The recent editorial on the Keystone XL pipeline shows a preponderance of politically correct rhetoric and very little research on the subject ("Say no to Keystone" Jan 29). There are reasons to question the tar sands projects but they are not included. A quick Google search will show that the U.S. is laced with pipelines and that Canadian tar sands crude has been moving into the U.S. by pipeline since the 1960s with no major incidents.
Far from entering the existing pipelines as a dirty, viscous liquid — which, incidentally wouldn't flow in pipelines — the bitumen extracted is upgraded on site in high-temperature, high-pressure hydrotreating processes to remove nitrogen and sulfur to produce a high-quality light synthetic crude.
One of the rationales for the pipeline that is never discussed is the movement of crude produced in the Dakotas Bakken fields. Hydrofracking in the Bakken fields has reversed a 40-year decline in US crude oil production. It also has had no affect on the Ogallala Aquifer and is controlled by state agencies
Without the Keystone pipeline, the tar sands crude will be produced and shipped to China via a pipeline to the Canadian West Coast. So on a net basis irrespective of whatever impediments the U.S. government puts in the way, the amount of carbon dioxide produced in the Canadian tar sands will be unaffected. What will be affected is the cost of gasoline in the U.S. produced from crude oil from countries that hate us and may embargo us as they did in the 1970s because of our support for Israel.
What should be discussed is the huge amount of water that is required for tars sands oil production and turning Alberta into a moonscape. As an aside, Pennsylvania solved those problems 50 years ago with strict land reclamation and water quality standards related to coal strip mining.
Tar sands production is expensive. The only way to stop production as well as fix the stagnant economy is to allow conventional U.S. crude oil production on the continental shelves and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which will provide a worldwide excess of crude oil and drive crude oil prices below $50 per barrel. This will make tar sands crude uneconomical to produce; drop the price of gasoline below $2 per gallon; improve our energy security; and significantly reduce our foreign exchange drain.
The writer is a retired senior vice president of Gulf Oil Corp.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun