An alternative to Keystone XL Pipeline

The tar/oil sands—toil sands if you will—persist. But even a rabid Fraser Instituter will own, when lightly cuffed, that we must eventually relinquish our dependence on non-renewable energy—or we will be relinquished. And eventuality does seem to be crowding us. At the same time, even the most strident environmentalist, when shaken by his shoulders, will understand that due to the vast infrastructure and gross investments in the sands, they will persist beyond next week.

Acknowledging this, is there not an alternative to the Keystone XL pipeline that could penetrate and draw together the minds of both opponent and supporter? Say, a method of bitumen/crude oil transportation that recognizes the reality of the tar-oil sands, but one that is also agile and capable enough as to easily reduce the load as fossil fuel is incrementally replaced by renewable energy? Here’s transportation expert, Richard Schmeling, on, of all things, trains.

wendell_berry_fieldIn the mean time, I still throw my support behind that perspicacious Baptist octogenarian, Wendell Berry, who happens to be at the Washington DC protest, and who says things like:

"Christians conventionally think they’ve done enough when they’ve gone to the store and shopped. But that isn’t an economic life. It isn’t an economic practice. If you take seriously those passages in the scripture that say that we live by God’s spirit and his breath, that we live, move, and have our being in God, the implications for the present economy are just devastating. Those passages call for an entirely generous and careful economic life.”

Wendell Berry would no doubt agree with this biting diagnosis of our looming energy and climate crisis: “All human toil is for the mouth, yet the appetite is not satisfied (Ecclesiastes 6).”


  1. We shouldn’t be sending the oil to Texas to be refined. We should refine it here in Western Canada instead and then ship it out by train or ship.

  2. No doubt.. I’ve always wondered about pipelines and how efficient they actually are.. I mean, to my mind, the amount of energy I can spend just getting a milkshake up a straw sometimes can be headache inducing..

  3. Posted Berry’s quote to my FB, I hope you don’t mind. Very powerful post, and thought-provoking, Stephen. My heart is heavy today for the disobedient friends in D.C. Love this line – “And eventuality does seem to be crowding us.” I fear there are many people who don’t consciously feel this crowd.

  4. Many years ago there was talk about extracting oil from the tar sands along Lake Superior, but the “experts” determined it wasn’t economically feasible. All has changed, of course, as the greed for oil grows and the supplies diminish. Michael’s straw metaphor is wonderful! I wish we would all get a headache over what we have done to the environment although sometimes I think our culture is in permanent “brain freeze”!

    Here in Pennsylvania, the rush for natural gas has led to contamination of ground water, so new pipelines must be built–some for natural gas, some for water to small towns that no longer can use their wells. And how long will it be before we pipe water from the Great Lakes to the southwest, how many more major droughts will it take? I didn’t go to Washington D.C. to protest the tar sands (it really is about climate change and out president’s failure to live up to his promises), but I would certainly put things on the line to try to save my beloved Lake Superior.

  5. I very much appreciate your insight here Diane. As well as your observations regarding Obama and the climate. Hopefully it never comes to that kind of action regarding Lake Superior. Thanks again.

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