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Archive for February, 2014

President Obama might get a reprieve from the politically fired Keystone XL decision.  Last week a Nebraska judge ruled that the governor didn’t have the legal right to grant the pipeline company eminent domain.  She said that authority rested with the Public Service Commission.  Appeals will be filed but that all takes time.

Moving tar sands oil through a pipe is not going to produce much CO2.  Moving the oil by rail would be less efficient and would produce CO2.  The rail option has more problems.  There are not enough tanker cars presently available to transport the more than 800,000 gallons of bitumen anticipated every day.  Up to six times as many cars will be needed to do the job.  Last year’s tanker car accident up in Canada and a more recent one in Montana spotlight the inherent dangers.  I doubt that towns along the route will be happy to have six times as many trains rolling through.

A decision to block the pipeline will probably delay the movement of the tar sands oil into the US for a while. Approving the pipeline will accelerate the rate of energy intensive tar sands extraction, CO2 emissions and ecological destruction.  The possibility for polluting pipeline spills has already been shown to be a reality in existing infrastructure.

Meanwhile England is having historic flooding, California and Brazil are having historic droughts, a polar vortex stranded motorists and slowed winter economic activity from Atlanta to New York and Olympic skiers have petitioned the UN to take action to save the source of their sport.  Are members of congress hearing anything from their constituents about these extreme weather events?  How much time is left before the weather straight jackets all of us at once?

The president has moved aggressively to promote clean energy alternatives.  New CAFE standards are improving emissions per driven mile.  Regulations will soon go in place on coal power plants.  California and the states in the Northeast Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are meeting their goals with cap and trade policies.  Cities are taking action to reduce greenhouse gases.  Greenlighting the production and burning of tar sands oil would be stepping back from the path established toward carbon reduction.

The president’s best action to reduce CO2 emissions from tar sands exploitation would be to impose an import tax on this toxic gunk.  Money from the tax would not accrue to the government.  It would not be a revenue source but a pure pollution abatement tax.  Money raised would be distributed out to taxpayers and not used to fund any government program.  Last year respected republican economist and more recently a climate activist, George Shultz, urged lawmakers to adopt a revenue neutral tax on carbon from all sources.  Revenue neutrality would give concerned republicans a way to take action on climate change.

The president should turn down the Keystone pipeline application.  This would keep the tar sands exploitation process a present levels and force the oil barons to build more cars and contend with the public’s new awareness of safety issues.  Then he should work with any members of both parties to build support for a carbon tax.  A pollution tax barrier is necessary now because climate disruption is upon us.

Sam Kendall

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