Back in October, EPA approved a new pesticide, Enlist Duo, which combines glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) with another powerful weed killer called 2,4 D in six states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). NRDC filed a... Read More >
The Fight Widens: NRDC challenges the approval of the pesticide combination...
Back in October, EPA approved a new pesticide, Enlist Duo, which combines glyphosate (commonly known as Roundup) with another powerful weed killer called 2,4 D in six states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin). NRDC filed a lawsuit challenging EPA's approval of Enlist Duo because it will wreak further destruction on monarch butterfly populations already devastated by agricultural chemicals and because the pesticide poses risks to human health. However, rather than acknowledge the shortcomings of its approval of Enlist Duo, the EPA recently expanded its approval to an additional nine states (Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma and North Dakota). Today, NRDC is challenging that decision as well.
Enlist Duo is designed to be used in conjunction with genetically modified corn and soy crops that have been engineered to withstand the application of the powerful pesticide, much like how its predecessor Roundup was designed to be used on genetically modified Roundup Ready crops. However, the widespread use of Roundup (glyphosate) over the years has led to the widespread destruction of milkweed, a native wildflower that monarch caterpillars depend on. The monarch population that famously migrates across the US each year has dropped by 90% since the late 1990s when Roundup Ready crops were adopted. Although large quantities of milkweed have largely been eliminated, other weeds have developed a resistance to glyphosate and are now known as "super weeds." Dow AgroSciences has responded by developing new genetically engineered corn and soybeans that are resistant to both glyphosate and 2,4-D. The US Department of Agriculture predicts Enlist Duo could result in as much as a six-fold increase in the use of 2,4-D, a herbicide developed in the 1940s that has been linked to health impacts in humans, including decreased fertility, birth defects and thyroid problems. Additionally, glyphosate, the other ingredient in Enlist Duo, was recently classified as a "probable carcinogen" by the World Health Organization.
EPA's mission is to safeguard the environment and human health - however, its decision to approve Enlist Duo does neither. Enlist Duo will only further contribute to the dramatic decline of monarch butterflies and poses significant risks to human health. The approval of Enlist Duo - and its expansion across the US - is a step in the wrong direction for wildlife, for farmers and for public health. We need to get off the unsustainable path of increasingly toxic pesticides and move in the direction of truly sustainable farming solutions.
This blog was co-written with Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International Industry's favorite talking point in favor of the embattled Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was roundly discredited late last month with the first-time release of crude-by-rail data... Read More >
Energy Information Administration data confirms rail is no replacement for...
This blog was co-written with Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International
Industry's favorite talking point in favor of the embattled Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was roundly discredited late last month with the first-time release of crude-by-rail data by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
The agency's data confirms that very little Canadian crude of any kind is getting to the Gulf Coast via rail, critically undermining industry's argument that tar sands will get to the Gulf Coast with or without Keystone XL. According to EIA, direct oil rail shipments from Canada to the Gulf Coast averaged a mere 36,000 bpd in 2014 (3.6% of North America's crude-by-rail traffic).
It has taken years for the tar sands-by-rail exports to reach this level -far below the scale of Keystone XL's 830,000 bpd of pipeline capacity. Not only has the long predicted tar sands-by-rail boom failed to materialize, the rail companies and tar sands producers responsible for the limited volumes moving today are facing severe economic difficulties and in some cases, bankruptcy. Events have clearly upheld the argument that Keystone XL would enable a substantial expansion of tar sands production and significantly increase carbon pollution.
EIA's data debunks two central arguments made by Keystone XL's proponents, who have contended for years that:
- Keystone XL will solve the safety issues arising from the poorly regulated crude-by-rail boom and;
- That we should ignore the pipeline's significant climate impacts because tar sands crude oil will get to the Gulf with or without Keystone XL.
The data clearly disproves both of these contentions, showing that the vast majority of North America's crude-by-rail traffic is light crude heading toward the East and West Coasts. There's no getting around the fact that Keystone XL decision isn't a choice between pipeline or rail; it's a choice between expanding long term production of the most damaging, carbon intensive oil in the world and transitioning to cleaner, sustainable forms of energy.
What does the EIA data say?
The EIA published data on North American crude-by-rail volumes for the first time in late-March. The data goes back to January 2010 and is currently updated to January 2015. The figures will be updated monthly. The data covers domestic U.S. shipments as well as exports and imports by rail to and from Canada.
