The lies from the tar sands.

It was a brief remark our Canadian ambassador to Washington made on Global Television’s West Block show last Sunday. I was trying to remember where I had heard it before. Kirsten Hillman said that, as ambassador, she could tell the Biden administration that Alberta has already shown it can reduce carbon in its tar sands’ bitumen by 30 per cent.

That is quite a claim!  I expect that it would no longer be bitumen if you reduced the carbon by about 30 per cent. It would probably be better described as synthetic crude oil. In fact, there was a claim made some time ago that in the upgrading process in Alberta, they were finding convenient old wells to get rid of the bitumen slag that upgrading produced. The slag is in the form of a carbon dust.

We had first heard of that slag when the Koch-owned Marathon refineries in Detroit, Michigan were accumulating huge piles of it from converting Alberta bitumen. Bad luck for Windsor, Ontario though when the prevailing winds would send the carbon slag across the river to the Windsor area.

But Ambassador Hillman needs to be corrected. The Keystone XL pipeline is not being built to provide crude oil to the Texas Gulf refineries. Those refineries can get higher quality bitumen from Venezuela. They can also get lots of crude oil from fracking these days. American refineries are no longer interested in Alberta bitumen.

The truth is that the Keystone XL pipeline is needed to take Alberta’s diluted bitumen to the Gulf ports where ocean tankers have unloaded their crude oil from the Middle East and their bitumen from South America. They can then take the cheap Canadian bitumen across the Atlantic to customers in Europe, Africa and the sub-continent who do not worry as much about the pollution.

The combination of markets available to the Keystone XL pipeline across the Atlantic and TransMountain pipeline across the Pacific have been the hopes of those still exploiting Alberta’s tar sands.

The only concern that remains is that it sounds like hypocrisy for Canadians to wash their hands of the pollution they are causing for our fragile world.

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