I have very strong misgivings about the XL
pipeline proposal. Governor Brownback tells us that it will bring "good times"
to Kansas but I have good reasons to doubt it.
When I was a child, some 70 years ago, we
moved to a farm about 10 miles north of the little town where I now reside. In
an area adjoining our barn lot, there was a small pond of blue water. The clay
for several yards around it was also blue and I wondered about it. I learned
that it was a "sluice pond" from a gas well that had been attempted there many
years before. Gas and oil occupy the same underground areas, and it's
impossible to drill for one without finding at least small quantities of the
In that particular case, the water and oil
had been drained off into this little pond in that unsuccessful search for gas.
That same small piece of ground will still be blue and totally barren of
vegetation, but that was a small operation. Periodically, some drillers will go
back to old wells and try low-pressure "fracking" in order to salvage a bit more
gas from that well. It was done a mile from our little lake house where we had a
well of potable water. After the fracking, the well was hopelessly fouled ...
Not long ago, I traveled the length of Kansas
while on a visit to Colorado. I was struck by how green western Kansas has
become with the assistance of the gigantic irrigation systems which allow the
growth of many crops that are not thought to be indigenous to the climate. This
cropland that spreads throughout the whole of western Kansas and Nebraska is the
reason for the sobriquet of "Breadbasket to the World." The fresh water which
nourishes those fields as well as all the large cities west of Wichita is a
large underground deposit, called the Oglalla Aquifer, dating back to the
melting glaciers from the last Ice Age. We are aware that it will not last
forever, and so conservation practices have been instituted for its maximum
Can one even imagine the disaster, not only
to Kansas and Nebraska but to the world as a whole, should this precious water
deposit become fouled by a massive leak of crude oil into its midst? A huge
share of the wheat-producing land in the world would be instantly removed from
availability, world famine would be increased exponentially and the entire
region returned to empty desert. There is nobody who can guarantee that such a
leak would never happen and there is not enough money in the world to compensate
humanity for its loss. There will be no going back...
Then, again, why should we tolerate it? This
is Canada's oil, bound for re-sale all over the world. There are refineries
closer than Houston and no reason why Canada should not build their own
refineries closer to the source of the product, and there must be routes for its
disposal that do not endanger such a precious resource of an equally-precious
I applaud the President for his courageous
demand to wait for further investigation of the environmental impact before
giving further consideration to this potentially-disastrous project.
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