involvement makes all of us safer.

          • Require that emergency planners identify facilities with vulnerable people, such as school children, the elderly, the sick, and the disabled, as well as critical and unique natural resources.

          • Mandate state spill response standards for Lake Superior before large tankers begin operations.

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 18, 2014 at 11:15 am

      I don’t totally agree Kevin.  The oil industry is standing by to invest and do it, but only to a predetermined amount.  Remember, Tar Sands oil is only going to replace Venezuelan crude.  Venezuelan crude is more expensive.  I understand about $16/barrel.  So, at a million barrels a day, that’s $16 million a day.  However, if transportation and other costs are elevated to higher than that differential, Tar Sands end up not viable.  Tar Sands are now only viable because of the high oil prices.  And why are they so high, considering the huge additional volume mined?  There is market manipulation by oil companies and Wall Street.

      Use of Tar Sands will be a disaster for our climate.  It’s cost should be prohibitive, considering it’s potential for environmental disaster.

  • Dale Wiehoff says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:19 am

    MN 350 with the help of Rep. Frank Horenstein and Scott Dibble have proposed to update current legislation on on rail and pipeline safety with the Pipeline Defense Act. Briefly it will:

    The Oil Spill Defense Act provides improved standards and financial resources for preparation for and response to oil spills by pipelines and railroads, and an option to regulate crude oil tankers if they operate on Lake Superior.  It also provides resources for local emergency responders.  Funding for this program would come from a 1/100th of a penny-per-gallon fee on crude oil transported by large pipelines and unit trains through the state.

    Do participants think this will help improve safety and oversight?

    • Nicole Simms says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:41 am

      Hi Dale. Do you know how that figure was decided on? Is there a reason it couldn’t be higher?

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 19, 2014 at 11:09 am

      I hear you Dale.  However, there are many very specially written oil industry laws allowing oil companies to dodge liability for spills.  The BP oil spill in the Gulf is a case in point.  BP liability was capped and the Government had to foot a good part of the costs for the mess.  In addition, small oil companies have many times declared bankruptcy to evade financial responsibility for the cleanup.  It will be hard to get oil companies to assume full responsibility for their messes considering the horrendous amount of corruption in our Government.  Big oil, I believe, is the largest lobbying spender.

      This is a problem, compounding all others…CORRUPTION!  There must be too much money in oil.  The industry has too much money to buy our Government.

  • Joe says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Alexandra Klass, the U Law School Professor and Resident Scholar at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, couldn’t stay with us for the entire conversation, but she wanted to let us know more about the pros and cons of both pipeline and rail:

    Many experts consider oil transport by rail less safe (it is also more expensive) than by pipeline. Nevertheless, rail has been lauded as a flexible transportation option for crude oil and petroleum products because rail infrastructure is already widespread throughout the United States, its use does not require long-term shipping commitments by producers, and there are fewer political obstructions to its use as compared with pipeline development.

    • Nicole Simms says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:40 am

      I have also read that rail features shorter transit times between point-of-origin and final destination, and that while spills associated with rail transport do tend to be more frequent, pipeline spill volumes tend to be higher.

      • Dan Conner says:

        February 18, 2014 at 11:06 am

        I think rail oil spill data is largely moot.  Using that data for future decisions would presume nothing can be done to improve rail lines.  Generally, rail lines in the US are in a horrible state of repair.  there are numerous speed restrictions due to rial quality.  If high volumes of oil are to be shipped, then standards for rail lines need to be drastically boosted.  Also, a mechanism for review and enforcement of those standards needs to be developed.  Make rail safe.  Also, have railroads finance far superior disaster preparedness.  Stationing fire fighting equipment and oil spill abatement materials is necessary.  We can make things better, but the railraods will have to invest plenty.  Otherwise, don’t certify them for shipment of crude.

  • Nicole Simms says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Good morning. I’m a Fellow at MN2020.  There are pros and cons for both rail and pipeline transport; neither is ideal, nor is our continued dependence on oil, but at this time, oil is going to be extracted no matter what method is used to transport it. Investing in railway expansion would at least result in infrastructural improvements that can still serve us if we begin to move away from oil. I worry that committing to the pipeline expansion will only further entrench our dependence on oil.