The data shows that the vast majority of North American crude-by-rail still comes from North Dakota and that the key destination for both U.S. and Canadian crude travelling by rail is in fact the East Coast and not the Gulf Coast (see Figure 1). Only 36,000 bpd made it to the Gulf Coast in 2014 from Canada via rail. Including rail shipments to the Midwest that are subsequently transferred to Mississippi barges for onward delivery to Louisiana, the figure is still a paltry 49,000 bpd (as a point of reference, the State Department forecast that tar sands by rail to the Gulf would exceed 200,000 bpd by the end of 2013).
Imports of Canadian crude via rail have grown from a mere trickle in 2010 but the level reached in 2014 is far below many of the claims made by proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline. The EIA data shows that in 2014 all U.S. imports of Canadian crude - tar sands and conventional - via rail averaged 114,000 bpd.
Source: EIA (Note, no Canadian crude was delivered by rail to the Rocky Mountains region (PADD4).
The data substantially contradicts recent estimates made by industry consultancy IHS in a February 2015 report that stated: western Canadian crude-by-rail exports to the United States averaged around 200,000 b/d last year, a figure that will likely increase to 400,000 b/d in 2015. IHS expects most of these crude-by-rail exports will be directed to the USGC [US Gulf Coast] market.
While the 2014 figure was clearly inflated, the forecast for 2015 now appears highly optimistic at best. The ongoing low oil price environment has severely dented the prospects for Canadian crude-by-rail and several key players in the Canadian industry have stated their reticence regarding the trade in recent months.
Growth in Canadian crude by rail to the Gulf has stalled since mid-2013
Perhaps more surprising is the fact that grow in Canadian crude by rail shipments to the Gulf Coast has markedly slowed since mid-2013. EIA's data shows that Canadian crude by rail to the Gulf Coast averaged about 36,000 bpd from August 2013 to January 2014. From August 2014 to January 2015, Canadian crude by rail volumes to the Gulf only reached 39,000 bpd. This is all a far cry from the 200,000 bpd annual rate of growth in Canadian crude by rail that supported the flawed argument that the tar sands industry doesn't need Keystone XL. Even the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers doesn't buy that argument.
Tar sands-by-rail in Trouble
Before the oil price crash moving tar sands by rail was already performing below the expectations of some of the industry's vocal supporters. New terminals designed to offer the economy-of-scale offered by unit trains were severely under-performing. Unit trains are trains that carry a single commodity from source to destination as opposed to 'manifest rail' which involves loading a smaller number of cars that are then added to a train carrying goods from other sources. Manifest rail costs more and takes longer. Unit trains may be up to 120 cars carrying over 3.5 million gallons of crude oil.
The first unit train loading terminal with access to tar sands crude has performed so badly that is was put up for sale within 9 months of beginning operations, and 6 months later it is yet to find a buyer and is cutting its workforce. The Canexus Bruderheim terminal, near Edmonton Alberta, has underperformed from its beginning in December 2013. Its full available capacity is around 100,000 bpd but it has only occasionally topped 30% of that (see Figure 3). Capacity was expanded from 70,000 bpd following a 3-month shut down but throughput hardly increased and was most recently at 12,000 bpd.
A second unit train terminal opened in Hardisty in the summer of 2014 with 120,000 bpd capacity. It initially performed better but in recent weeks its throughput has fallen off a cliff (Figure 4).
Source: Oil Change International with data from Genscape
Source: Oil Change International with data from Genscape
As oil prices dropped in late 2014, the narrow margins of Canadian crude-by-rail became untenable. Tar sands shippers ceased shipping to the Gulf Coast entirely and were faced with choosing destinations that offered the lowest losses.
Glen Perry, vice president of marketing at Grizzly Oil Sands, told Reuters that "netbacks on crude-by-rail were "horrible" and "We would lose money going anywhere (by rail), so the question is where do we lose the least amount,".
Reuters also reported that Canada's largest producer, Suncor Energy, "no longer ships crude by rail from northern Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast" and that the company's Chief Executive Steve Williams had stated in February that "(t)he journey is no longer economic."
Canadian Pacific Railway downgraded its forecast for 2015 crude oil shipments from 200,000 to 140,000 carloads.
