Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time for TransCanada to learn some manners in Keystone XL fight?

U.S. citizens stereotypically think of Canadians as our polite neighbors to the North – so polite that we could take lessons from them.

But that's not the case of TransCanada, if we can believe a caustic article posted to the CBS News Web site by Ellen Cantarow, an investigative journalist who first began reporting from Israel in 1979.You can find her article at

For anyone interested in pending State Department approval of TransCanada’s plans to build the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta's tar sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast refining complex, the article is a must-read.

A few highlights:

Cantarow notes the treatment of Texas landowner David Daniel at the hands of TransCanada. He built his dream home on 20 acres of lush wilderness in Winnsboro, East Texas. Then a nightmare called tar sands appeared on his doorstep.

"Tar sands are sandy soils laden with a tar-like substance called bitumen," Cantarow explains.

"Getting oil out of them is a dirty, dangerous, and deadly process. Daniel knew none of this when a neighbor phoned in the fall of 2008 to say that he'd seen trespassers on the property. ‘I went back (from work) and I found survey stakes that cut my property in half,' he recalls. Several months later, an eminent domain letter arrived, telling him that a pipeline carrying oil from Canada's oil sands would cut through his pristine property. When he complained to TransCanada, the company in charge, its lawyer responded with a veiled threat: ‘Should I put the letter in the 'cooperative' or the 'uncooperative pile?'"

TransCanada's powerful U.S. backers include Koch Industries, perhaps best known for funding stealth attacks on the federal government, and big spending on climate-change-denial campaigns.

The U.S. imports more oil from Canada than anywhere else, with Mexico ranking second, and Saudi Arabia third. Tar sands are largely responsible for Canada's new petro-status. Nearly a million barrels of tar sands oil arrive in the U.S. every day. By 2025, Canada is expected to be producing 3.5 million barrels of tar sands oil daily. Most of that, says Ryan Salmon of the National Wildlife Federation, will be imported to the U.S.

"Tar sands" is a colloquialism for 54,000 square miles of bitumen that veins sand and clay beneath the boreal forests of Alberta, one of Canada's western provinces. Black as it is, bitumen isn't actually tar, though it looks and smells like tar, and has its consistency on a very cold day - hence, that term 'tar sands.' The corporations that produce the stuff prefer the more positive 'oil sands.'

“Russ Girling, president and CEO of TransCanada, typically touts tar sands as improving ‘U.S. energy security and reduc(ing) dependence on foreign oil from the Middle East and Venezuela," Cantarow notes.

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