    • Linda Littrell says:

      February 18, 2014 at 10:11 am

      It is a misconception that the oil will be extracted regardless of the method used to transport it.  Tar sands oil is a very inefficient, a costly, not to mention, dirty form of fossil fuel.  Mining it becomes an uneconomical prospect if prices for shipping rise too steeply.  Therefore, it stays IN THE GROUND where it belongs, rather than creating ecological sacrifice areas where air, and water pollution threaten human health and wildlife populations.  Have you seen the blasted, devastated landscapes that result from mining of tar sands?  The method used is fracking which takes huge amounts of precious water that then becomes polluted beyond remediation.  We, as a culture, must move away from our profligate, hugely wasteful energy habits.  We can to this.

      • Nicole Simms says:

        February 18, 2014 at 10:21 am

        Hi Linda. I agree with you completely about the need to move away from oil - especially in light of the environmental devastation associated with the extraction of tar sands oil. I’m just not as optimistic that shipping costs will render its extraction uneconomical given our pervasive dependence on oil and the profits that stand to be made from its extraction. The rhetoric around the importance of tapping into domestic oil sources is very strong, and is used to circumvent true consideration of the ecological sacrifices it generates. I often wonder what needs to happen to induce the kind of cultural shift you outline.

        • Linda Littrell says:

          February 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

          Nicole.  Every so often one sees some wall street analyst musing about how fossil fuels may no longer be a good long-term investment, which I am sure brings waves of anxiety to those that have captured this golden-egg laying goose.  It is so horrendously profitable that they are willing to sacrifice anything, particularly as costs are externalized to taxpayers and citizens that live along railroad and pipeline thoroughfares. Divestment by universities and retirement systems is gathering momentum.  As Secretary Kerry has just reiterated, [paraphrased] “Climate change represents the most threatening of all potentials for mass destruction.”

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 18, 2014 at 10:59 am

      Nicole, I agree with you, except when it comes to “...oil is going to be extracted no matter what method is used to transport it.”  I think that is what oil companies have been telling us, but they are the same people who said only small amounts were being leaked from the BP Gulf oil spill.  They will tell us anything.  Tar Sands oil extraction is only dependent on cost.  If the cost of mining tar sands oil is prohibitive it will end up staying in the ground.  It isn’t as if it is the only oil available.  We are using Venezuelan crude now, that will stop when Tar Sands oil is linked to the Koch refinery in Texas.

      To compound the cost of Tar Sands oil, stringent safety and rail line standards should be legislated to eliminate oil spills via rail.  Then, an enforcement mechanism should be put into place.  I think history justifies that.  Maybe a whole new dedicated rail line should be built?  Anyway, the cost of transportation of this crude oil could be drastically increased, adding to Tar Sands cost.  Maybe then, the Koch brothers will again import the Venezuelan oil?

      Also, we haven’t even dealt with the Native American reservation lands.  At this time Native Americans are adamant about stopping the Tar Sands oil.

      • Alexandra Klass says:

        February 18, 2014 at 11:23 am

        I think it is important to distinguish between the debates over transporting tar sands oil from Canada and transporting new U.S. oil resources from hydraulic fracturing operations in North Dakota and Texas. With regard to tar sands oil, there are additional, very serious environmental concerns associated with the extraction of that resource that are not present with hydraulic fracturing. So it is possible to oppose any infrastructure (i.e., Keystone XL or rail buildout) that would facilitate the development of the tar sands while not taking the same position with regard to domestic sources of oil produced by hydraulic fracturing. Certainly I think we need more federal and state regulation of the fracking process itself as well as the safe transportation of that oil. But one can support that type of regulation while still working to oppose anything that facilitates production and transport of tar sands oil. I often hear people equate the production and transportation of both sets of resources and do not think that is wise.

