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Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipeline
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Author:  frozentripper [ January 25th, 2013, 9:39 am ]
Post subject:  Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipeline

Sheesh, my beer is at risk. Fracking to the rescue.

Keystone XL prompts ‘unprecedented’ Sierra Club decision to break U.S. law

By Randy Boswell, Postmedia News

January 23, 2013

It bills itself as “America’s largest and most influential grassroots organization.” And the 121-year-old Sierra Club, founded by the famed 19th-century California conservationist John Muir, is also the world’s prototype environmental group, born out of battles to save the colossal Pacific Coast redwoods and create America’s earliest national parks.

Now, in what’s being described as an “unprecedented” moment in an organizational history that encompasses landmark fights to protect the Grand Canyon, block nuclear power projects and preserve millions of hectares of pristine wilderness, the Sierra Club has formally decided to engage in its first-ever act of civil disobedience in a bid to stop one of Canada’s biggest economic development projects: TransCanada Corp.’s construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline to pump oil-sands petroleum from Alberta to refineries in the U.S.

“For civil disobedience to be justified, something must be so wrong that it compels the strongest defensible protest,” Michael Brune, Sierra Club’s San Francisco-based executive director, announced Tuesday following a meeting of the group’s board of directors to consider the “one-time use” of illegal action to oppose Keystone XL, the proposed conduit for what club president Allison Chin called “the dirtiest oil on Earth.”

“We are watching a global crisis unfold before our eyes, and to stand aside and let it happen – even though we know how to stop it – would be unconscionable,” added Brune.

Brune told Postmedia News the club’s decision reflected a belief that U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders “need a wake-up call” about the seriousness of the climate-change threat to the planet and the need for action, especially in a year of “record droughts, record wildfires and unprecedented storms” in the United States.

“To expand the tar sands takes us rapidly in the opposite direction,” he said.

Obama, who will make the ultimate decision on the fate of the pipeline after Nebraska’s governor, Dave Heineman, announced his state’s approval this week of a new route for Keystone XL, is the chief target of the planned Sierra Club protest next month.

Details of the action are being closely guarded to preserve the “element of surprise,” the club’s national spokesperson, Maggie Kao, told Postmedia News. She would only say the planned act of civil disobedience, to be organized in collaboration with the U.S.-based climate-change action group, would take place in February.

“You can understand the sensitivity around an action like this,” said Kao. “We can’t really divulge a lot of the details too far ahead of time.”

TransCanada president Russ Girling welcomed Nebraska’s green light for the Keystone XL project on Tuesday, insisting that the Canadian company has carefully balanced the needs of the environment with the benefits — to both the U.S. and Canada — of moving forward with the massive energy project.

“Over the past year, we have been listening to Nebraskans as we worked to identify a new route for the Keystone XL Pipeline that avoided the Sandhills, protected sensitive areas and addressed as many concerns as possible,” Girling said in a statement. “The (state’s environmental assessment) process has clearly taken into account the input from Nebraskans and today’s approval of the Nebraska re-route by Governor Heineman moves us one step closer to Americans receiving the benefits of Keystone XL – the enhanced energy security it will provide and the thousands of jobs it will create.”

She also would not unveil the exact protest action planned but said one action will happen in front of the White House Feb. 13, with 50 people involved.

A wider public demonstration, not involving civil disobedience, could involve up to 20,000 people on Feb. 17. ... z2IwicvBtO

Author:  idylwyld [ January 26th, 2013, 11:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

Chris McDermott, Canada's Federal negotiator on the Kyoto Protocol, tells a rather different story of what could have been had Canada stayed in the Protocol (from a perspective of financial benefits and cost savings, as well as international reputation). ... ouble.html

Imagine if Canada had stayed in Kyoto -- perhaps not meeting the target, but taking a best-efforts approach under the agreement. It would have implemented a cap-and-trade system that, with the use of carbon offsets and a price on carbon, would have cost-effectively driven oil-sands emissions down to conventional levels.

In this alternative history, the credibility of the argument against “dirty oil” would have been greatly diminished. Environmentalists might have left Canada alone and focused on the greater problem of China’s increasing emissions from coal-fired power generation.

As he argues, Canada did not necessarily have to become a target for international activists. It could have remained in good carbon standing (and this might have fast-tracked agreements on XL, and overall represented a cost saving for Canada). Instead, delays in approval and construction of XL costs Canada $28 billion/year (since you market your oil at a $30/barrel discount in Western Canadian Select contracts, where there is an overcapacity). Compliance costs with Kyoto would only amount to some $14 billion.

