If you don't live in Nebraska... UPDATE...or Kansas
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels May 18, 2013 - 12:17pm
maybe you haven't paid much attention to Keystone XL, the pipeline destined to bring Canadian heavy oil through the U.S. to refineries and ports in Louisiana (where some of you do live) and Texas (anyone there?). Nebraska rose up to prevent the pipeline from running through a major aquifer and stalled its construction while President Obama thinks about it.One of the by-products of the refining process is something called "petroleum coke," left when the oil is released from the tar-like substance that is heavy oil. Where does that petroleum coke end up? At the moment, a huge pile of it is sitting in Detroit, the leavings from a nearby refinery that began processing Canadian heavy oil last winter. According to a story in the New York Times, the pile will eventually be shipped to China and Mexico where it is burnt in lieu of coal. Who owns that pile? The Koch Brothers (yes, those Koch Brothers). The stuff makes a hefty contribution to the pollution in both countries. And how many U.S. refineries will be sitting on piles of it. Detroit today! Tomorrow??? Story here.See photo below.UPDATE: Continuing on the environment, a story in the Times about the aquifer under Kansas being depleted by over-irrigation use, in particular to produce more corn for ethanol additives to gasoline. What once seemed a reasonable idea is now producing unintended consequences in high prices to farmers for corn and depletion of the water table. You'd think they'd have some self-interest in rethinking their crops. Story includes a good graphic of Midwestern water table and its states of depletion.
About the Author
Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.