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Chris Keenan
Chris Keenan

US Chamber of Commerce Lobby's For Tar Sand Pipeline

The U.S Chamber of Commerce has launched a campaign to lobby for Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The Partnership to Fuel America is run out of the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, and seems positioned to be the U.S. Chamber's main influence channel to drum up support for Keystone XL.

The Keystone Pipeline System is a pipeline system that will transport oil from Canada to refineries in the United States and then expand to the U.S Gulf Coast. The U.S Department of State has extended the deadline for federal agencies to decide if the pipeline is in the national interest. The Obama administration has the final say in approving the pipeline. A final environmental review of the prospective project is expected from the State Department in August.

The Partnership to Fuel America campaign is the first time the U.S Chamber has overtly aligned with the Canadian company’s project. According to the U.S. Chamber's Institute for 21st Century Energy, it will be "comprised of American businesses and industries that understand the need for more energy in the United States and believe that Canada's significant resources can help achieve that goal." When visiting The Partnership to Fuel America’s website, the only source of energy listed at Canada’s tar sands, and most listed are directly related to the Keystone XL project.

This particular pipeline is controversial because it is a tar sands pipeline, it’s different than those that carry conventional crude oil. These lines are much more prone to leaks and spills, and spills are bad for the environment. Because this is a tar sands pipeline, the oil that is extracted is different. Tar sands can be mined and processed to extract the oil-rich bitumen, which is then refined into oil. The bitumen in tar sands cannot be pumped from the ground in its natural state; instead tar sand deposits are mined, usually using strip mining or open pit techniques, or the oil is extracted by underground heating with additional upgrading.

This type of oil is more acidic, thick and sulfuric than conventional crude oil. It is up to sevety times more viscous than conventional crude oil. It also contains fifteen to twenty times higher acid concentration, and five to ten times as much sulfur as conventional crude oil. The additional sulfur can lead to the weakening of pipelines. Imagine having to transport a glass of water in a paper cup by driving out of your garage door to the other side of the country without even a spill. The chemical composition also makes it much more difficult for monitors to detect a crack in the pipeline.

The Keystone I pipeline has infamously spilled twelve times in under a year of operation. The company had initially claimed that the pipeline would leak only once every seven years. Finally, after the tar sands oil does spill, cleanup is harder than normal crude spills. A year after a spill in Western Michigan, one reporter stated that surface skimmers and vacuums were no help, and a full year later, EPA officials and scientists were still working on a plan to remove submerged oil from about 200 acres of river and lake bottom. They now believe a full clean up could take years.

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