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Turner writes: "Tar sands oil production has already created more than 50 square miles of toxic waste ponds so massive they are visible from space. Even more important, tar sands oil extraction produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil and gas, putting even greater strain on our atmosphere and oceans, which have little absorptive capacity left."

Founder of CNN, philanthropist, rancher and environmental activist Ted Turner. (photo: Louie Psihoyos/CORBIS)
Founder of CNN, philanthropist, rancher and environmental activist Ted Turner. (photo: Louie Psihoyos/CORBIS)

Stop Keystone Pipeline Before It's Too Late

By Ted Turner, CNN

25 February 12


own a property in Fort Pierre, South Dakota, called the Bad River Ranch. It is a beautiful place, where we have worked very hard to restore the landscape, reintroduce native wildlife species and raise bison sustainably. But it sits about 15 miles downstream of the point where TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Bad River, and being that close has led me to examine more closely the potential risks and benefits of a project about which I have been highly skeptical from the beginning. After careful scrutiny, I believe it is not in our national interest to pursue it.

The purpose of Keystone XL is to bring tar sands crude oil through the United States to Gulf Coast refineries. The route through the United States is actually the oil industry's second choice: Transporting the oil west from Alberta to the Pacific Coast would be shorter and much cheaper, but Canadians concerned about environmental impacts and threats to native people's lands are challenging that route, and with good reason. The existing and potential environmental impacts along the 2,000-mile pipeline route are profound.

In Canada, extraction of tar sands crude requires clear-cutting thousands of acres of boreal forests, diverting rivers, strip-mining, and destroying critical habitat for some of the largest populations of woodland caribou left in the world. Thirty percent of North America's songbirds and 40% of its waterfowl rely on the wetlands and waterways of the boreal forest.

Tar sands oil production has already created more than 50 square miles of toxic waste ponds so massive they are visible from space. Even more important, tar sands oil extraction produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil and gas, putting even greater strain on our atmosphere and oceans, which have little absorptive capacity left.

Closer to home, the pipeline presents an immediate threat to drinking water for millions and to the livelihood of farmers and ranchers. To transport via pipeline, the thick tar sands crude must be mixed with toxic chemicals and then pumped at extreme temperature and pressure. This sets the stage for more pipeline failures and spills that create a highly toxic mess.

The existing Keystone 1 tar sands pipeline has spilled more than 12 times in its first 12 months of operation. In July 2010, a spill of more than 800,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude from the Enbridge pipeline contaminated more than 30 miles of water and shoreline along the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. This created public health problems, threats to groundwater, widespread fish kills, and destruction of wildlife habitat, contamination that is still being cleaned up at a cost exceeding $700 million. Downstream landowners like me are thinking this is a preview of coming attractions if Keystone XL is built.

The potential for pollution of vital groundwater from the Keystone XL pipeline is even more frightening. Depending on the final route of the pipeline, spills would threaten the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest aquifer in the western North American region, upon which millions of people and agricultural businesses depend for drinking water, irrigation and livestock watering.

But spills anywhere along the route would threaten crucial drinking water supplies, from local and municipal drinking water wells to the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Texas, a critical water supply for drought-stricken East Texas and Houston. Anyone with even a passing familiarity with the water scarcity problems in that region should understand how a sizable pipeline failure could have catastrophic consequences.

Meanwhile, the pro-pipeline lobby is pushing the public to accept Keystone XL with fuzzy promises about jobs and security. But TransCanada's jobs claims have been widely discredited, and there is no guarantee the oil transported by the pipeline would remain in the United States for sale. An attempt in Congress to require the oil to be consumed in the United States was rejected just last week, and it has been widely detailed that Gulf Coast refineries plan to export the finished product to Europe and Latin America. How do we become more energy secure under that scenario?

Now Congress, by means of an amendment to the highway bill, is pushing to wrest decision-making control over the project from the administration, bypass final environmental review, and force approval of the pipeline before the final route has even been determined.

Congress should not be in the business of skirting the rules and ramming through a polluting project like the Keystone XL pipeline. Instead of supporting the transport of dirty tar sands oil, its focus should be on harnessing truly clean, renewable energy sources like solar, wind and biofuels, which will create thousands of long-lasting jobs in the United States, protect our natural resources and provide true energy and water security today and for many years to come.

