Hedge fund billionaire and rapturous eco-crusader Tom Steyer has fronted a lot of ridiculous attempts to not only thwart the construction of the already-existing Keystone pipeline’s northern extension, which would merely give Canada’s oil sands an efficient connection to our refineries in the Gulf, but to smear everything about the fossil fuel industry, the technology it employs, and the global free market in which it operates. The absurdly worded poll that his NextGen Climate Action group commissioned earlier this year, claiming that the “majority of U.S. voters want to know where the crude oil transported through the Keystone XL pipeline will end up” — as if that’s somehow an indictment of the Keystone XL pipeline, and as if the U.S. doesn’t sell and ship its own petroleum products to Africa, Asia, and the Middle East (which, by the way, it does) — springs immediately to mind. This, however… this, I did not see this coming.
Hedge fund billionaire Tom Steyer, a climate change activist and staunch opponent of the prospective 1,179-mile pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to Cushing, Okla., has hired retired Navy SEAL chief David “Dave” Cooper to assess how vulnerable the Keystone XL might be to deliberate sabotage. In a 14-page report made public today (but redacted to keep it from being a playbook for aspiring terrorists), Cooper concludes that a small group of evildoers could easily cause a catastrophic spill of millions of gallons of diluted bitumen, or tar sands crude, from the Keystone XL. They could do it with as little as four pounds of commercial-grade, improvised explosives. Cooper even did a dry run, using the completed Keystone I pipeline as a proxy; he hung out at a critical valve station long enough to content himself that he could have planted some explosives and left without a hitch.
In what Cooper deems “the most likely scenario,” a single attack could result in 1.2 million gallons of Alberta crude tarring Nebraska farms and waterways. He calculated this using published emergency shutdown response times and pipeline flow forecasts from the government and TransCanada (TRP:CN), the company that wants to build and operate the line. A coordinated attack at multiple locations, Cooper suggests, could trigger a 7.24 million gallon flood.
Oookay. It is certainly true that pipeline vandalism has plenty of precedent; as Businessweek points out, it’s been a problem in places like Nigeria, Mexico, and particularly Iraq, with militants trying to sabotage all-important energy grids, and I have zero doubts that a former Navy SEAL chief has had ample experience with those types of situations. My question, however, is why the Keystone XL pipeline is ostensibly different/more dangerous than the literally millions of miles of oil-and-gas pipeline already crisscrossing the country in a vast and interconnected network?
The risk to our energy infrastructure as well as our environment via pipeline blowout has always been there, but every option has its tradeoffs, and we have clearly determined that this particular risk is well worth the reward. As the State Department just aptly pointed out once again in their recent adjustment to their Keystone XL report from last January, terrestrial pipelines are in practice the safest and most ecologically friendly way to transport the oil that Canada is most definitely going to be drilling for anyway. Evidently, Tom Steyer really is willing to use his fossil-fuel-obtained billions to peddle whatever deliberately misleading information he feels he needs to in order to stymie what the eco-radical lobby has branded as one of the greatest environmental threat Of Our Time — and only they know why.