Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Burying the Future: Tars Sands, Pipelines, & Melting Arctic

Canadian scientist Paul Beckwith explains how the Arctic warming emergency is changing your weather. But first, the story of an anti-pipeline media warrior, John Bolenbaugh in his own words. The leaks, scandals and deaths behind Tar Sands pipelines. Radio Ecoshock 130424 1 hour.


Listen to/download the John Bolenbaugh interview (27 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Listen to/download the Paul Beckwith interview (28 minutes) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Feel free to pass on or share those links. For Net use, most people prefer the faster loading/downloading Lo-Fi version.


John Bolenbaugh, anti-pipeline warrior.

Are you sick of hearing about Tar Sands pipelines, from the Gateway project to the Keystone XL? Maybe you should hear from the people who are sick and dying from a leaking pipeline.

Watch this short video of sick residents.

I'm calling up John Bolenbaugh. He's a decorated Navy vet now qualified with Federal Emergency Management Agency, trained to clean up spills. John was hired after the Enbridge pipeline in Kalamazoo, Michigan had the biggest inland spill in the United States. That was on July 25, 2010 - but the cleanup and the story are far from over.

At his web site, John writes:

"...he exposed the truth with video proof, the fact that the Enbridge Company never cleaned up the oil; how they covered it up instead. One year after the oil spill, Enbridge and the EPA said that your kids could swim in the river, and that it was clean enough for you to eat the fish.

Two years later, in 2013, the EPA ordered Enbridge to re-dredge the Kalamazoo river, which cost Enbridge $175,000,000 dollars and proved that both Enbridge AND the EPA lied about the clean-up: The OIL IS STILL THERE. This makes it clear that tarsands oil is nearly impossible to clean up. John is also responsible for proving that over 12 tarsands oil spill sites were still contaminated, needing to be re-dredged, after the EPA and Enbridge had already signed off on them as 100% cleared, cleaned and restored in 2010.

John tells us how he got NPR and the Canadian CTV network to follow him as he demonstrated the oil was still there. Under media pressure, the EPA recently ordered the company to clean up the river.



At 5 min 38 seconds of this video, a Nebraska land-owner claims there is a 1.5% leakage allowed in these pipelines with no need to report on it...

John tells us he heard about that, but didn't see proof until he visited Keystone XL protesters in Nebraska. He was shown web pages from the site of Transcanada Pipeline saying they can't even detect a spill until the pipeline pressure drops at least 1.5%. So there can be lots of bitumen oozing out of faulty welds, nobody knows, nobody reports it, until it starts showing up in the land, water, or a major aquifer.

Transcanada is now controlled by a conglomerate of Chinese corporations. Forget the "Canada" part. Bolenbaugh wonders if China is also interested in gaining rights to the aquifer water (30% of America's fresh water supply by some accounts) via this Keystone XL deal.

Remember, tar sands bitumen is so sticky is doesn't flow like oil. If normal motor oil has a viscosity of 5 or 6, bitumen is at least 11 on the same scale. They heat the pipeline, they pressurize it with pumps, and the companies mix in many, many other chemicals, including toxic benzene, to keep it flowing. All that comes out in small leaks, and big spills.

Bolenbaugh says this mixture from the tar sands is like sandpaper, always wearing away at any weakness in the line. That's what makes the recent crazy to repurpose old pipelines, and natural gas pipelines, to move tar sands bitumen - so crazy! The big spill in Arkansas is a case in point.


In late March, a pipeline built in the 1940's and owned by Exxon broke open in Arkansas near the community of Mayflower. While initial estimates said 5,000 barrels spilled, State Attorney General Dustin McDaniel now says the leak was much larger.

At first Exxon tried to say it wasn't tar sands bitumen from Alberta. Then the truth came out.


Exxon, really Exxon/Mobil, is possibly the world's most profitable corporation, making as much as tens of billions of dollars profit every quarter. But this oil behemoth says it doesn't have to pay for the cleanup because technically it wasn't oil, but bitumen. Under U.S. law, all oil companies pay a certain amount per gallon into a spill cleanup fund. But the legislation technically refers to "oil" and Exxon says bitumen from the Alberta tar sands isn't "oil" - so the world's most profitable company is ducking the bill for this nasty spill. We'll see who ends up paying millions for this "cleanup".

Exxon also claims the oil has not reached the nearby lake, just the "cove" of the lake. Arkansas authorities point out the "cove" is part of the lake. The horror is: this bitumen does not float on top of water, as normal oil or gasoline does, but sinks to the bottom. The entire bottom of any affected river, lake, or presumably in the case of ocean tankers, the sea bed, has to be dug up. Imagine the ecological consequences, cost, and impossibility of really restoring natural habitat.

John Bolenbaugh notes Exxon claimed they shut off their pumping stations within half an hour of the Arkansas spill report. What the company doesn't say is the line will continue to gush out bitumen for a long time, as up to 50 miles of pipeline empties by gravity. It's hard to say how much really came out.

It takes a lot of heat and pressure, plus a toxic mix of poisonous chemicals just to make tar sands bitumen flow. So why are oil companies putting that combination in old, old pipelines? Because they can't get approval to build new ones? John says it works out economically better for these companies to keep pumping, even knowing a spill will happen eventually, since insurance will pay for the cleanup and any lost profits. I haven't confirmed that. Still, it sounds like the nuclear industry: push the the old pipelines until they break, rather than replace them.


John had a whistle-blower lawsuit against the smaller contractor that hired him for the cleanup, after he outed the Kalamazoo Michigan spill. Bolenbaugh tells us the suit was settled. He got some money, without having to keep quiet. John says he spent all that money, and sold the truck he bought to visit other pipeline sites, to pay for protest t-shirts and signs (which he gave away free), and to travel to support people in places like Nebraska.

Now he's broke, and is appealing for donations, in part to help him get to Arkansas to help those people.

I know John is not perfect. But based on what I've seen of John's activism, he should be helped. Bolenbaugh is playing a vital role, helping others defend themselves against spills and abuse by large corporations. He's the real deal.

You can donate at his web site.

Here are some select John Bolenbaugh You tube videos:

1. Testimony of a Police Officer and oil spill victim

2. Environmental inspector calls Enbridge a liar

3. One of many John Bolenbaugh video proofs of buried oil and attempts to stop him from filming


On March 11th, 2013, over 100 young people invaded the offices of Transcanada Pipeline in Westborough Massachutsetts to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline. They carried a coffin to symbolize the Tar Sands burying our future.

Watch and hear the "Digging Us A Hole song" in this You tube video.

More info here.

Music and lyrics by: Melodeego. Hear the whole song, with improved audio, in this Radio Ecoshock program.


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U of Ottawa scientist Paul Beckwith.

While we were fed news about a new Pope, the economic breakdown on the little island of Cyprus, and two crazy bombers in Boston - a major event occurred unreported in the Arctic. It's a very bad sign.

Let's go back to Paul Beckwith. He's the PHD student and part-time professor of climatology and meteorology at the University of Ottawa, in Canada. Paul is also a member of AMEG, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group.

Paul sent me a disturbing video, of the Arctic ice north of Canada and Alaska during the part of winter which should be frozen solid. Instead, we see a mega-vortex of breaking ice, with large cracks of open water. Yes, cracks in the winter ice have happened before, but never on such a scale! The only explanation is that after the 2012 record breakdown of Arctic sea ice, the much thinner regrowth has become unstable.

See the NOAA video based on satellite imagery here.

You can also listen to this excellent interview with AMEG scientist and Cambridge polar specialist Peter Wadhams. Hear how much thinner ice is now, than in the 1970's or even the year 2,000. It's from the Alpha2Omega podcast. Great interview.

Paul Beckwith wrote about this incident in the Beaufort Sea, and what the disappearance of Arctic sea ice (in summer) really means for all of us, in this blog entry.


Beckwith says it is possible the Arctic sea ice cover could disappear this summer, in 2013! Even NOAA, the U.S. government agency, now predicts the Arctic Ocean will be "nearly ice-free" possibly within the next 10 years. They say "nearly" because small bits of ice may hang around the protected Canadian archipeligo (islands) - even while the rest of the polar sea is wide open, and sucking up the Sun's heat.

Paul notes that if you take the same amount of solar energy it takes to melt one gram of ice, and apply that to that water, the water goes up about 80 degrees C!

It's a huge heating affect, which will change the "air-conditioner of the world". With less temperature difference between the Pole and the Equator, the Jet Stream winds that separate our weather systems slow down and become more wavy. Beckwith explains how that brought the recent record cold spring to the UK and parts of Eastern Europe. Is it coincidence, Beckwith wonders, that there was an excess mortality in the UK this spring of more than 5,000 people? The final figures aren't in, but it's possible we are already seeing climate-caused deaths in Britain.

Weather in the Eastern part of the U.S. and Canada also went wonky this year, with late snows and record flooding.

You get an in-depth interview where science begins to make sense for all of us. Paul Beckwith is a cutting edge scientist at the University of Ottawa in Canada. He's willing to speak out. For example, Beckwith wonders whether the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) will stick with models that show Arctic ice disappearing after 2050 - even if it breaks up this year or next? The models have fallen far short of reality, again.


If the Arctic goes ice free, then a group of heavy duty scientists suggest we may have to spray sulfur aerosols into the Arctic, just to save the remaining ice cap - while humans figure out what to do! Yep, that's geoengineering, and I am against geoengineering. But I don't see any good choices here.

Check out this short video with top scientist Ken Caldiera. He too supports saving the Arctic ice with geoengineering.

Other scientists have severe doubts about this kind of geoengineering, saying it could have unforseen consequences. For example, Jim Haywood from the UK's Met Office Hadley Centre just wrote in the journal Nature Climate Change: such fine particles sprayed into the atmosphere could increase horrible droughts in the Sahel region of North Africa.

Even talking about spraying sulfur from airplanes will trigger another popular Internet meme: that governments have been secretly spraying materials into the atmosphere for years. It's the chemtrail conspiracy theory.

So a move to save the Arctic ice doesn't happen on a blank social canvass. A whole group of Net -connected people already suspect it is happening, and may whip up opposition, not understanding the science or consequences at all. Others think global warming is not caused by burning fossil fuels, but by a plot by world bankers through the US government HAARP radio transmitters in Alaska. So there is warming, they way, but we can just keep on driving our SUV's! Any form of denial will do.

My take on HAARP is the U.S. military (and the Russians have a similar project) would LIKE to be able to send storms against an adversay, but probably have not yet managed to do it. I totally doubt (my opinion) the HAARP project is seriously meddling with weather on a day-to-day basis, as claimed by some of the You tube posters. There is zero science to back that up.

By the way, governments ARE openly involved in some kinds of climate modification. Just look at the efforts by China to seed clouds during their drought in Northern China. Plus, the U.S. military HAS published documents about using weather as a weapon of war. Are we already modifying the weather?

Back in the real world, Beckwith points out the sulfur needed in the Arctic to shade that part of the planet a bit is far less than volcanoes emit, and even less than the many coal plants of the world emit every year. We are already geonengineering the planet by using fossil fuels. You decide - but listen to the interview!

I admit trouble comprehending what such a massive change on Earth really means. All through human history the northern Pole has been frozen solid year round. It's part of the story of early exploration, a taken-for-granted feature of Planet Earth. I'm just stunned that a new sea is opening up, even in summer. Are scientists as freaked out as I am? Apparently some are deeply worried.

Do you want to follow up on this? Here is a link to Paul Beckwith's blog on the Sierra Club of Canada site.

His bio says: "Paul Beckwith is a PhD student with the laboratory for paleoclimatology and climatology, department of geography, University of Ottawa. He teaches second year climatology/meteorology as a part-time professor. His thesis topic is “Abrupt climate change in the past and present.” He holds an M.Sc. in laser physics and a B.Eng. in engineering physics and reached the rank of chess master in a previous life."


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