Ted Turner is the founder and chairman of the United Nations Foundation and the founder of CNN and Turner Broadcasting. He no longer plays an active role in CNN's operations. He also founded and is the co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, which seeks to reduce the threat of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. your social media marketing partner


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+31 # danigo 2012-02-25 10:02
Why not just build the refinery in Canada and forget about moving the tar sands? Strangely this alternative never gets mentioned.
-1 # MidwestTom 2012-02-25 11:12
The biggest reason that no refinery will be built there is that there is no market for a large volume of product in the area. It is simpler to build one line to remove the crude oil, than it is to build four to six pipelines to remove the products. Same reason applies to the bakken Shale oil in the Dakotas. The American fuel pipeline system is in a large way designed to distribute products from existing refineries in Texas, Louisiana, and Oklahoma..
+27 # Barbara K 2012-02-25 11:00
Mr. President, please put a stop to this -- Permanently. Our country is worth much more than what is happening to it. What good is a country whose ground, air, and water has been destroyed? Let Canada run it across their own land, not ours. We take all the risks and get none of the benefits, the oil is going on the open market. As Danigo said, let Canada build a refinery in its own country. We are not the dump that they think we are.
-30 # MidwestTom 2012-02-25 11:05
The tar sands will be mined, whether we build a pipeline or not, so the pollution generated in the mining process has no connection to the building of the XL pipeline. The probable outcome of not building the pipeline is that the Chinese will build a pipeline to the west coast and take a lot of the oil, and the balance will continue to be hauled by rail in 100 car trains by Warren Buffet's railroad, to Houston; at least as long as he continues to donate millions to Obama.
+5 # joestecher 2012-02-25 15:29
First, I'd like to ask if you read the article. A pipeline west will be killed by the west coast Canadianl Second, what is it you are smokin'? It must be real good stuff. Perhaps tar sands oil?
+3 # Buddha 2012-02-25 22:08
Will be? Haven't you heard this called the "extension"? The existing pipeline already goes to refineries in the plains states. This extension is so the tar sands goes to refineries by the Gulf ports, so the distilled gasoline can be easier exported for higher profit. You do know we currently EXPORT gasoline, right? And that most of the developed world gasoline sells for even higher than it does here, so there is more profit in exporting than selling here at home? We should call it the trans-America to China gas pipeline...wond er how many Americans would support it then? We get the environmental damage, other nations like China get the gasoline, and BigOil gets the profits.
-24 # handmjones 2012-02-25 11:56
The contention that three times the carbon goes to the atmosphere when using oil sands oil is a considerable mistake, or more likely, a purposeful lie. Three times as much carbon goes to the atmosphere in the production but when the oil is consumed the comparison is the carbon of 1.1 barrels to 1.3 or an increase of about 20%. Stating that it is a triple is the worst sort of propoganda.
+13 # Patriot 2012-02-25 13:37
It is true that in deliberation and debate, FACTS are important, and exaggerations are only propaganda. But whatever the percent of the increase in atmospheric carbon, ANY increase is wrong. So is continuing to extract crude by so catastrophic a method. We should be DECREASING carbon output; most of the rest of the world is trying, but the United States is NOT. Atmospheric carbon is KILLING our planet, the ony known home availabke to the human race. Instead of using so deady and irreversible a process to extract something that will accelerate our demise -- and it WILL -- we should be moving at the fastest possible speed to develop and convert to electricity-pro ducing that WON'T accelerate our demise. We're not lemmings, we're humans. Let's stop acting like lemmings!
+12 # sandyboy 2012-02-25 12:04
The late Randy California with his band Spirit had a song in the early 70s, about 40 years ago (!), called Nature's Way. The lyric went something like "It's natures way of telling you/Something's wrong". Amazing that the best part of half a century has passed and we're still allowing this crap to happen.
+24 # Regina 2012-02-25 12:08
