- File Size: 17388 KB
- Print Length: 169 pages
- Publisher: TED Conferences (March 28, 2013)
- Publication Date: March 28, 2013
- Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00C0YZKHC
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #688,100 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Keystone XL: Down the Line (Kindle Single) (TED Books Book 34) Kindle Edition
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Canada's economically recoverable oil sands are estimated to hold about 170 billion barrels of crude, reserves that are second in size only to those of Saudi Arabia. The heavy crude in Canada's tar sands is dredged up in a process akin to strip mining. Oil, suspended in gunky sands, lies just below the surface of hundreds of thousands of acres in Alberta. Trucks that are three stories tall, weighing 500 tons (loaded), and costing $7 million are used. Production is now 1.7 million barrels/day, and could nearly double by 2020 to levels nearly 20% of U.S. consumption. Oil prices above $50/barrel are needed to make oil sands profitable. However, the process of extracting oil from the sands alarms those worried about climate change - overall, producers expend energy equal to one barrel of oil to extract 4 - 8 barrels from the oil sands. In addition, stripping the wetlands of pet and fen, natural storers of CO2, adds to the problem.
On the other hand, Shell (with financial help from Alberta and Canada) is working to capture and store CO2 emissions from a plant near Edmonton that upgrades the tar sands oil - bringing the greenhouse gas profile of its oil sands close to parity with other U.S. imports. Regardless, the Canadian Assoc. of Petroleum Producers contends they make up 0.1% of global emissions (getting the oil out of the ground and into the pipeline in Alberta). Others also contend that oil s ands are ethically preferable to helping Saudi Arabia and Venezuela - countries lacking many human rights.
Shell recycles 80 - 85% of the water it uses, but this still requires using 2 - 2.5 barrels of water for every barrel of oil - about 43% as much freshwater as Toronto in 2010. Another problem - bird deaths caused by landing in wastewater ponds, is addressed through noise devices.
For every 400-ton truckload of oil sands, the companies get 200 barrels of oil. Operating costs (excluding capital) are in the range of $35 - $40/barrel. The oil sands project is expected to last as long as 50 years. Future operations will extract more oil via injecting steam into the earth - oil as deep as 400 feet (where most of the oil sands lie) can thus be reached, though it isn't clear whether this will contaminate deep saline aquifers.
Individuals with local community college training in process engineering earned $175,000 in 2011; after three years, they also receive a retention bonus. Others don't do as well - some succumbing to drink and drugs; housing costs are quite high. The average age is 32, and overwhelmingly male. People usually work 10 hours/day, four days/week.
Canadian portions of similar pipeline run nearly 80 yards under the Red Deer River - intended to avoid damage if the river bottom changed. Most of the pipeline will be 4' underground.
Keystone XL's route has been altered to take on 100,000 barrels/day from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota. (Some believe N.D. has over 25 billion barrels of recoverable oil - as much as the rest of the nation.) There workers labor 12 on, 12-off for three weeks on three weeks off, 20 days on and ten off, etc.; a small trailer (8' X 26') can cost $1,550/month - plus utilities, a five-minute shower in a communal bathhouse costs $5.
Greenhouse gas emissions from North Dakota's gas flares are equivalent to those produced by 2.5 million cars - there aren't enough pipelines or gas-gathering stations to capture the natural gas found with the oil. N.D. flares 34% of its gas, vs. a 1% nationwide average.
Chinese firms own minority stakes in oil sands ventures. Alternative pipeline routes would head West - to the Pacific and Chinese markets.
"Keystone XL" takes the reader on a journey along the controversial 1,700-mile pipeline. The journey reveals the extent that corporations will go to get oil versus the intrusive effects it has along the pipeline. Energy correspondent for the Washington Post, Steven Mason and his crew treat this topic objectively and professionally but the results are a mixed bag. This uneven 169-page book is broken out into the following three Parts: 1. Canada, 2. The Northern Plains, and 3. The Southern Leg.
1. A well-written Kindle Single.
2. A current and fascinating topic. The book in fact touches upon many issues: climate change, energy trade policies, the desire of Native Americans to protect land, and eminent domain.
3. High production value. Plenty of photos and graphs that complement the narrative.
4. Objective and fair treatment of the subject. Munson goes out of his way to present both sides of the issue. It's one of the few books that capture what everyday citizens are going through.
5. The facts. "Canada's economically recoverable oil sands are an immense prize estimated to hold about 170 billion barrels of crude oil, reserves second in size only to those of Saudi Arabia."
6. Does a good job of capturing public perception. "The American public is firmly behind the pipeline. A Washington Post poll in 2012 found nearly 6 in 10 people saying the U.S. government should approve the project; while fewer than two in 10 opposed it. About 83 percent think it will create jobs. Nearly half think it will not cause significant damage to the environment."
