I’ve been to a few oil spills in my day and, sad to say, my day seems like it hasn’t ended yet. ExxonMobil’s latest oil spill, in Mayflower, Arkansas, is of Canadian heavy crude oil.
Three years ago this summer, an Enbridge Energy pipeline near Marshall, Michigan burst, sending 800,000 gallons of Canadian tar sand oil into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River. Those waterways have yet to recover from the insult; it may be years before they do.
Canadian oil spilling from pipelines in America, just as we debate whether to allow the construction of the massive Keystone pipeline from our northern border to the Texas Gulf coast. What’s up with that?
Tar sands oil isn’t just any oil. It’s heavy and laden with coarse grit, the kind of thing that eats through metal, which makes pipelines carrying tar sands crude so prone to breaking. Once the heavy oil is out of the pipe, it tends to sink – in either water or soil – making cleanup next to impossible.
In the east, Enbridge wants to reverse the flow of a decades-old pipeline that cuts across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. Right now that pipeline carries oil from Portland, Maine to Montreal, Quebec. Enbridge says it wants to send tar sands oil across Northern New England in a pipeline built before the Second World War.
Think globally, act locally? It’s time to do both. As James Hansen, the world’s leading expert on climate change has said, building the Keystone pipeline would be like lighting the fuse on irreversible climate change. And if you live in a community targeted by a tar sands pipeline, now is the time to come to the aid of your country.