Our Earth Day refocus on the larger issuesBy Roger Straw, Editor, The Benicia Independent, April 22, 2015
My initial alarm over Valero’s proposal to build a crude-by-rail offloading facility here in my hometown came almost two years ago now, when I learned of the destruction in Alberta Canada caused by the mining and processing of tar sands. It was plain to me that a decision to permit Valero Crude By Rail here, thousands of miles from those dirty bitumen mines, would position my hometown as a valued partner in the world’s most toxic oil extraction and transport operation. I joined with others here in Benicia to organize so that we would have no part in that dirty game.
For me and for many along the rails in the U.S., our focus shifted gradually – or in some cases suddenly – to public safety issues surrounding Bakken shale oil train derailments and the resultant catastrophic explosions and fireballs.
Lately, I’m thinking that even though these safety concerns will not go away with the eventual passage of a few new laws and long-delayed safety regulations, we all might want to consider renewing and strengthening our original focus.
What we decide here along the tracks and in refinery towns has EVERYTHING to do with the situation in Alberta and the Upper Midwest where tar sands bitumen and shale oil is being produced. People there, the land there, the wildlife, the air and water … these are the first and lasting victims of our thirst for cheap oil.
We hear so much about the oil boom’s contribution to “energy independence.” Well, let’s focus on REAL energy independence: leave the oil in the ground, tax carbon, invest in clean energy.
The Benicia Independent has always been concerned with climate change, the air we breathe and the water and land that sustains life. But our focus, like that of much of the media, has been primarily on the oil train derailments that have understandably shocked and frightened the public since July, 2013. As editor and publisher, I’m serving notice this Earth Day, that the Benicia Independent is taking on a renewed commitment to cover the ongoing environmental damage and the increased risks of pollution if we permit oil trains.
You will begin to see more stories about proposed carbon taxes, polar ice, the destruction of land and lives in Alberta and the Upper Midwest and more.
Note that I fully expect my work to be dominated from time to time by the NEXT BIG EXPLOSION, and the NEXT ONE…. As long as oil trains rumble through our neighborhoods, city centers, mountains and wetlands and into our refinery industrial centers, we WILL see derailments. And no matter the new federal safety rules and the efforts of the rail and oil industries, NOTHING can prevent the massive weight of a moving chain of these monstrous tank cars from coming off the tracks occasionally, accordion jackknifing, flipping and puncturing, setting off horrific explosions, and endangering human life and our natural world. It will happen, and I will cover the news.
But for every day that you DON’T see a news report with fiery skies and black billowing smoke, please understand that the not-so-silent killer strip-mines and the fracking and horizontal drilling continue, too often unreported. Far from most of us, but up close and real to the people who live there, our earth is groaning under the weight of our permitting decisions and our corporate desire for continued crude-oil profitability.
Here in Benicia, we will say NO to crude by rail. It’s a tangible way to have a small say in the welfare of our town, our state, our nation and our beautiful planet earth.
Leave the oil in the ground. Tax carbon. Invest in clean energy.
MORE ON TAR SANDS …
Understanding the North American Tar Sands
Jan 14, 2015 … Last year, Portland’s KBOO Community Radio profiled what is “the largest industrial project on Earth”: the North American tar sands. Typically, one hears of the “Canadian tar sands,” as if the issue is one that lives only north of the US national border and need not concern American citizens. But reporter Barbara Bernstein’s documentary, “Fighting Goliath,” revealed an alarming and very real threat…
Tar sands are found underneath Canada’s great boreal forest and consist of heavy crude oil trapped in a mixture of sand and clay. To extract oil from tar sands, companies must destroy fragile forest ecosystems and then use a very energy-intensive upgrading and refining process to turn that sludge into transportation fuel….
- Also this recent article: Transporting Tar Sands “As Dangerous” As Shale Oil (March 2015)
Stop Dirty Fuels : Tar Sands
In Canada, the oil industry is transforming one of the world’s last remaining intact ecosystems into America’s gas tank….
Canada’s tar sands is one of the largest industrial projects on the planet, and its environmental footprint is growing by the second. At a time when the world needs to transition to cleaner energy, the tar sands is the poster child of what we should not be doing. It’s time to put a healthy environment above corporate profit and the endless drive for more oil….
[More Google links on tar sands …]
Argonne National Laboratory
Tar sands (also referred to as oil sands) are a combination of clay,
sand, water, and bitumen, a heavy black viscous oil. Tar sands can
be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is
then refined into oil.
Oil sand is either loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone
containing a naturally occurring mixture of sand, clay, and water,
saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum
technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its
similar appearance, odour, and colour).
Extracting tar sands, and turning bitumen into crude oil, uses vast amounts of energy and water, and causes significant air and water pollution, and three times
Rainforest Action Network
The Keystone XL pipeline is a disastrous project of tar sands oil
companies that will do serious damage to our country and
climate. If built, the spill prone …
Sep 6, 2014 – ONE of the bleakest scenes of man-made
destruction is the strip mining of oil sands in the forests of
Alberta, Canada. The sand is permeated …
Tar sands are found underneath Canada’s great boreal forest and consist of heavy crude oil trapped in a mixture of sand and clay. To extract oil from tar sands, …
But golf courses and suburban housing make the place liveable, and some locals have grown attached to Alberta’s tar sands and Fort McMurray, the town at the centre of them. “I’d like …
The tar sands begin near the border of Saskatchewan, around the latitude of Edmonton, and extend, in three major deposits, north and west almost to British Columbia. All in all, they …
The Opposite of Mining: Tar Sands Steam Extraction Lessens Footprint, but Environmental Costs Remain · Oil Sands Raise Levels of Cancer-Causing Compounds in Regional Waters.
Oil sands are a mixture of sand, water, clay and bitumen. They are found in several locations around the globe including Venezuela, USA, Russia and Canada.