Why the Whole Idea of the U.S Achieving 'Energy Independence' Is a Sham That Enriches Big Oil and Coal
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Whether it is the hucksters pushing for the Keystone XL pipeline to cut across the Heartland, or the coal barons who are ramping up their exploits in Powder River Basin, a familiar refrain can be heard echoing throughout their propaganda: America must produce its own energy and stop relying on "terrorist" countries to keep our homes heated, cars running and economy kicking.
"The United States consumes 15 million barrels of oil per day and imports 11 million," Russell K. Girling of the TransCanada Corporation, which is to build the Keystone pipeline, recently wrote in The Hill. "Keystone XL offers Americans the choice of receiving their oil from a friendly, secure supplier in Canada, instead of importing crude from unstable, volatile foreign nations such as Venezuela, Libya and other areas of the Middle East."
In late August, Oil Change International shattered the myth that the Keystone XL, which is to transport tar sands from Alberta, Canada to Port Arthur, Texas, will be used domestically. Refiners based in Port Arthur, where the oil will end up, are focused on exporting oil to Europe and Latin America. The majority of the heavy tar sands oil extracted in Alberta will never end up being burned in the United States.
"To issue a presidential permit for the Keystone XL, the administration must find that the pipeline serves the national interest," says Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International. "An honest assessment shows that rather than serving U.S. interests, Keystone XL serves only the interests of tar sands producers and shippers, and a few Gulf Coast refiners aiming to export the oil."
Additionally, Valero, which is to be one of Keystone XL's main customers, purchasing 76 percent of initial production, has detailed to its investors that the crude it is to buy is mainly set for export. To top it off, Port Arthur, where the dirty oil is to be refined, is in a Foreign Trade Zone, where the company can operate without paying any U.S. taxes. Valero's contract is to last until 2030 and the company is to take around 100,000 barrels of tars sands per day.
Despite an outpouring of opposition to the proposed pipeline, which culminated in over 1,200 arrests in late August and early September outside the White House, the Obama administration is likely to rubber-stamp the deal. President Obama's jobs advisers are lending support for the pipeline and he is also likely getting pressure from within his own party to give the project a green light.
In 2008 Paul Elliot, who now serves as TransCanada's chief Washington lobbyist for Keystone XL, served as a national campaign manager for Hillary Clinton's presidential race. Additionally, as was discovered by anti-Tar Sands activists from Nebraska as they prepared for hearings on the matter at the State Department, the hearings were being held by a company called Cardno Entrix. It turns out that Cardno Entrix is contracted to run the environmental-review for the Keystone XL pipeline, but lists TransCanada as one of its major clients on its website.
"The pipeline company recommended the firm they wanted to review them, a firm that listed the pipeline company as one of their major clients," writes Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein. "Perhaps--just perhaps--that explains why the review found that Keystone XL would have 'limited adverse environmental impacts,' a finding somewhat at odds with the conclusion of 20 of the nation's top scientists who wrote the president this summer to say it would be an environmental disaster."
It appears that TransCanada is doing all it can to impact the Obama administration's decision on the matter by hiring a former Democratic campaign manager, and has certainly pushed Obama's State Department to hire a company with close ties to the very company it is supposed to independently review. Additionally, some have criticized the job numbers for the project. In 2010, TransCanada said that, "During construction, Keystone XL would create 13,000 jobs and further produce 118,000 spin-off jobs." But a report from Cornell University says these numbers are inflated, writing that the project will create no more than 2,500-4,650 temporary construction jobs for two years based on the data TransCanada has given the State Department.