Friday, June 15, 2018

The Legal Fight to Leave the Dirtiest Fossil Fuels in the Ground - by John Abraham

Tar sands are the dirtiest fossil fuels.  These are low-quality heavy tar-like oils that are mined from sand or rock.  Much of the mining occurs in Alberta Canada, but it is also mined elsewhere, in lesser quantities.

Tar sands are the worst.  Not only are they really hard to get out of the ground, requiring enormous amounts of energy; not only are they difficult to transport and to refine; not only are they more polluting than regular oils; they even have a by-product called ”petcoke” that’s used in power plants, but is dirtier than regular coal.

This stuff is worse than regular oil, worse than coal, worse than anything.  Anyone who is serious about climate change cannot agree to mine and burn tar sands.  To maintain climate change below critical thresholds, tar sands need to be left in the ground.

This fact is what motivated me to testify to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission last November, to inform my state’s ruling commission about the impact of tar sands on the climate.  Canadian energy company Enbridge has petitioned to put a pipeline through my state to carry this dirty tar to refining sites on the coast. 

The proposed pipeline is called “Line 3.”  The pipeline would carry approximately 760,000 barrels per day – the new pipeline would make it easier and cheaper for the oil companies to transport tar sands and consequently, would boost their bottom line.  We already move over two million barrels per day through Minnesota in Enbridge pipelines.  This new pipeline would encourage them to extract and sell more tar sands.

So, how much pollution would this pipeline carry?  170bn kilograms of carbon dioxide each year.  The emissions are equal to approximately 50 coal power plants.  These are huge numbers, but more importantly, approval of pipelines like this make it more likely that all of the tar sands in Alberta will be extracted.  If that happens, global temperatures will increase by approximately 0.65°F (0.36°C).  An astonishing number – approximately 3 decades worth of global warming.

If you care about climate change, then it is not logically possible to approve any pipeline or other infrastructure that may further worsen our climate.  We are already screwing up the climate enough as it is. 

Read more at The Legal Fight to Leave the Dirtiest Fossil Fuels in the Ground

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