The decline in activity at the leading tar sands unit train terminals and these statements from key tar sands rail shippers and railways suggest that when EIA data for February, March and April is released over the next few months we will likely see even lower numbers for Canadian crude railed to the Gulf Coast than we saw in 2014. It also indicates that IHS's forecast of 400,000 bpd for Canadian crude-by-rail in 2015 will turn out to be spectacularly wrong.
It is time to abandon the argument that tar sands expansion is an inevitable activity that is unaffected by decisions around major pieces of infrastructure like Keystone XL. The tar sands industry does not believe that argument and the facts on the ground do not support it. Nor will it address the real dangers of an unregulated crude by rail boom.
Proponents of Keystone XL must face the reality that their project would enable the expansion of the tar sands - the exploitation of which is inconsistent with global efforts to limit climate change to two degrees Celsius.
It's been over a year since the Obama Administration promised to put in place regulations that - if implemented as proposed - would amount to a near-total ban on domestic ivory sales, imports, and exports of African elephant ivory. And... Read More >
NRDC Pushes Obama Administration to Finalize Ivory Regulations
It's been over a year since the Obama Administration promised to put in place regulations that - if implemented as proposed - would amount to a near-total ban on domestic ivory sales, imports, and exports of African elephant ivory.
And while they've followed through on a great deal of their commitment, including banning all commercial imports of African elephant ivory, important actions remain unfinished. In particular, the Administration's regulations to prohibit the vast majority of interstate sales of African elephant ivory and limit the number of sport-hunted African elephant trophies a person can import annually remain to be seen. Instead, they languish in the White House's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs ("OIRA"), which has been assessing the proposals' potential impacts.
With tens of thousands of elephants being killed every year for their ivory tusks, the White House needs to pick up the pace. That's why NRDC placed the below ad in this Monday's edition of Politico.
The White House must expedite its review of these proposals and finish the job soon--before it's too late.
Mendocino County officials agreed this week to suspend the renewal of the county's 2016 contract with Wildlife Services after NRDC, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Welfare Institute, and Project Coyote filed a lawsuit against the... Read More >
California's Mendocino County Suspends Illegal Contract with Wildlife...
Mendocino County officials agreed this week to suspend the renewal of the county's 2016 contract with Wildlife Services after NRDC, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Center for Biological Diversity, Animal Welfare Institute, and Project Coyote filed a lawsuit against the county in November for violating the California Environmental Quality Act ("CEQA").
To recap, under CEQA, the Mendocino County Board of Supervisors was required to examine the environmental impacts of renewing its contract with Wildlife Services, which would mean the inhumane killing of hundreds more coyotes, bears, bobcats, foxes over the next year. It was also required to examine alternatives to this senseless killing.
But it didn't, which is why we filed suit.
As a result, Mendocino County has agreed to conduct an environmental review of the contract and consider the use of nonlethal predator-control methods, such as fencing, increased human presence around livestock, and guard animals. Our groups will be presenting to the Board of Supervisors regarding the benefits of these methods in May.
But our hope is that Mendocino will ultimately follow the lead of California's Marin County and cancel its contract with Wildlife Services in favor of a nonlethal predator management program. Indeed, Marin's nonlethal predator control program has been wildly successful since its implementation 15 years ago, decreasing predation by 62 percent at one-third the cost.
We've said it once and we'll say it again: Wildlife Services' predator control program is inhumane, costly, ineffective, and irresponsible, and we're committed to doing everything we can to fix it...even if it means one county at a time!
Leave it to the flailing Pebble Partnership - now consisting of just one under-funded Canadian company - to conclude that the only truly "independent" review of its uniquely reckless Pebble Mine is an "independent" review that is bought and paid... Read More >
The Pebble Partnership and the Demeaning of Independence
Leave it to the flailing Pebble Partnership - now consisting of just one under-funded Canadian company - to conclude that the only truly "independent" review of its uniquely reckless Pebble Mine is an "independent" review that is bought and paid for by . . . The Pebble Partnership.
Pebble and its Beltway-based CEO announced this week the hiring of two Washington, D.C. consulting firms to "conduct an independent review" of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's ("EPA") work on the proposed mine. According to former Defense Secretary William Cohen, principal of the Cohen Group, the "independent" review being undertaken by his firm and the DC law firm DLA Piper will "focus on the fairness of EPA's actions" and "will follow the evidence wherever it might lead . . . as fairly and thoroughly as possible."