  • Joe says:

    February 18, 2014 at 9:39 am

    In case you missed Conrad’s blog on this issue, transporting oil by rail is actually disrupting passenger train service in parts of ND:
    “According to an Amtrak service alert, its Empire Builder trains will have “significant delays along the route due to freight train interference” through at least the end of February. BNSF Railway, from which Amtrak leases track rights, has ordered westbound Empire Builder trains to detour from Fargo to Minot, N.D., missing stops at Grand Forks, Devils Lake and Rugby. Amtrak is filling the gaps with bus service.”
    http://www.mn2020hindsight.org/view/what-comes-first

    • Nicole Simms says:

      February 18, 2014 at 9:58 am

      This situation is obviously not acceptable long-term. Rail capacity needs to be expanded if we are going to continue to use it to transport oil. I’ve read that the primary new infrastructure required for rail to expand/enter new markets is transloading terminals - these can be constructed in 12-18 months. But who would pay for this?

  • Dan Conner says:

    February 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

    I am really not in favor of developing the Tar Sands fields in Canada.  It will desecrate thousands of square miles of pristine forest.  Most important, Tar Sands oil is by far, the dirtiest oil in the world.  In addition, I’ve talked to ranchers in Nebraska.  TransCanada proposes to lay the Keystone XL pipeline through the sand dunes area of the State, where the water table is many times less than 2 feet under the ground.  This means the pipeline will be laid IN underground water used by the ranchers to water their livestock.  This area of Nebraska is a major beef producer in our country.  These ranchers have been on that land for many generations.  They really don’t want the pipeline and they will fight it.  Also, the pipeline does not meet the requirement for exercising eminent domain.  One, TransCanada is a foreign company, and two, the pipeline does not fulfill the requirement to justify eminent domain. 

    If the pipeline is not built, the oil company fall back position will be rail.  Shipping by rail can be improved by requiring railroads shipping the oil to upgrade their rail lines to the safest standard possible.  Also, an ongoing rail line inspection can be instituted to be sure lines are in top shape.  Concrete ties should be used along with improving the rail beds.  Fire fighting equipment should be upgraded in strategic towns along the way to more timely and better fight fires caused in the spills.  However, it will cost money.  Bust doesn’t that mean jobs?  If railroads want the business, then they must invest.

    While spills are never good.  I prefer on ground spills, compared to spills that occur in the aquifers or other underground water supplies.

    What angers me the most about the Keystone XL, is that a sizable interest in the Canadian oil fields is owned by the Koch brothers.  They already get an equivalent supply of refinery oil from Venezuela.  That is also heavy crude.  However, the Venezuelan crude is significantly more expensive.  I understand about $16/barrel more than Tar Sands.  The proposed refining (Koch refinery) of the Tar Sands oil will only be shipped to China as #4 diesel fuel.  That fuel can not be consumed in the US.  Only a small amount will be consumed in the US.  Then, the oil from Venezuela will be terminated.  So the oil is not about strategic supplies. 

    The furor over Canadian Tar Sands is about higher profitability for the Koch brothers, not because of any strategic need.  In fact, an expected consequence of the Keystone pipeline is that gasoline prices will actually increase in the Midwest.  Crude currently being routed to the Midwest for refining, will be rerouted to carry Tar Sands oil to the Texas Gulf Coast for the Koch refineries.  Canadian Tar Sands actually means higher prices for the Midwest.  Can you believe that?  A recorded speech of Charles Koch revealed this gas price increase plan.  The Koch’s felt gasoline prices were too cheap in the Midwest anyway.  Nice guys.

    The Keystone XL is NOT a plan to bring any additional crude oil into our country, just CHEAPER (more profitable) crude.  The Koch brothers want to make more money.  Now, what do the American people get out of this?  NOTHING!  Oh, of course, we’ll get the added risk of oil spills.  TransCanada already has hundreds of crude oil spills in recent years.  To make matters worse, the Tar Sands oil really isn’t even oil.  It is bitumin.  It hasn’t fully developed into oil.  In order to make the thick oil flow many, extremely toxic, corrosive, and poisonous chemicals are mixed with it.  It is also heated to make it thinner.  Two recent Tar Sands spills occurred in Mayflower, AR, and Kalamazoo MI.  Cleanup is still underway in Kalamazoo, after nearly 4 years.  The spill has irreparably damaged the Kalamazoo River.

