Monday, September 13, 2010

Tar Sands Oil

A friend recently characterized President Obama as a modern day Lincoln because he is faced with a nation more divided than it has been since then end of the civil war. In the face of citizens divided right against left and a Congress at loggerheads across the aisle, Obama has succeeded in passing significant legislation just as Lincoln succeeded in quelling the revolution and managing the nation at the same time.

Whether you like him or not you must admit, as the CSA had to admit of Lincoln, that this president has a way of getting his way.

In much of this I have agreed with him, but he is about to accomplish a goal that I think is a great mistake. He will take advantage of our national addiction to petroleum to achieve bipartisan legislation by funding a new pipeline to bring tar sand oil into the U.S. from Canada as soon as he can ram it through Congress.

It won't take Lincolnesque diplomacy to do it either, because it fits in with the right wing desire to feed our appetite for cheap gasoline plus something they can point to as evidence of their bipartisan cooperation – in the face of their obstructive efforts to make this president fail. The more liberal wing sure won't fight it because they also recognize that "cheap oil at any price" has become our national motto.

We pay one of the world's lowest prices for gasoline at the pump, but ignore the fact that our government subsidizes oil well development and production so that the gasoline producers don't have to charge us the actual cost of that production. ( Even more insidious is the ecological cost involved.

The recent BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico was so graphic an example that it actually caused us to consider the wisdom of deep water drilling for, golly, almost three days! The ecological cost of tar sands extraction is even greater, but it takes place on Canadian soil not ours, so we can conveniently ignore it.

As Wikipedia puts it in their synopsis of 89 links related to greenhouse gases - "Making liquid fuels from oil sands requires energy for steam injection and refining. This process generates two to four times the amount of greenhouse gases per barrel of final product as the production of conventional oil. If combustion of the final products is included, the so-called "Well to Wheels" approach, oil sands extraction, upgrade and use emits 10 to 45% more greenhouse gases than conventional crude."

The indigenous peoples of Canada are up in arms about it, ( but we are willing to overlook the true cost of our oil as long as the price at the pump is affordable.

The ultimate cost, as with all of our polluting practices, is the destruction of the planet, but what's that compared to being able to drive anywhere we want to any time we want to?