Never mind that Mr. Cohen has been hired by the very company whose economic existence depends on building the Pebble Mine.
Photo Cred: Robert Glenn Ketchum
Never mind that Mr. Cohen has been hired by the very company that has attacked EPA relentlessly for years, claiming that its Pebble Mine project has been illegally and unfairly targeted by EPA.
Never mind that the residents of Bristol Bay have overwhelmingly opposed the Pebble Mine and supported EPA's involvement to an unprecedented degree, because the mine, if constructed, threatens to contaminate and ultimately destroy the incomparable Bristol Bay wild salmon fishery - the economic, cultural, and subsistence life-blood of the region, its communities, and its people.
After a four-year, twice peer-reviewed comprehensive scientific risk assessment of the potential impacts on the Bristol Bay watershed from large-scale mining like the Pebble Mine, EPA found "significant" and potentially "catastrophic" impacts on the region - and on its $1.5 billion salmon fishery and the 14,000 jobs that it generates.
This was, of course, bad news for The Pebble Partnership, but it was neither illegal nor unfair. In stark contrast to The Pebble Partnership's penchant for high-priced DC lobbyists and lawyers, it reflects our constitutional democracy at its best.
Congress gave EPA the clear legal authority over 40 years ago under the Clean Water Act, and the public record shows that scientific review, public participation, and opportunities for stakeholder input (including time and again by The Pebble Partnership) in EPA's process were extensive and pervasive. By the time the process had run its course, the agency had received over 1.5 million comments, with an astounding 95 percent supporting EPA's review.
For years, EPA has taken plenty of heat from The Pebble Partnership and from the company's mining industry boosters in Congress, who launched their own investigation and requested that EPA's Inspector General do the same. With no disrespect intended to Mr. Cohen or his firm, there is absolutely nothing credible to be gained from yet-another Pebble -sponsored "independent" review. If Pebble doesn't like EPA's process or the ultimate outcome of that process, it has a right to file an appeal in court, but that review, too, is unlikely to meet Pebble's nonsensical and uniquely self-serving definition of "independence."
"Here we go again," said Alannah Hurley, the Executive Director of United Tribes of Bristol Bay. "This is more of the same desperate PR-stunt, a bought-and-paid-for review, from a company who has lost on the science, who has lost on the truth, who has lost on public opinion."
Sadly, The Pebble Partnership isn't listening. It is hoping that its latest high-priced Beltway consultants can engineer an end-run around the science, the law, and the will of the people of Alaska.
Stop the Pebble Mine. Take action again -- now.
Seafood lovers beware: if you buy (or eat) fish sourced from one of Iceland's leading seafood companies, you are unwittingly funding whaling. NRDC and a coalition of groups are bringing this message to the streets of Boston this week, urging... Read More >
Are Your Fish Sticks Killing Whales?
Seafood lovers beware: if you buy (or eat) fish sourced from one of Iceland's leading seafood companies, you are unwittingly funding whaling.
NRDC and a coalition of groups are bringing this message to the streets of Boston this week, urging seafood companies at the Seafood Expo North America not to do business with the giant Icelandic seafood company HB Grandi - a company linked to and controlled by Icelandic whaling interests.
Mobile ads displayed outside the Seafood Expo (and at other seafood locations throughout the city) this week ask "Do you know who caught your seafood?" and direct people to DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com, which provides details about the Icelandic companies that hunt--or are linked to those that hunt--hundreds of whales each year ... in defiance of an international ban against commercial whaling.
The message is simple: Don't financially support Icelandic whaling by buying fish from HB Grandi.
HB Grandi - Iceland's largest seafood company - plays a very active role in Iceland's whaling industry. Not only does it provide its facilities for the processing of endangered fin whale meat for the export market (to Japan), but it is also controlled by the whaling and investment company Hvalur hf. Hvular is responsible for the death of 551 endangered fin whales since 2006.
Iceland is one of only three nations that continue to hunt whales for profit, despite a commercial whaling ban put in place by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1982. Iceland has steadily increased its self-allocated whaling quotas in recent years. In 2013, it announced a five-year block quota that could result in the slaughter of almost 2,000 whales, including 770 endangered fin whales.