7. Impact based on research. "More energy expended means more greenhouse gases. A Congressional Research Service report released May 15, 2012, estimated that Canada's oil sands produced 14 to 20 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than the average barrel of U.S. imported crude oil -- or comparable to low-quality Venezuelan crudes."
8. What the pipeline has done for North Dakota. "While other states have barely held on through the recession, North Dakota's boom has brought a windfall of state tax revenue and jobs; the state's 3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation, and conservatives tried -- without success -- to repeal the state property tax because of high oil tax receipts." "North Dakota has overtaken Alaska as the nation's second-biggest oil producer."
9. The issue of eminent domain. "The Keystone XL pipeline has reignited the emotional issue of eminent domain -- the taking of private property for public use -- all along its proposed route."
10. The issue of politics. "In the presidential campaign, Romney said that he would approve the Keystone XL his first day in office. "Day One, President Romney immediately approves the Keystone pipeline, creating thousands of jobs that Obama blocked," said the narrator in one of the candidate's ads." "One of Obama's first achievements in office was raising fuel efficiency standards for all American automobiles. By early 2013, the window sticker fuel efficiency of new U.S. automobiles had climbed to 24.5 miles a gallon, up from 20.8 miles a gallon in 2008."
11. Defining the Keystone XL pipeline. "The Keystone XL pipeline consists of two sections: The northern one runs from Canada down to Steele City in southern Nebraska, and the southern one starts in Cushing, Okla., and runs to the Texas coast. In between is a completed section of pipe that is part of the first Keystone project."
12. An interesting section on Indian country and history. "A key reality is this: Even after TransCanada has secured the right to build from federal and state officials, it still could run into a hitch on -- or near -- tribal land." "The Sac and Fox, like many other tribes, rely heavily on casinos for income. The tribe said in a May 2012 newsletter that it received two-thirds of its revenue from its casinos."
13. The story of Harold Hamm and what led to his success. "Hamm, by contrast, has lauded the virtues of keeping tax incentives for oil exploration companies such as his, even as Romney opposed such incentives for wind energy."
14. A postscript that captures the on-going emotional issue of the Keystone XL pipeline. "And built it or not, it will remain a powerful symbol of our need for energy and the lengths we must travel and choices we must make to meet those needs."
1. Fair treatment but uneven results. The book lacks cohesion it felt all over the place perhaps a reflection of a long trip.
2. It's repetitive even for a Kindle Single.
3. Political issues are discussed but Mufson treats it with kid gloves.
4. The science of oil is very weak. An appendix or a link would have addressed the issue without impacting the narrative.
5. A table summarizing the corporations involved in the pipeline would have added value. Some missed opportunities here.
6. A look back, a synopsis would have been helpful.
7. Mufson leaves the reader hanging too many times. As an example, when explaining oil prices. He goes from stating that reliance on Canada will make little difference because of world supply and demand. Understood. Then goes on to say that even though we (U.S.) have trimmed the volume of oil imports by 15 percent over a period of seven years, the cost of imports nearly doubled. Why? It's probably safe to say it was because of increased demand by China and India, but complete the thought and provide a chart complementing the narrative. That's where my frustration sinks in...
In summary, succeeds in providing then public with an overall feel of what the Keystone XL pipeline entails. It fails however in presenting a clear, succinct picture of this hot-button issue. Mufson is fair and treats this topic with the utmost respect but does so at a fault and dare I say muddies the water. The book is worth reading if you want to get a closer look at the ground-level impact the Keystone XL pipeline has. It's one of the few books that actually capture the direct views from farmers, workers, and the people impacted not just the corporate side. However, the author looses focus a bit much for my taste. He teases the reader with interesting tidbits but doesn't complete the picture. In short, an even treatment that led to uneven results.
Further suggestions: "The Pipeline and the Paradigm: Keystone XL, Tar Sands, and the Battle to Defuse the Carbon Bomb" by Samuel Avery, "Energy for Future Presidents: The Science Behind the Headlines" by Richard A. Muller, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines" by Michael E. Mann, "Clean Break: The Story of Germany's Energy Transformation and What Americans Can Learn from It (Kindle Single)" by Osha Gray Davidson, "The Crash Course: The Unsustainable Future Of Our Economy, Energy, And Environment" by Chris Martenson, "The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality" by Richard Heinberg, "Addicted to Energy: A Venture Capitalist's Perspective on How to Save Our Economy and Our Climate" by Elton B. Sherwin, Jr., and "Nuclear 2.0: Why A Green Future Needs Nuclear Power (Kindle Single)" by Mark Lynas.
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