There are a number of assumptions in the article (one, that protests wouldn't have occurred had Canada stayed in Kyoto, or would have been less successful in obstructing approval and creating delays), but it was an interesting article nonetheless. I'm not sure if others had a chance to see it or not.

Author:  frozentripper [ January 27th, 2013, 9:49 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

The Harper government here in Canada got out of Kyoto because it wasn't working to reduce carbon emissions in the bigger picture, especially with the strong economic ties to America... IIRC, global carbon emissions since Kyoto have risen over 60%.

I haven't read the article yet... what the world needs is a strategy that actually works to reduce total carbon. There are those that claim carbon credits won't work since carbon emissions keep rising anyway and fossil fuel costs are simply passed on to the consumer which is politically unpopular and ultimately unsustainable. I don't know which is worse, adopting Kyoto carbon credits with deluded notions that this is making a difference while emissions rise, or rejecting Kyoto while emissions rise and being damned by the popular press.

If one must point fingers, point fingers at who the worst offenders actually are, on the ground... in America, carbon emissions from burning coal alone outweigh the oil sands' many times over. Vehicle emissions, same story. With coal, at least there is the option of replacing it easily with lower polluting natural gas, and Kyoto wasn't needed for that. The cost of solar power is dropping as time goes on and Kyoto wasn't needed for that.

And since this is all looking in hindsight, adopting and dropping Kyoto while world carbon emissions continue to rise by 60%, could the money needed to adopt Kyoto have been spent more effectively?

Author:  frozentripper [ January 28th, 2013, 11:32 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

According to Greenpeace, coal is most damaging with China and Australia being the worst offenders. Canada's oil sands are fifth worst.

Coal, not oil sands, biggest climate villain: Greenpeace

By Bob Weber, Canadian Press | Jan 23, 2013 9:26 AM ET

Canada’s oil sands are midway down the pack of the world’s climate change villains, according to a new Greenpeace report ranking potential carbon emissions from the globe’s top energy developments.

Climate enemies numbers 1 and 2 — by far — are expanding coal projects in Australia and China, the report says. The oil sands don’t appear until fifth spot, which is shared with projects in Iraq and the United States.

“Coal is the biggest threat globally,” said Keith Stewart, one of the report’s authors.

“Sometimes, we get a little parochial in Canada — we think that the whole world is entirely focused on tar sands as the biggest problem. What we’re saying here is that it’s one of the biggest problems.”

The report, using data from the International Energy Agency, looks at what it considers the top 14 growth areas for fossil fuel production over the next few years, from expanded offshore drilling in Brazil to new gas production in Africa. It was released the same day the governor of Nebraska approved an oil sands pipeline through his state and as world leaders met in Davos, Switzerland to discuss the global economy.

The report says the oil sands could be emitting 420 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year by 2020, from both production and consumption. The shale gas boom in the U.S. could add 280 million tonnes, with expanded American coal exports good for another 420 million tonnes.

New coal from Indonesia would cough up 460 million tonnes and Iraqi production growth would kick in another 420 million tonnes.

But those are wisps in a windstorm compared with China and Australia, where the report says booming coal production will create 1,400 million tonnes and 720 million tonnes of additional greenhouse gases a year by 2020.

Some of those developments are well under way. The oil sands already produce about 1.4 million barrels per day.

Some of the estimates are more speculative. The report suggests oil from the Arctic will produce 520 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020, even though offshore drilling in the region has barely begun.

The point, said Stewart, is to consider the cumulative climate change impacts of those developments before they’re fully realized.

“These are major initiatives that government and industry are trying to move forward and if we’re serious about stopping climate change we have to stop these projects as a first order of business.”

The report calculates that carbon emissions from these 14 developments would take CO2 levels right to the edge of pushing global warming past two degrees, the point at which many scientists believe catastrophic climate change would set in. And because they are large-scale, infrastructure-intensive developments, they would lock those emissions in for many years.

“Once you’ve built the project, it’s less likely to shut it down than if you choose to build something else instead,” said Stewart.

Greenpeace hopes the report will focus public attention on specific projects and create a global perspective.

“One of the pushbacks we get from industry in every single country where we work is that, ’Oh, if you stop this project it doesn’t make a difference because all these other things are happening,’ ” he said. “We’re showing … if we (stop) these major things, it will make a significant difference.”