Last year, the coalition wrote to major U.S. wholesalers and retailers that source Icelandic seafood, urging them to audit their supply chain in order to reassure the public that they are not buying fish from companies linked to whaling. (Click here to read my blog.)
While some companies like High Liner Foods and Trader Joe's have pledged their opposition to commercial whaling and confirmed they do not source seafood from HB Grandi, other companies have not responded to our request and may be purchasing seafood from HB Grandi.
For more information and to take action against Icelandic whaling, please visit the coalition website at DontBuyFromIcelandicWhalers.com.
Photo courtesy of Guerilla Billboards
Written with Lorne Stockman, Research Director at Oil Change International The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released export data that clearly corroborates President Obama's recent assertion that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is primarily about export. Politico... Read More >
Department of Energy data shows Keystone XL is an export pipeline
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has released export data that clearly corroborates President Obama's recent assertion that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is primarily about export. Politico reports that refineries in Port Arthur and Houston - which would be the primary recipients of crude oil delivered by the Keystone XL pipeline - exported over 60% of their refined product in 2014.
The EIA data shows that Houston and Port Arthur refineries exports reached over two thirds of their production in December 2014. This is the continuation of a trend that Oil Change International (OCI) first identified in 2012, when Texas Gulf Coast refineries began exporting slightly over half of their total refined product internationally.
Refined Product Exports from Texas Gulf Refineries (bpd)
Texas Gulf Coast Exports
This data clearly discredits an unsubstantiated claim by industry consultancy IHS that the vast majority - as much as 70% - of the refined product from Keystone XL would stay in the United States. It also exposes the hollowness of the Washington Post's Fact Checker's analysis that led to it ranking the President's statement with four 'Pinocchios'.
The claims made by IHS and parroted by the Washington Post, draw their numbers from refineries in the entire Gulf Coast refining region, called PADD 3 by the Department of Energy. But this region includes many refineries - in places like New Mexico, West Texas and Arkansas - that would not have access to crude delivered by Keystone XL if it is built and also refineries that do not have access to deep water berths that enable them to export their product. And even when diluting the share of exports with these refineries, PADD 3 hasn't directed 70% of its refined product to the domestic market since 2010. An industry consulting firm such as IHS must be fully aware of this - and it's a fact that the Washington Post Fact Checker could have easily uncovered.
Looking at the production and exports of the Texas Gulf Coast refineries that would receive the vast bulk of Keystone crude and that coincidentally all have access to deep water berths in Port Arthur and along the Houston ship channel, it is abundantly clear that export has become the primary market for these refineries.
But don't just take our word for it. Ask Valero, the refining company which has committed to the largest share of Keystone XL's capacity. It told investors in a February 2015 presentation that it intended to increase its capacity to export gasoline and diesel from its Gulf Coast refineries by nearly 20% in 2015 (from 667,000 bpd to 780,000 bpd).
Valero's Port Arthur refinery has installed equipment specifically to refine tar sands crude that it hopes to receive via Keystone XL stating that this equipment will convert the heavy crude to diesel for the export market.
In addition to the fact that the refineries interested in Keystone XL are exporting the majority of their refined product, the tar sands industry has already exported unrefined tar sands crude from Gulf Coast ports to the international markets in 2014. While these volumes of re-exported tar sands crude are still small, they constitute an increasing share of the limited volumes of Canadian crude reaching the Gulf Coast today. If Keystone XL is built, market experts expect exports of Canadian tar sands from Gulf Coast ports to reach hundreds of thousands of barrels a day in coming years. As Marin King, an analyst with FirstEnergy Capital in Calgary observed about growing volumes of raw tar sands exports from the Gulf Coast:
"This is a viable opportunity for Canadian barrels to get out into the wider world. It's another source of revenue other than big brother United States." Martin King, FirstEnergy Capital analyst, April 2014
The President was right - Keystone XL is a tar sands pipeline through the United States, not to it. The pipeline would enable a substantial expansion of tar sands production - resulting in a significant increase in carbon emissions - putting our lands and waters at risk in order to allow the tar sands industry to access the international market.