The Keystone Kops obviously want passage to a port for export -- this has nothing to do with U.S. consumers and everything to do with greed on both sides of our northern border. A pipeline to a Canadian west coast port was stopped by Canada's indigenous peoples, who obviously have more clout than any of the U. S. peoples. And their earlier spills have already fouled land on both sides of the border. Canadians clearly know better -- it's high time we learned!
-2 # handmjones 2012-02-25 14:49
Not stopped. In environmental hearings.
0 # Buddha 2012-02-25 22:11
Exactly, this is all about exporting the distilled gasoline, chiefly to Asia and Europe. Right now the current pipeline goes to existing refineries in the MidWest, so we are getting most of that gas because to export it, it needs to go on rail to ports. Pipe the sands to refineries AT those gulf ports, and the balance shifts to making it much more cost effective to send the gasoline offshore (we already export gasoline anyways). But your average American is horribly uninformed, and thinks this is about "energy independence" and lowering our price of gas.
+19 # Majikman 2012-02-25 12:28
If that pipeline goes through, our new mantra will be "We're all Nigerians now"
0 # indian weaver 2012-02-25 12:37
hey ted, throw a few billions against rape of my planet for starters. words are cheap, including yours; and words are irrelevant at this point. action. big mouths suck air and spew nothing of value. remember Earthfirst? well, what are all these folks considering now, with millions more considering how to stop rape of Mother Earth? Publicize the homes / addresses / phones of all the criminals running these outfits, and begin an endless hassling of them for example? either we die fighting, and I mean fighting, for the planet, or die with it, as things are going. no one in either government cares about anyone or anything except power and wealth obviously. how to fight that? well? not with words.
+10 # sandyboy 2012-02-25 12:41
Handmjones: You obviously didn't read the article! Mr Turner didn't say USING the oil produces triple carbon! He said exactly what you admit IS the case: producing it triples the carbon.Looks like you're the one that's lying.
+1 # handmjones 2012-02-25 14:57
Point taken but wouldn't stating a 20% rise leave the casual reader with something closer to the truth?
+7 # sandyboy 2012-02-25 12:57
Sorry, indian weaver, words DO matter. If Mr Turner spoke out on his CNN channel it will have made people aware. I've no idea what his philanthropic works entail, but he has already helped the planet by careful stewardship of land, reintroducing native animals etc as he mentions.
-6 # handmjones 2012-02-25 14:56
Attacking the producer of fuel is backward. Back off our life style to one room per family and only an occassional car rental and we can get our emissions down to World standards. Instead much of what we do is designed to bring World standards up to ours.
+3 # Buddha 2012-02-25 22:15
Simply increasing MPG standards, long opposed by the GOP and finally mandated by Obama, will go far. There is a reason Europe can handle gas prices 2X (or higher) than ours is today...because the MPG of their autos is double ours and they invested in decent mass transit systems. The Prius in Europe is considered a joke, because a car that goes 50MPG is average. Here, that is spectacular. But Americans feel that driving a huge SUV and filling it with cheap gas is their God-given right. Witness Rep. West's rant at high gas prices, and blaming Obama, while he filled up his HUMMER H3! (Irony much?)
+4 # sandyboy 2012-02-25 16:38
Handmjones: What 'truth'? Extracting tar sands crude produces triple carbon than other oil. Fact. Just because the man didn't add that using it ALSO produces 20% more than other oils hardly disses the producers - if anything it lets them off lightly on the total damage the stuff does. Obviously our greed for energy, which we even steal via aggressive wars, is to blame for our problems, but does not justify the sloppy, dangerous methods of oil/gas companies.
+1 # handmjones 2012-02-26 06:32
If oil sands oil displaced some of the coal used in power generation that will really reduce emissions. If the oil sands oil displaces Venezuelan heavy crude transported by tanker the difference will be much less than 20%. If the crude were processed in Alberta there would be no convenient means to transport the asphalt to the US where the market exists. It is the feeling of guilt at being the World's greatest consumer of all natural resources that makes Americans so prone to blame any convenient scapegoat other than yourselves.
0 # ABen 2012-02-28 16:37
We don't need to produce more oil or gas, we simply need to consume less. Historically, U.S. society has demonstrated an extraordinary capacity for innovation; we should lead the world in fuel efficient vehicles and green power generation.

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