Forget Pipeline Blues With Pipe Dream Wine

by lizard

After the Missoulian editorial board came out strongly for the Keystone pipeline, ExxonMobil experienced a little problem in Mayflower, Arkansas. This Alternet piece highlights the 14 things you need to know about why this pipeline spill is so horrifying. This first paragraph sets the tone:

Within a week of the ExxonMobil tar sands oil pipeline burst in Mayflower, Arkansas, ExxonMobil was in charge of the clean-up, the U.S. government had established a no-fly zone over the area, some 40 residents were starting their second week of evacuation, ExxonMobil was threatening to arrest reporters trying to cover the spill, and several homeowners had filed a class action lawsuit seeking damages from the world’s second-most-profitable corporation, which had helped keep the pipeline secret from terrorists.

Then in Houston, Texas, this happened:

While clean up continues on the Exxon oil spill in Arkansas, another oil pipeline burst was detected over the weekend – this time in Houston, Texas.

The Shell Oil owned pipeline burst was detected Friday by the US National Response Center and has dumped an estimated 30,000 gallons of oil into a waterway connected to the Gulf of Mexico (as if it needed any more oil dumped into it!).

If that’s too depressing, the Missoulian may be able to cheer you up with the brighter side of global climate change:

Climate change warnings tend to focus on the losers, but western Montana would come up a winery winner, according to a new scientific analysis of temperature trends.

“Winter temperatures have been a limit to vineyard growth in our state,” said Gary Tabor, director of the Center for Large Landscape Conservation in Bozeman and one of the co-authors of “Climate Change, Wine and Conservation” in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “So as we see our temperatures not being as Montanan as before, we’re seeing the impact of climate change in how people look at agriculture. Folks in Oregon and Washington are looking at our vineyards here to expand production.”

Well, that’s it. If climate change means better conditions for vineyard expansion in Montana, let’s build that damn pipeline right now, ’cause my Bota Box is almost empty.

Maybe at this point I should remind folks oil companies don’t give a fuck about anything if it means making more money. That link is to a must read investigative look by Greg Palast at how BP’s Deepwater disaster may have been averted:

Three years ago this month, on the 20th of April, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizondrilling rig blew itself to kingdom come.

Soon thereafter, a message came in to our office’s chief of investigations, Ms Badpenny, from a person I dare not name, who was floating somewhere in the Caspian Sea along the coast of Baku, Central Asia.

The source was in mortal fear he’d be identified – and with good reason. Once we agreed on a safe method of communication, he revealed this: 17 months before BP’sDeepwaterHorizonblew out and exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, another BP rig suffered an identical blow-out in the Caspian Sea.

Crucially, both the Gulf and Caspian Sea blow-outs had the same identical cause: the failure of the cement “plug”.

To prevent blow-outs, drilled wells must be capped with cement. BP insisted on lacing its cement with nitrogen gas – the same stuff used in laughing gas – because it speeds up drying.

Time is money, and mixing some nitrogen gas into the cement saves a lot of money.

However, because BP’s penny-pinching method is so damn dangerous, they are nearly alone in using it in deep, high-pressure offshore wells.

The reason: nitrogen gas can create gaps in the cement, allow methane gas to go up the borehole, fill the drilling platform with explosive gas – and boom, you’re dead.

So, when its Caspian Sea rig blew out in 2008, rather than change its ways, BP simply covered it up.

I don’t know if the lure of vineyards is enough for me to start gleefully supporting the Keystone pipeline, sorry Sherry. Especially after what this Montana farmer has to say:

Last year proved too dry. The year before — too wet. For Wade Sikorski of Fallon County, Mont., the years in which the weather is just right to grow food on his ranch seem to be increasingly few and far between.

“We go from one extreme to another,” said Sikorski. “With either extreme, I can’t produce anything.”

Sikorski sees climate change as a culprit, and the Keystone XL pipeline — which is slated to run within a couple miles of his ranch — as likely to make matters worse.

“There are a lot of safety issues with the pipeline itself. It could rupture and leak as it crosses farms and ranches,” he said. “But my main issue is climate change.”

I should note Sikorski is in the extreme minority in his community with his opposition to the pipeline. Jobs are jobs, even if temporary, and most folks want to cash-out whatever pocket change the oil cartels are willing to shake out.

If there is a vineyard boom, and the Montana Taverns Association is unable to keep the wine-tasting rooms from spreading, I hope the vineyard entrepreneurs pick clever names for their wine.

I doubt Climate Change Merlot will be one of them.

  1. Big Swede

    Lets put on our thinking caps, shall we?

    What’s more likely to happen? A train derailment or a pipeline bursting?

    • lizard19

      read this Forbes article Swede, and maybe you’ll understand it’s not a matter of IF the Keystone will leak, but WHEN, WHERE, and HOW BAD.

      • Big Swede

        I’ll don the cap for ya Liz. From the first comment of your linked Forbes article.

        “One 2009 analysis of oil spills between 1980 and 2003 done for the American Petroleum Institute by Environmental Research Consulting found 80 out of every 1 billion gallons transported via rail spilled, compared to 38 out of every 1 billion gallons transported via pipeline.
        Pipelines may not be the perfect answer, but there is no perfect answer. They still represent the safest, fastest, most economical and yes, most environmentally friendly method of transporting petroleum products yet devised.
        Look at the bright side: Pegasus went 65 years without a leak. Based on what all the know-it-alls are telling us, there likely won’t be any oil left to transport when the Keystone pipeline is 65 years old!”

  2. JC

    Senator Tester had an “interesting” opinion piece in USA Today a few days ago:

    “Scientists tell us that climate change will bring shorter, warmer and drier winters to Montana. I see it every time I get on my tractor.

    When I was younger, frequent bone-chilling winds whipped snow off the Rocky Mountain Front and brought bitterly cold days that reached -30 degrees. Today, we have only a handful of days that even reach 0 degrees. Changes in the weather are forcing Sharla and I to change how we operate our farm. It’s now more difficult to know when to plant to take advantage of the rains.

    Some might say the end of bitter winters will be a boon for Montana’s economy. But with milder winters, we’ve seen the sawfly come out earlier to destroy our crops before they can be harvested. Montana’s deep freezes also used to kill off the pine bark beetle, which today kills millions of acres of trees across the American West”

    Of course, his answer to the problems caused by lack of sub-zero temperatures (insect epidemics like pine bark beetle-killed forests) is to cut down dead trees, or cut them before they die, but I digress…

    His opinion piece drew an interesting lambast from PolyMontana’s Ed Berry:

    “God save us. We have an idiot, climate fanatic, liberal as our US Senator, masquerading as a climate scientist….

    In other words, you are chasing a freaking mental mirage that is not even close to reality.”

    Wowzer. I hear Swede bookmarking his site…

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