This blog was co-drafted with Liz Barratt-Brown, NRDC Senior Advisor It seems that when the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is dealt a blow, the talk of a deal in exchange for its going forward picks up a notch.... Read More >
Talk of a deal on Keystone XL is foolhardy and presumptuous
This blog was co-drafted with Liz Barratt-Brown, NRDC Senior Advisor
It seems that when the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is dealt a blow, the talk of a deal in exchange for its going forward picks up a notch. Suddenly pundits and others feel free to suggest trading away a pipeline that thousands of students, Native Americans, ranchers and farmers, nurses and Nobel Laureates, and environmental groups are fighting to oppose. And they do so without thinking what it would mean to people living along its route, where a spill into their aquifer would ruin livelihoods. But most importantly, talk of a deal makes no sense as a deal involving approval of Keystone XL would defeat the very purpose of what these millions of people are trying to stop.
The latest talk of a deal is similar to a reported proposal a year and a half ago that would link the pipeline's approval with Canadian promises to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. But granting Keystone XL's permit is the very thing that is going to push Canada's emissions to exceed any commitments it might make. The tar sands industry has made it clear that approval of Keystone XL is the linchpin to their expansion plans. And all that expansion means carbon emissions. It is as if Canada is asking, "If you let us expand the industry that is doing the most damage to the climate, we will promise to treat the climate better." Trading Keystone XL is akin to giving an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey who promises sobriety tomorrow. It just won't work.
The Canadian federal government has demonstrated it has no intention to reduce emissions from its rapidly expanding tar sands sector. This would have been an obvious strategy to show that change can be made on the ground and to convince skeptics that the impacts of Keystone XL have been overblown. Instead the government hired high priced lobbyists and to this day denies that Keystone XL has any impact on carbon emissions upstream.
For over seven years, it has repeatedly promised and failed to deliver on regulations that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions from its tar sands sector. Because of rapidly growing tar sands emissions, Canada is on track to miss its international climate targets by a wide margin. In fact, there are no federal or provincial regulations in place or under active consideration that would reduce emissions from Canada's tar sands sector let alone ensure it is decreasing rapidly.
Here are the details on Canada's climate record (from our report with Environmental Defence):
"Growing emissions from Canada's tar sands sector are more than enough to cancel out every other efforts in the country to reduce emissions."
- Kyoto Protocol: In 2011, Canada withdrew from the Kyoto Protocol, with its emissions nearly 20 percent above its 1990 levels - higher than when it joined. Among the nations that ratified Kyoto, Canada is the only country to withdraw.
- Turning the Corner Plan: In 2008, the Canadian government released a plan calling for a 20 percent reduction from its 2006 emissions. It backed away from this target the next year during negotiation of the Copenhagen agreement.
- Copenhagen agreement: In 2009, Canada committed to reduce its emissions by 17 percent from 2005 levels as part of the Copenhagen agreement but the country is on track to miss its targets by a significant margin equivalent to the emissions produced by all the country's power plants.
- Regulations in oil and gas sector: The Canadian government has failed to adopt a single regulation to limit emissions from this sector, and they are set to skyrocket over the coming years and decades.
- Growth in tar sands cancels out provincial efforts: Rising emissions from the tar sands is expected to triple from 2005 levels by 2020 and cancel out any advances made by the provinces. Promised carbon capture has not materialized.
- Canada seeks to squelch, not advance, action on climate: Over the last decade, Canada has aggressively promoted the tar sands expansion as central to its achieving "energy superpower" status including stopping a clean fuels policy in Europe. It has reduced support for climate research, ceased all major federal programs to support renewable energy development, gutted environmental requirements, muzzled scientists from speaking about climate change, and continued significant subsidies to the oil and gas sector.
Nearly 100,000 people have signed a pledge of resistance led by CREDO and others promising civil disobedience if the permit were to be approved.
Thankfully the Obama Administration moved quickly this time to squelch talks of a deal. And Canada once again re-iterated there could be no emissions trade because they won't concede Keystone XL is a global warming issue. It seems that while pundits might want to opine, they are getting scant pick up from the two players that matter most.
As a community, we will keep reiterating that there must be no deal on Keystone XL - that it is impossible to "mitigate" or "offset" tar sands emissions, that approving Keystone XL is in conflict with making progress on climate, and that it would put the lands and livelihoods of our tar sands partners along the route at great risk.
It is time to reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.
When he vetoed legislation meant to force approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline last week, President Obama noted that the project is designed largely as a way to route Canadian tar sands to the global export... Read More >
Three facts you should know about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and...