The Greenpeace report echoes findings released last February from one of Canada’s top climate scientists. Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria calculated that coal, not oil sands, was the primary global warming threat simply because of its abundance and popularity.

“(The study is) actually reporting what the scientific community’s been saying,” said Weaver, who will run as a Green Party candidate in the next B.C. provincial election. “China’s emissions are going up 10 per cent a year — staggering emissions growth.”

Weaver points out there’s plenty of blame to go around. While China and Australia are the jewels in King Coal’s crown, the European Union is building new coal-fired power plants and Canada is ramping up coal exports through the port of Vancouver.

He agreed that governments need to start thinking about the future consequences of development today.

“If we want to deal with (climate change), we’ve got to move on it now because the type of commitments we’re making to future emissions through the infrastructure projects that are in place are going to take us to a position where the consequences are huge.” ... reenpeace/

Author:  idylwyld [ January 28th, 2013, 12:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

frozentripper wrote:
According to Greenpeace, coal is most damaging with China and Australia being the worst offenders. Canada's oil sands are fifth worst.

We really have to develop common standards (and agreed upon) assumptions when it comes down to these things. Otherwise, we're aren't producing any common facts, just competing claims.

In a new report from another DC environmental lobbying group, they make the claim that emissions from oil sands (when waste products are taken into account), are greater than coal. In particular, manufacturing and consumption of petroleum coke (which they describe as the "the carbon hiding in the tar sands").

Link to report here: ... SCREEN.pdf

Bloomberg story on topic: "Keystone’s Tar Sands Waste Said to Warm Climate More Than Coal." ... -coal.html

Opening a new front in a fight to persuade President Barack Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil sands from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, environmental groups yesterday released a study that found refining the heavy material will create 5 billion tons of petroleum coke, or petcoke, that’s used by power plants, aluminum factories and steel mills.

Compared with coal, petcoke is cheaper and releases more carbon dioxide when burned. Much of the U.S. supply is exported.

“Petcoke is the coal hiding in the tar sands,” said Lorne Stockman, research director for Oil Change International, a Washington-based advocacy group that works for a transition away from fossil fuels. Until now, “the emissions of burning petcoke has not been included in the analyses.”

Author:  frozentripper [ January 29th, 2013, 10:07 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

Wikipedia shows that petcoke is produced by oil refineriies generally... if the GHG effects of selling petcoke to utilities and industry is being applied to Keystone, then it must also be applied to all the other pipelines.

Other industry reports say that use of petcoke is similar to coal, and petcoke is simply a coal replacement in the bigger picture... claiming that it makes little difference whether a utility chooses to use a ton of coal or a ton of petcoke in operations, it's roughly the same GHG effect... there's probably some bias in framing either way, green or brown.

Author:  idylwyld [ January 29th, 2013, 11:19 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

"Petcoke is over 90 percent carbon"

If we're going to be mitigating GHG emissions from tar sands, why aren't we looking at sequestering petcoke as an option? Well, the answer is obvious … we're not interested in mitigating environmental impacts. This would add too much to the cost of oil sands development to begin with: "a power plant co-firing petcoke with coal can cut its fuel costs by over 35 percent compared to firing coal alone." As a waste product, it has value (so long as we continue to externalize environmental costs and climate change impacts onto the taxpayer, global governments, and future generations).

If petcoke is burned, this is clearly part of the carbon budget of resource development from the oil sands. Just because someone else is doing the processing doesn't mean that the environmental impact of developing this resource (and turning it into a commodity that has value and can be sold to consumers) doesn't exist. Your reply is a mystery and sounds like a funny "too big to fail" budgeting or accounting trick. "U.S. refineries produced over 61.5 million tons of petcoke in 2011 - enough to fuel 50 average U.S. coal plants each year." And 60% of this was exported, so emissions don't show up on national carbon budgets (which you seem to think is a good thing). Odd, I thought carbon emissions from coal were the problem (and not the solution)?

Author:  frozentripper [ January 29th, 2013, 12:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Sierra Club plans unprecedented action vs oil sands pipe

If petcoke is burned, this is clearly part of the carbon budget of resource development from the oil sands.

It's also part of the global carbon budget in the bigger picture that includes coal... if a ton of petcoke is burned, then a ton of coal isn't.

I agree that use of petcoke from the oil sands results in an increase in the carbon footprint of the development of the oil sands if that is all that's being considered. If the petcoke is replacing coal on the global market and is reducing coal use in the bigger picture then it's not so bad since one cancels the other out.

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