Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Technological advances make the Keystone XL pipeline safer than alternatives

My Dad loves to read Fox News, and he sent me this article about the technology behind the Keystone XL pipeline. We got into a good discussion on this article, too. My Dad used to be a big believer in big government, but now he only cares about what problems the private sector can solve.

The article says:

The Obama administration continues to block the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would transport nearly 35 million gallons of oil a day from Canada to the U.S., citing environmental concerns as the reason. But according to pipeline advocates, it would use the latest technology and best safety features to prevent spills.

Advanced steel is part of it. The current part of the Keystone pipeline that already exists uses 2,638 miles of hardened steel built to “withstand  impact from a 65-ton excavator with 3.5-inch teeth,” according to TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone pipeline.

The steel is also coated with alloys to prevent it from wearing out.

“They use all kinds of methodologies to reduce friction. Corrosion inhibition is pretty sexy stuff in this business,” Eric Smith, associate director of Tulane University’s Energy Institute, told FoxNews.com

Pumping stations are another critical part. All along the pipeline, pumps move the oil using centrifugal force: a motor spins and forces oil to the edges of the pump, which causes more oil to rush forward to take the place of the oil pulled to the edges.

Each pump has 6,500 horsepower – meaning that the pump exerts an amount of power roughly equivalent to that of 6,500 horses. Total pumping power on the existing pipeline is nearly half a million horsepower, according to TransCanada.

Another critical technology is leak detection systems. The existing Keystone pipeline, for instance, has sensors that collect data from 20,000 different points along the pipeline.

If a leak occurs anywhere along the pipeline, the pressure in the pipeline changes, and TransCanada notes that such changes travel through the pipeline at the speed of sound and so can be detected nearly instantly.

The company adds that the pipeline has “fail-safe” mechanisms that automatically reduce oil pressure in the pipeline to safe levels.

TransCanada also has airplanes monitor the pipeline from the sky, using both the eyes of human pilots and a “Laser Spectroscopy Unit” that shoots a laser near the pipeline and then analyzes the reaction of whatever material is hit by the laser beam. TransCanada says this is “capable of identifying tiny methane leaks at patrol altitudes.”

The human pilots also catch things. TransCanada reports that one of its pilots once noticed that a circus in Kansas had tethered an elephant to a pipeline stake, which posed a potential threat.

All the layers of security help, say experts.

“It’s a belt-and-suspenders kind of approach. You just don’t want even minute leaks,” Smith said, adding that pipelines are the safest way of moving oil across land.

Pipelines are actually much safer than transporting the oil by train, which is the method favored by environmentalist opponents to Keystone XL:

According to a 2006 study by Environmental Research Consulting using Department of Transportation data, pipelines have spilled far less than trucks or railroads per ton of oil transported.

Critics of President Obama’s delay of the Keystone XL construction say the holdup actually makes everyone less safe, as oil producers instead rely on comparatively dangerous railroads for transportation. From 2008 to 2013, the amount of oil transported by rail skyrocketed from 9,500 carloads in 2008 to 41 times that – 407,642 – in 2013.

My big point to my Dad about this is how the private sector responds to the desires of customers on their own, developing solutions for the people who they expect to buy their products. The government spends 2 billion on the Obamacare web site, and forces people to use it. They can never develop anything people actually want to buy. Government just taxes, regulates and restricts the businesses who seek to solve problems for customers.

It’s the private sector businesses who are the real heroes to customers – making the things that we want and need and competing with other businesses to sell the most quality at the lowest price. They even find solutions to our concerns about the environment, if we let them, because that is part of pleasing the customer, too. If we had to wait on public school teachers, politicians, Hollywood clowns and academics to innovate, we would be waiting a long time indeed. I stand with private sector business, and the free-market system in general.

UPDATE: Holy snouts. For the first time in 6 years I am actually proud of Obama for doing something:

The Obama administration has opened a new front in the global battle for oil market share, effectively clearing the way for the shipment of as much as a million barrels per day of ultra-light U.S. crude to the rest of the world.

The Department of Commerce on Tuesday ended a year-long silence on a contentious, four-decade ban on oil exports, saying it had begun approving a backlog of requests to sell processed light oil abroad. It also issued a long-awaited document outlining exactly what kinds of oil other would-be exporters can ship.

The administration’s first serious effort to clarify an issue that has caused confusion and consternation in energy markets for more than a year will likely please domestic oil drillers, foreign trade partners and some Republicans who have urged Obama to loosen the export ban, which they see as an outdated holdover from the 1970s Arab oil embargo.

The latest measures were wrapped in regulatory jargon and couched by some as a basic clarification of existing rules, but analysts said the message was unambiguous: a green light for any company willing and able to process their light condensate crude through a distillation tower, a simple piece of oilfield kit.

“In practice this long-awaited move can open up the floodgates to substantial increases in exports by end 2015,” Ed Morse, global head of commodities research at Citigroup in New York said in a research note.

[…]By opening the door to U.S. crude exports, the administration is offering a bit of relief to some domestic drillers that have said that they are forced to sell their shale oil at a discount of as much as $15 a barrel versus global markets as fast-rising domestic supplies overwhelm local demand.

Let’s hope Obama signs the Keystone XL pipeline in the new year, too. That will help people so much and hurt our enemies, Russia, Venezuela and Iran. There are ways to fight wars without firing a shot, and this is how you do it – he looks like Ronald Reagan, now. Well done, Barack Obama! Finally!

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How the green movement makes war on jobs and the poorest Americans

This article by Stephen Moore from Investors Business Daily is important, because it shows that there is a cost to environmentalist advocacy.

Excerpt:

Last month we saw firsthand one impact of Big Green on our economy with the White House announcement that the Keystone XL pipeline won’t be built for at least six more months.

Ten thousand blue collar jobs, almost all paying more than $50,000 a year, down the drain.

It’s a project that polls show almost all Americans want, except for the deep-pocketed green elite in Hollywood, Silicon Valley and Wall Street.

Then the Los Angeles Times recently warned that electricity prices could be driven upward in California and other states due in part to renewable energy mandates that cause electric power shortages and spike prices paid by homeowners.

Meanwhile, around the country, from Seattle to Bangor, Maine, property owners are locked into fights with green groups preventing people from building on their land in responsible and productive ways.

Out West, the Endangered Species Act has become an Endanger the Oil and Gas Industry Act, as energy companies confront higher regulatory hurdles and bans on development on potentially tens of millions of acres.

Whole communities that depend on natural resource development are being wiped out.

Big Green is already fast at work wiping out America’s coal industry, with entire mining towns nearly shut down in states like Kentucky and West Virginia, thanks to the left’s war on coal. These are small towns where the median household income is often less than $40,000 a year. Liberals used to pretend to care about these people.

[…]In fact, the environmental movement’s entire agenda — stop fracking, stop coal development, stop pipelines, stop nuclear energy, stop drilling on federal lands, require expensive “renewable energy,” enact cap-and-trade schemes, impose carbon taxes, and on and on — victimize poor and middle-class Americans the most. Rich donors to the Sierra Club get hardly a scratch from these policies to save the planet.

If you ask most Americans whether they are more worried about global warming or having a job, they’ll say having a job is more important. Paying less for electricity is more important. Paying less for gas for their car is more important. The only people who don’t care are the rich. But not just any rich – the Hollywood rich. The people who have no idea how the economy works. If only young people and the middle class could realize what the real price tag is for all this fine environmentalist rhetoric. Maybe we should be telling them how environmental policies affect their day-to-day lives.

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Jay Richards: what should Christians think about global warming?

Here’s a lecture Jay Richards did for the Acton Institue.

And here is a related article from Boundless.

Excerpt:

The big environmental issue nowadays is global warming. Anyone who watches or reads the news even occasionally has been told that humans are causing global warming through all the fossil fuels we’re burning. They’ve also been told that this warming process eventually will prove catastrophic if we don’t reverse course as soon as possible.

As thinking Christians and good stewards, how should we respond?

The short answer is, we should respond thoughtfully. Thoughtless stewards are rarely good stewards.

Notice that my brief summary of the global warming controversy bundled together several distinct claims. To think clearly about this issue, we have to tease apart this bundle of claims and consider each one. For each claim, there is a corresponding question we need to answer. And it’s only after answering these questions that we can be in a position to determine what, if anything, we ought to do about global warming.

Here are the four central questions:

  1. Is the earth warming?
  2. If the earth is warming, is human activity (like carbon dioxide emissions) causing it?
  3. If the earth is warming, and we’re causing it, is that bad overall?
  4. If the earth is warming, we’re causing it, and that’s bad, would any of the proposed “solutions” (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol, legislative restrictions on carbon dioxide emissions) make any difference?

It’s important for us to think carefully about how best to achieve the goals set out by the Bible. And that means undertaking a close study of how the world works and how best to affect change for the good.

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The ten worst energy policies of the Obama administration

Heritage Foundation put this list together.

Here are a few examples:

5) The EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ream of new regulations will adversely affect existing power plants, requiring them to be retrofitted or in many cases shut down because it will be too costly to install emission-reduction controls The most recent announcement of the President’s ongoing campaign against carbon-based fuel, the EPA released a new rule to regulate CO2 emissions from power plants, which would effectively ban new coal power plants, as its emissions standards are too low to be met by conventional coal-fired facilities. That will result in higher energy costs, fewer jobs, a less prosperous economy and no discernible difference in global temperatures.