When he vetoed legislation meant to force approval of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline last week, President Obama noted that the project is designed largely as a way to route Canadian tar sands to the global export market.
Sure enough, the Gulf Coast refineries the pipeline would serve already export the majority of the fuel they produce, leading a four fold increase in U.S. petroleum exports overall in just the past decade. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of barrels of unrefined tar sands are being exported for Gulf Coast ports daily—a figure that many energy experts expect to increase dramatically should Keystone XL be permitted.
The Washington Post Factchecker responded with outdated and demonstrably incorrect information, relying on an industry report we've debunked and dated State Department assumptions that have since proven wrong.
The President is on solid ground. The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is an export pipeline through the United States, designed to increase the tar sands industry's access to the international market.
Here's what the President said:
"I've already said I'm happy to look at how we can increase pipeline production for U.S. oil, but Keystone is for Canadian oil to send that down to the Gulf. It bypasses the United States and is estimated to create a little over 250, maybe 300 permanent jobs. We should be focusing more broadly on American infrastructure for American jobs and American producers, and that's something that we very much support."
- President Obama, interview with WDAY of Fargo, N.D., Feb. 26, 2015 (emphasis added)
1. FACT: Refineries interested in Keystone XL export the majority of their refined product.
As we've detailed over the years, the Gulf Coast has become a major exporter of refined products—and coastal refineries now export the majority of their production. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), Gulf refineries in coastal Texas and Louisiana exported the majority of their refined product for the first time in 2014 (with exports reaching 50.4% of their production over the course of the year). Gulf Coast exports of refined product reached an all time high of 3.5 million barrels per day (bpd) in December 2014. This means that Texas Gulf and Louisiana Gulf Coast refineries with access to coastal shipping exported 56% of the refined product produced in the region in December. We did not get here by accident—this has been part of a strategy that Gulf Coast refineries have been pursuing for over a decade to reposition from supplying the domestic market to maximizing their international exports—and this trend shows no signs of diminishing.
This trend is strongest among the refineries closest to the Keystone XL terminus points in the Texas ports of Houston and Port Arthur. These Texas coastal refineries began exporting the majority of their refined product in the final quarter of 2011, years before the ahead of their regional peers.
The refineries are leading a surge in U.S. exports of petroleum products, which have more than quadrupled in a decade, rising from 1 million barrels per day, on average, in 2004, to 4.2 million gallons a day in 2014 according to EIA data.
Valero, which is the largest buyer of capacity on Keystone XL, is at the forefront of this trend. Valero has been increasing the export capacity from its Gulf Coast refineries for years now. In its most recent investor presentation, Valero detailed plans to increase its Gulf Coast export capacity for gasoline and diesel alone to reach 780,000 bpd (slide 44). Given that the company's total Gulf Coast refinery capacity is less than 1.6 million bpd (slide 37), and gasoline and diesel production rarely accounts for more that 60% of a refineries output, this represents more the 80% of Valero's production of premium refined products. Moreover, lower quality refined products, such as petroleum coke—of which tar sands crude produces significantly more than conventional crude—tends to have much larger volumes exported than more products such as gasoline and diesel.
2. FACT: Unrefined Canadian tar sands crude is already being exported from the Gulf—a trend that is expected to increase.
The problem with the WaPo factchecker's argument that the Gulf Coast refineries would never allow raw Canadian crude to be exported is the fact that tar sands producers are already re-exporting 25,000 bpd of unrefined Canadian tar sands from Gulf Coast ports. That's about 10% of the total volume of Canadian crude making it to the Gulf Coast today.
Ed Morse, one of the few oil analysts who called the drop in oil prices, believes that this is just the beginning for Canadian crude re-exports from the Gulf and Martin King predicts them growing to 200,000 bpd in two years. To put that in perspective, that's more than two-thirds of all Canadian crude getting to the Gulf Coast today. We know industry is planning to re-export significantly larger volumes of Canadian tar sands from the Gulf because it is already sending millions of barrels of tar sands to refineries in Europe and Asia for testing and has spend enormous resources lobbying to weaken the European Union fuel quality standard to preserve access to that market.