    The Keystone Pipeline is a LOSE, LOSE, LOSE for the American people and only a WIN, WIN, WIN for the Koch brothers.  It does not bother Koch Industries one bit to endanger people’s lives so they may profit.

    I say to hell with more development of fossil fuels.  Use the subsidies and tax benefits for green energy instead.  Where is the American spirit to be at the cutting edge of energy technology and to lead the world.  Continuing oil consumption is all about the past.

    • Sue B. says:

      February 18, 2014 at 1:35 pm

      Thank you, Dan Connor, for your your comment.  I found it more complete and informative than just about anything I have read on the topic of the Keystone XL pipeline.  It should be submitted to the StarTrib and/or other major newspapers and media outlets as an OpEd piece, because it gives a more complete picture of what this pipeline will, and will not do, in easy-to-understand language.

      • Dan Conner says:

        February 18, 2014 at 2:02 pm

        Thank you Sue B.

  • Mike Downing says:

    February 18, 2014 at 11:03 am

    Private enterprise will pay for the Keystone pipeline because it makes economic sense to do so. Build the Keystone pipeline to reduce the current railroad hazard, create jobs, support the pipefitters union, block the shipping of Canadian oil to China move closer to our Canadian ally in order for North America becoming more energy independent.

    The only question is if the Canadian oil is shipped to the US or to China.

    • tony says:

      February 18, 2014 at 11:41 am

      The Keystone XL pipeline is to ship tar sand oil to ports on the Gulf coast for overseas shipment, NOT for our use. We already have a pipeline for that plus the refinery in St. Paul Park is beefing up their abilities to handle tar sand crude. The oil minister in Canada has said that if we build the Keystone pipeline, that prices to the USA will go up not down. Plus, why did Canada turn down a chance to build a pipeline to the west thru Canada???

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 18, 2014 at 12:44 pm

      If is reported there will be about 3,000 employees used for a few months to build the pipeline, then, there will only be about 50 permanent employees used after the pipeline is completed.  There would actually be more permanent employees used for shipping the oil via railroad.  As far as the hazared is concerned, that can be mitigated with more stringent safety and construction standards for railways.

      Another little discussed safety issue is that pipeline spills are usually far far larger than rail spills.  Also, there has been over 1,000 pipleine spills in the since 2000.  Hardly a safe distribution method.  Many of those spills have been disastrous.

      The Tar Sands oil will be refined in Texas at a tax free refinery.  This means there will be no tax revenue gained by the US.  The oil will mostly be #4 diesel, which can’t be consumed in the US.  I think it should be remembered, the Canadian crude is so crude that it is very difficult to refine it to a quality of fuel that can be burned in the US.  Plus, the Canadianb Crude is extremely hard on refinery equipment due to its corrosive nature. 

      Without a doubt, the pipeline will shortly leak after construction ends.  The oil’s corrosive nature, together with the fact that it still contains gritty sand to wear the pipeline out, means shipping the oil by pipeline to be far too dangerous.  If it does happen, the Congress should lift whatever legislated liability limits the Koch brothers have.  They should be responsible for their own messes…or isn’t that what they insist the rest of us assume?

      It is bizarre to think we could allow the transport of the most polluting and toxic oil in the world across the entire country, with Americans and the environment jeopardized by a super toxic, corrosive and poisonous witches brew.  Couple that with the fact that these corrupt oil companies have immunized themselves from much liability, by buying our Congress.  And what do Americans get for all this risk?  NOTHING, including any tax revenue.

      It’s a sweet game constructed by the Koch brothers concocted to risk our country for a profit.  If has been calculated they expect a $100 billion profit from this oil, at the public expense.