6) Cap-and-Trade and the Clean Energy Standard: When he came into office, President Obama latched on to the notion of cap-and-trade — a system of energy taxes and credits designed to reduce carbon emissions. The end result would have been disastrous for American businesses and the economy. When that legislation failed, the President proposed a Clean Energy Standard mandating that the power industry  meet government-determined goals with respect to renewable energy production. The effect, though, is the same.  Both serve as a draconian energy tax that burdens businesses and consumers – with no environmental benefits.

8Terminating the Nuclear Waste Repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada.  The Obama Administration   says it wants to pursue nuclear power, but its rhetoric does not match its nuclear policy.  Its decision to abandon the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project without any technical or scientific data is a case in point.  With nearly $15 billion spent on the project, the data indicates that Yucca would be a safe place to store America’s used nuclear fuel.  Yet purely for political reasons the Obama administration decided to terminate the program without having anything to replace it. Absent any nuclear waste disposal options, the United States simply will not significantly expand nuclear energy.

9) Green Jobs Stimulus: With the U.S. economy struggling to recover from a recession, President Obama turned to a trillion dollars in stimulus spending in an attempt to spend America out of the economic doldrums. A significant part of that stimulus was directed toward a new “green” economy with taxpayer dollars directed toward creating alternative energy jobs. Obama promised to create five million green jobs over 10 years. The trouble is that his plan didn’t work, and the jobs didn’t materialize. As The New York Times reported, it was nothing more than “a pipe dream.” Further, these are taxpayer-funded jobs that destroy jobs elsewhere in the economy. When the government gives money to build a windmill, for example, those resources cannot simultaneously be used to build other products. The net effect is job and income losses.

10) Job-Killing CAFE Standards: Obama’s EPA has imposed a corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standard requiring auto makers to hit an average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025—a 40 percent reduction in fuel consumption compared to today. The Center for Automotive Research warned that overly stringent standards could add $10,000 to the cost of a new car, decreasing sales and thereby reducing production, destroying as many as 220,000 jobs, according to a report by the Defour Group. And a 2002 National Academy of Sciences study concludes that CAFE’s downsizing effect makes cars less safe and contributed to between 1,300 and 2,600 deaths in a single representative year.

Do you wonder why the unemployment rate is more than double what it was in during the Bush administration? Or why we are running deficits four times higher than what we had in the Bush administration? Or why gas prices have tripled compared to what they were under the Bush administration? Well, when you look at a list like this, you will realize that it is all the deliberate result of incompetence in policy making by the Obama administration. They did everything wrong, and now we are paying the price for it.

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New study shows that the medieval warming extended far and wide

From the UK Daily Mail.

Excerpt:

Current theories of the causes and impact of global warming have been thrown into question by a new study which shows that during medieval times the whole of the planet heated up.

It then cooled down naturally and there was even a ‘mini ice age’.

A team of scientists led by geochemist Zunli Lu from Syracuse University in New York state, has found that contrary to the ‘consensus’, the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ approximately 500 to 1,000 years ago wasn’t just confined to Europe.

In fact, it extended all the way down to Antarctica – which means that the Earth has already experience global warming without the aid of human CO2 emissions.

At present the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argues that the Medieval Warm Period was confined to Europe – therefore that the warming we’re experiencing now is a man-made phenomenon.

However, Professor Lu has shown that this isn’t true – and the evidence lies with a rare mineral called ikaite, which forms in cold waters.

‘Ikaite is an icy version of limestone,’ said Lu. ‘The crystals are only stable under cold conditions and actually melt at room temperature.’

It turns out the water that holds the crystal structure together – called the hydration water – traps information about temperatures present when the crystals formed.

This finding by Lu’s research team establishes, for the first time, ikaite as a reliable way to study past climate conditions.

The scientists studied ikaite crystals from sediment cores drilled off the coast of Antarctica. The sediment layers were deposited over 2,000 years.

The scientists were particularly interested in crystals found in layers deposited during the ‘Little Ice Age,’ approximately 300 to 500 years ago, and during the Medieval Warm Period before it.

Both climate events have been documented in Northern Europe, but studies have been inconclusive as to whether the conditions in Northern Europe extended to Antarctica.

Lu’s team found that in fact, they did.

What that means is that the Medieval Warming Period was not local to Northern Europe, but extended all the way to Antarctica, as well. Now you might be asking yourself “how could medieval knights riding around on horseback cause global warming? Wouldn’t they have to be driving SUVs and drilling for oil and generally do nasty capitalist things like that?” Yes, they would. But they weren’t. And so this clearly shows that the warming and cooling of the Earth has nothing whatsoever to do with CO2 emissions. Whatever will the socialists do now to trick people into voting for higher gas prices?

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