The WaPo factchecker relies on the early 2014 State Department environmental review to support his critique of the President. The State Department report was published before 1) the Gulf Coast became inundated by domestic crude, lowering prices relative to international markets and 2) the trend of Canadian re-exports from the Gulf had become clear. Today, State's assumption that re-exports of Canadian crude wouldn't happen is no more accurate than its proposition that oil prices would stay between $90 and $140 a barrel. Re-exports of Canadian tar sands are a reality—and should Keystone XL bring more tar sands to the Gulf, energy experts believe they will increase substantially.
3. FACT: Keystone XL is designed for Canadian tar sands, not domestic crude.
Keystone XL was proposed in 2008, it was planned to be a bullet pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf for Canadian crude. While it's true that domestic oil producers negotiated on ramp with 100,000 bpd capacity for North Dakota crude, the state's producers have shown a marked disinterest in pipelines to the Gulf Coast, which is already inundated with light crude.
Rather than moving their crude by pipeline to the Gulf Coast, North Dakota's producers are shipping their product by rail to the East and West Coasts. According to North Dakota's Pipeline Authority, Bakken producers are only using about 25% of their existing pipeline capacity—the rest is moving by rail. They have turned down two major new oil pipelines—the 200,000 bpd Bakken Crude Express and the 250,000 bpd Dakota Express and are only using a fraction of their current pipeline capacity.
The North Dakota's Pipeline Authority shows the state will have 3.15 million bpd of rail and pipeline export capacity by 2017—the earliest Keystone XL could be built. Of course, that's three times as much capacity as North Dakota currently needs—and of that inflated figure, North Dakota only puts Keystone XL down for 20,000 bpd. Based on how much excess transport capacity North Dakota will have and how underutilized the state's pipelines already are, that figure will likely prove to be an overestimate.
Keystone XL is an export tar sands pipeline through the United States, not to it. It would carry tar sands to Texas Gulf Coast ports where refineries have been exporting the majority of their product for years and where an increasing amount of Canadian tar sands goes straight from pipelines to tankers to be exported elsewhere. Domestic producers in North Dakota not only don't need Keystone XL, by all accounts, they don't want it. And the pipeline would enable the expansion of some of the dirtiest and most carbon intensive crude oil in the world, undermining efforts to address climate change while putting our communities, lands and waters at risk. It is not in the nation's interest and should be rejected.
Last year NRDC filed a petition with EPA asking them to review the use of glyphosate (also known as Roundup) in light of its effects on monarch butterflies and to impose restrictions on its use. After more than a year,... Read More >
Monarch butterflies can't wait another year - EPA needs to act now
Last year NRDC filed a petition with EPA asking them to review the use of glyphosate (also known as Roundup) in light of its effects on monarch butterflies and to impose restrictions on its use. After more than a year, EPA has yet to respond to our petition so today we are filing a lawsuit to compel them to act with expediency.
Anyone who has been following the plight of the monarch butterflies knows that they are in trouble. In the last 15 years their population has dropped dramatically from a high of a billion in the late 1990s to a mere 56.5 million this year--the second lowest count on record.
While more than 50 million butterflies may sound like a lot, it is actually dangerously low. The population which spends its winters in the forests of Mexico is vulnerable to cold snaps or other weather events which in the past have killed more butterflies than the existing population.
Scientist agree that the leading factor in the decline of monarch butterflies is the loss of milkweed, a native wildflower that the caterpillars depend on as their only food source. With the adoption of genetically modified crops that are resistant to the application of the herbicide glyphosate (also known as Roundup) milkweed that was once found in agricultural fields has been largely eliminated from the agricultural Midwest. And without sufficient amounts of milkweed the monarch population has declined.
The EPA is responsible for ensuring that the pesticides it approves do not have harmful effects on the environment. Clearly, the decline of monarch butterflies was an unintended consequence of the broad use of glyphosate. However, now that it has been identified the EPA needs to review glyphosate and impose restrictions that would help mitigate the damage that it is doing to monarch butterflies. Instead, the EPA recently approved another pesticide containing glyphosate, Enlist Duo, which we are challenging.
Rather than approving more pesticides, it's time for EPA to reverse the damage that these pesticides are causing. Since the EPA last reviewed glyphosate, its use in the US has soared. This unprecedented onslaught is hurting the monarchs as they make their migration, which will begin soon. We, and the monarchs, can't afford to wait any longer for EPA to act.