Saturday, April 6, 2013

A River of Oil Runs Through It

Suburban Little Rock has its charms.  However, there is a new addition to the suburban amenities present near town:  a leaking oil pipeline that brings oil from Canada to the south for refining caused the evacuation of several homeowners--who are still not back home after the March 29th spill.  The leak caused significant environmental damage.

Wetlands coated in oil near Little Rock.  Click for photo credit.
Seeing a river of oil running through the suburbs brought home the problem of big pipelines that traverse the country.  They transport a variety of chemicals and products from one location to another and are all around us.  When they fail, as they did in Arkansas, they cause a great deal of damage.

Some pipeline failures such as the Mayflower oil spill in Arkansas, cause local damage and environmental problems.  Other pipelines have greater risk.  For example, the Tampa area has an ammonia pipeline that leaked when kids broke it (some say to get chemicals for meth).  The leak caused the evacuation of a neighborhood and could have killed many.

For a complete list of pipeline leaks and accidents, see this Wikipedia list.  It's a bit staggering to see all of the leaks and problems associated with pipelines.

The US is contemplating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that would bring oil from Canada for processing in the US.  The oil comes from tar sand deposits.  Tar sand oil extraction is one of the most environmentally problematic forms of oil production known.  Obviously, many are against the pipeline due to the impact the development of the tar sands deposit will have in Canada.  But, many point to the long list of pipeline problems to try to stop the pipeline.  The construction of the pipeline is done, in part, on land ceded to the developers through eminent domain rules.  People will not have much of a choice if they do not want the possibility of having a river of oil running through their property in the future.

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