Is it goodbye to the Sage Grouse?

The US Congress has overwhelmingly voted for the bill authorising the Keystone XL pipeline, a project designed to bring the oil from the Tar Sands located in Canada, through the US, to refineries located mostly on the Gulf Coast of the USA. The distance is a colossal 1,900 kilometers, mostly across land that can best described as wilderness.

The project that has been approved has been hotly debated since 2011 and will cost at least US$8 billion dollars. Supporters say that the project will bring much needed jobs and allow for the USA to be ever self-reliant on domestically (albeit Canadian) produced hydrocarbons. Critics of course say that the continued use of oil and the way in which oil sands are exploited are environmentally hazardous.

Oil from the Canadian Oil Sands has been reaching the USA for some time primarily by rail and some pipelines. The new project that is to be operated by TransCanada Corp will allow for another 900,000 barrels to reach the south and for the opening up of vast oil sands reserves in the US itself.

Demonstrators protest against the Keystone project

“We shouldn’t be debating it, we should be building it,” said House majority leader, Kevin McCarthy, who noted that more than 2,000 days had passed since the pipeline was first proposed in 2008.

The White House has previously promised to veto the bill but the current Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnel, has renewed his efforts to get President Obama to reverse this promise. Nebraska’s highest court had dismissed a lawsuit challenging the pipeline’s route, a ruling which the White House said it needed before it reconsidered its decision. “Today’s ruling provides the perfect opportunity for the President to change his unproductive posture on this jobs project and reverse his veto threat,” McConnell said. “The President now has every reason to sign it.”

Oil prices have been falling rapidly over the past six months which is a blessing for consumers but not for those extracting the oil or for those constructing the pipelines to move those commodities. Currently, oil supply far outstrips demand and look to stay that way for some time as the Sheiks of Saudi Arabia seem to have declared an economic war on the Oil Shale Cowboys in the US of A.

The USA is currently the world’s biggest oil producer and will probably stay that way unless the 50% drop in oil prices of late slows down the drilling, and there is a distinct possibility that will be the case. Since 2008, domestic production has risen from five million barrels a day up to about 9.3 million. Even with the massive increase in production, the US still imports some 10 million barrels of oil per day from about 80 countries, although OPEC members are still the primary suppliers. Largely due to hydraulic fracturing, imports are at a 17-year low and the nation’s production rate at a 17-year high.

Just a little while ago, the battle lines were being drawn across the dwindling natural habitat of a diminutive little game bird known as the Sage Grouse as we have written of in the past here and here. It would now seem that the beleaguered little bird that loves to puff its chest out will be fighting to adapt to a new habit populated by opencast mining for oil and massive pipelines designed to get the modern day black gold from its resting place to the refining place.


No comments yet! You be the first to comment.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *