Alberta Tar Sands Are Not Oil


B. McPherson


Hold onto your hats. Here Canadians thought the Tar Sands were Oil Sands in Alberta. Some people call the product bitumen. It’s the consistency of peanut butter so won’t flow nicely in the pipelines. It needs to be heated in cold climates and diluted with a witch’s brew of chemicals, including that old favourite – benzene.

When the Enbridge Pipeline carrying diluted bitumen or dilbit ruptured in the Kalamazoo River two years ago, they made some effort to clean up the oil, only it wasn’t oil. You know the old saying “If it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck and walks like a duck, it must be a duck.” In the fairy tale land of the US lawmakers, dilbit isn’t oil. It’s something else again.

Why is this important? Oil companies are required to pay into an Oil Liability Trust Fund that has the money to clean up the inevitable spills that occur during the transportation of oil products. But if you are transporting dilbit  or oil, not oil they don’t have to pay the 8 cent per barrel levy to help finance the fund. 

So for those lucky folks in Mayflower, Arkansas, that black goo that is fouling their yard, houses and streets is not oil. That kerosene smell is not oil and of course benzene isn’t oil, it’s a carcinogen.

Exxon is the company that owned the oil not oil and has stated that it will clean up the mess. I wonder how much soil they will be trucking away and where they plan to dump it. But they may well do their corporate best to remedy the situation.

Treehugger has some interesting information on this as well as some useful links.

What remains are very troubling questions. 

1.       When diluted bitumen(dilbit) is transported in a pipeline, it is abrasive like sandpaper. Why was it being transported in a pipeline that was 60 years old?
2.       Why has dilbit been exempted from the 8 cent per barrel levy?
3.       How does Exxon plan to compensate those affected by the unoil spill?
4.       What health care monitoring will be done to ensure that cancers and other health crises arising from the volatiles like benzene?
5.       Will the proposed  Northern Gateway Pipeline, the Keystone Pipeline continue to carry oil not oil and will BigOil be exempt from contributing to the clean up fund?

If you build it, it will leak.

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