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Keystone XL: DilBit Through the Heartland

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Massive exploitation of Alberta Tar Sands (MEATS)... is it the biggest environmental crime in history? A new benchmark for sacrifice of public health to corporate profit?

MEATS is so much more than converting an area of boreal forest the size of England into a cankerous and lifeless open sore bleeding tar. More than decimating some of the world's last wild forests--home to 35% of Canada's wetlands. More than attacking Earth's biosphere with a carbon weapon of mass destruction....

How far has corporate depravity driven corporate disregard for life on Earth? MEATS goes the distance with the Keystone XL pipeline.

December 11, 2012... an L.A. Times article by Molly Hennessy-Fiske revealed that Jack Sinz, Texas County Court-at-Law Judge, lifted his restraining order that delayed a portion of TransCanada's Keystone XL running through eastern Texas. The restraining order resulted from landowner Michael Bishop filing suit to halt pipeline construction on his property because TransCanada fraudulently promised that Keystone XL would transport "crude oil".

TransCanada lawyers convinced Judge Sinz that Michael Bishop "... understood what he was doing when he signed off on an easement agreement with the company three weeks ago."

TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard stated: "TransCanada has been open and transparent with Mr. Bishop at all times." Then Mr. Howard further illuminates the howler of TransCanada being open and transparent: "Since Mr. Bishop signed his agreement with TransCanada, nothing about the pipeline or the product it will carry has changed. While professional activists and others have made the same claims Mr. Bishop did today, oil is oil."

Problem is, oil is exactly what Keystone pipeline does not pipe.

Raw bitumen diluted with up to 50% natural gas liquids (condensates) at 1,440 pounds-per-square inch (psi) pressure, and temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit--that's what Keystone XL pipes, a wicked brew called  "DilBit".
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What in Hell is DilBit?

That depends.

Consider TransCanada's spokesman, Shawn Howard, and his, "... oil is oil". MEATS and Keystone XL advocates cultivate public misconception of DilBit being "crude oil". A dangerous ruse spanning pipeline-safety regulations to pipeline technology and leak detection... back to public awareness. Pawning off DilBit as crude oil is TransCanada's public-relations Job Number One--except when it comes to the IRS....

The oil industry pays an eight-cents-per-barrel tax on crude oil produced in or imported to the U.S., proceeds earmarked for the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund that covers clean-up costs for oil spills. Funny thing... in 2011, at the request of a company whose identity is kept secret, an exemption was made that frees DilBit from this tax because, as the secret company made clear: "oil" from Canada's tar sands is so different (chemistry, behavior, how it's produced) that it should not be considered crude oil.

Texas, and federal statutory codes, define crude oil as "liquid hydrocarbons extracted from the earth at atmospheric temperatures". Simple enough; DilBit is not crude oil.
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Alberta bitumen is strip-mined and steam-melted from sands and silts; it takes two tons of earth, three barrels of water, and lots of natural gas to extract one barrel of raw bitumen, which is almost a solid.

MEATS currently consumes, per day, enough natural gas to heat 3 million Canadian homes, and fouls 400 million gallons of water. Wastewater is pumped into immense tailing ponds rich in arsenic, cyanide, ammonia, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, zinc... not to mention the biocidal gumbo of hydrocarbons--sixty-five square miles of tailing ponds, so far.

Downstream from tailing ponds, as in Fort Chipewyan ... spikes of lupus, renal failure, hyperthyroidism... and 100 of the town's largely indigenous population of 1,200 have died of cancer. Many rare cancers.

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Rand Clifford lives in Spokane, Washington. His novels and earlier essays can be found at http://www.starchiefpress.com/

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