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 19, 2014 at 10:51 am

      I think history shows that the oil industry has done almost nothing without some kind of public subsidy, allowance, special tax break, or legal preference.  It is one of the most subsidized industries in the country.  So, to say “private enterprise” will pay is incorrect and Pollyannish.

  • Wendy Fassett says:

    February 18, 2014 at 11:08 am

    It seems to me that building more pipelines is the shortsighted option—why build a permanent infrastructure for a product that we all need to be drastically phasing out for the survival of the planet?  What would the pipelines be used for later?  At least if you build more rail lines, you have the potential for an expansion of public transit via train (although maybe the oil rail lines don’t run the routes the passenger trains would?).  In any event, we should be drastically cutting back our demand for fossil fuel, not expanding the infrastructure to allow production and transport of more and more of it!

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 19, 2014 at 10:46 am

      Agreed Wendy

  • Dan Conner says:

    February 18, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Here’s the real purpose of Canadian Tar Sands oil:

    http://ecowatch.com/2013/10/20/koch-brothers-100-billion-profit-keystone-xl-pipeline-built/

    The Koch brothers don’t give a tinker’s damn about our climate, environment, or people’s health.  They only care about $$$$.  This is but one article pointing in that direction.

  • Dan Conner says:

    February 18, 2014 at 11:38 am

    Here’s more information about the Canadian Tar Sands and the Koch brothers:

    http://kochcash.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Embargo_Report.pdf

    We must stop people who profit at the destruction of our planet.  They are a malignant parasite on society.

  • dsmith says:

    February 18, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    While everyone here is discussing the dynamics of the Keystone XL pipeline and the Alberta tar sands, we already have tar sands oil, dilbit, traversing our state in Enbridge’s Alberta Clipper pipeline crossing the northern part of the state. The same tar sands oil spilled into the Kalamazoo River watershed in MIchigan. Enbridge has applied to the PUC to build another pipeline, the Sandpiper, across northern Minnesota.

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 19, 2014 at 10:43 am

      DSmith, you are right.  The Enbridge pipeline (Alberta Clipper), going through Northern Minnesota, is scheduled to carry a larger volume of Tar Sands oil than the Keystone XL pipeline.  The devastating thing is the Kalamazoo River, where that pipeline previously leaked has been permanently damaged.  The oil spill mess is still being cleared up 4 years later.  A glaring difference between dilbit and regular oil, is that dilbit sinks, instead of floating on top.  This makes cleanup almost impossible.  I don’t know if people are aware, but the Alberta Clipper already crosses the Great Lakes.  Now, how catastrophic would a Tar Sands oil spill be if it happened in the Great Lakes.  Given time, it will.

  • William Pappas says:

    February 19, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Expanding the freight capabilities of rail transport is not altogether a bad thing.  However, once oil is replaced as a fuel or the Bakken shale runs dry if these lines can’t be used for either expanded freight or passenger trains then the cost, sure to be underwritten in some way by public subsidy, is not worth it to ordinary citizens.  These fields prolong reliance on a fuel that comes with immense common cost to all.  Climate degredation is nearly matched by the health implications of increasing the use of fossil fuel burning.  In the Midwest we are especially impacted by the geographics of a pipeline.  That infrastructure will wisk oil to refineries on the Gulf for import to world markets reducing the supply glut we have enjoyed in Minnesota and surroudning states that has helped reduce the cost of gas in our area.  This is a horrendous choice: the oil fields have been found and somehow the product will be moved which leads to bad alternatives.  The best outcome of these worries would be to develope quickly alternative clean fuels that put downward pressure on oil prices to the point that production in the Baaken Fields is no longer feasible.

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 19, 2014 at 10:45 am

      Agreed Mr. Pappas

  • Joan Tangen says:

    February 19, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    First I think it should all be left in the ground.  If it is going to be transported some rules.  Not through urban areas. Rails must be inspected and updated.  Tanker cars must be double walled. Both the railroad and the oil company shipping must post a bond and be responsible for the clean up.  The citizens of Minnesota must not pay for any clean up.

    • Dan Conner says:

      February 20, 2014 at 6:08 pm

      Agreed Joan.