2014-06-06 / Letters

Fact or fiction?

To the editor:

This letter is a response to Stacey Fitts’ May 23 letter entitled, “Fuel makes it all possible.”

The repetitive drumbeat of those advocating the flow of tar/oil sands crude from Canada through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine (and ostensibly through America’s heartland), ending up here in South Portland to be exported to other countries (China and India), is increasingly tiresome to refute. It’s curious how none of these tar sands proponents ever attempt to dissect and disprove the counterarguments posed by environmentalists and concerned citizens. I guess if you’ve got major corporate money behind you, you can afford to regurgitate the same misleading statements over and over, until you convince enough people to buy into the lies.

I tell you, Mr. Fitts from Pittsfield (whose hometown, incidentally, would be relatively unaffected by the pipeline’s flow of you-know-what, yet still knows what’s best for us in South Portland): None of us who oppose the insane proposal to pump the dirtiest fuel on earth to our port are against the overall use of oil; nor do we deny its benefits, both present and past. We are not “anti-energy activists,” risibly and clumsily mislabeled thus by big oil. We are, however, “pro-alternative energy advocates.” One need only accept the conclusion of 97 percent of climate scientists indicting human activities for the undeniable climate-warming trends over the past century, to realize that our current infatuation with unsustainable energy sources is myopic and self-destructive. (This percentage means that less than 3 percent do not accept this conclusion; 97 is a lot larger than 3 - it’s true, Mr Fitts ... really ... ask any first-grader.)

We concerned citizens wish to usher in the use of alternative energy sources, energy that won’t destroy our world in the process, whereas those in the shadow of the oligarch twins, the Koch Bros., would rather continue down the path to ultimate oblivion. I wouldn’t care so much, if it weren’t for the fact that they’re dragging the rest of us, and our kids, along with them. (Whew, emotionallycharged diatribe now over.)

We know that things aren’t going to change overnight and, therefore, are comfortable in accepting business as usual. This means that we are fine with how the self-appointed working waterfront (with its workforce marching in lockstep with company dictates) currently conducts its affairs, and with how our port is utilized for Import, not for export. It’s Portland-Montreal Pipeline (majority owned by Exxon-Mobil) that we take exception with, a company that has repeatedly claimed how it’s been a good neighbor (one that answers only to its investors), how it has a clean record (despite spills in the not-sodistant past), and how it has no plans to bring in tar sands (although it sought and received – in 2009 – a permit to reverse the pipeline’s flow for that very purpose).

OK – time for some myth-busting. As the same arguments for the Keystone XL Pipeline are dusted off and employed for the proposed reversal of the Portland- Montreal Pipeline (majority-owned by Exxon-Mobil), let’s deal with those.

Myth 1: “Pipeline will improve USA’s energy security.”

FACT: The Keystone XL pipeline (and proposed PPL Reversal) is designed for one thing – to send oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast, and from there to overseas markets (like China and India). According to retired Brigadier General Steven M. Anderson (the U.S. Army’s senior logistician in Iraq from 2006-2007), the pipeline “would set back our renewable energy efforts for at least two decades, much to our enemies’ delight. It would ensure we maintain our oil addiction and delay making the tough decisions regarding energy production, management and conservation that we need to start making today.” And as Anderson makes clear, “Canadian oil won’t replace imports from hostile countries because Texas refiners are serving global demand rather than domestic need.”

Myth 2: “Pipeline is safe.”

FACT: Because raw tar sands bitumen is more corrosive and abrasive than normal crude oil, the risk of a spill is greater. The Alberta pipeline system (which carries diluted bitumen, the same product planned for KXL and Portland-Montreal Pipeline – majority-owned by ExxonMobil) has had approximately 16 times as many spills due to internal corrosion as the U.S. system. Yet, the safety and spill response standards used by the United States to regulate pipeline transport of bitumen are designed for conventional oil. To make matters worse, the industry doesn’t know how to clean up this product after a spill – its unique composition means that traditional clean-up techniques don’t work (for example, unlike regular oil, diluted bitumen sinks in water). And lest we forget, the Portland-Montreal Pipeline (majority-owned by Exxon-Mobil) is more than 60 years old.

Myth 3: “Pipeline will reduce our energy prices.”

FACT: According to its own secret documents submitted to the Canadian government, TransCanada expects the pipeline to increase gas prices in the Midwest by up to 15 cents per gallon. Currently, a surplus of gas in the region means that our prices stay stable. If the pipeline is built and PPL is reversed, oil companies will be able to send their product to the Gulf coast for export, which will reduce this surplus and drive up costs for Midwestern consumers.

Myth 4: “Out-of-State ‘special interests’ and ‘environmental extremists’ are spearheading opposition to pipeline.”

FACT: The real out-of-state special interests are TransCanada (a foreign oil company), its lobbyists in Washington (like the API), and the Koch Brothers, who stand to make billions from this project. Meanwhile, Americans of all stripes, including ranchers, farmers, tribes and elected representatives from both sides of the aisle (including Republicans like Sen. Mike Johanns and Gov. Dave Heineman), have expressed their united opposition to the pipeline route. Not to mention the thousands of American landowners who have testified against the pipeline at local hearings around the country. And closer to home, South Portland has received threatening letters from the API (American Petroleum Institute), and witnessed nearly a million dollars spent in opposition to last year’s WPO campaign and this year’s tar sands moratorium.

Myth 5: “Pipeline won’t increase global warming/climate change because Canadian tar sands will be developed anyway, even if we don’t complete Keystone XL (or reverse Portland-Montreal Pipeline, majorityowned by Exxon-Mobil).”

FACT: TransCanada has put almost all of its eggs in the KXL basket for one simple reason – that’s the only realistic way to sell its product overseas. They have also considered building a 730-mile Northern Gateway pipeline to Canada’s west coast (as well as an eastern route over – and bordering – northern Maine). But its chances are remote due to strong opposition from native communities along its path. Any western route would face decades of litigation, by which point the tar sands may be obsolete as clean energy technology matures.

Myth 6: “There already is a TransCanada pipeline going over the Ogallala Aquifer - the Keystone Pipeline has been operational for years in Nebraska, without a spill.”

FACT: The original Keystone pipeline has been plagued by problems since its opening in 2009 – at least 12 reported spills, including one of 21,000 gallons this spring. Keystone XL would be the first tar sands pipeline routed through the environmentally sensitive Sandhills and directly through the heart of the Ogallala aquifer. And do we really want to put our drinking water, provided by Sebago Lake, at risk?

These are only a few myths propagated by big money interests, but more than enough to show how Americans are being literally lied to. So please search for the facts and follow the money. Seriously, who stands to gain? It ain’t 99 percent of Americans.

William Duffy
South Portland

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