Letters to the editor // Missing the mark on Keystone project

Mary Jean Port misses the mark so many times in her column “Tar Sands Oil: the Minnesota Connection,” (April 16 edition) that it is difficult to know where to begin. She describes President Obama’s goals as “wishful thinking.” 

It’s ironic that she would use this phrase, as it is one I have used often as one of the national advocates for Keystone XL (KXL) and Alberta’s Oil Sands. 

It is “wishful thinking” when opponents of KXL and Oil Sands suggest that we can meet America’s energy needs without fossil fuels. In fact, if all current alternative forms of energy are maximized, petroleum and natural gas will continue to provide 65 percent of our nation’s energy needs through 2035. 

In addition, if America shifts its attention to full production of North American sources of petroleum and natural gas, we will be energy independent by 2027. We would no longer have to rely on unfriendly, unstable, non-democratic regimes for our much-needed crude oil. Our national security would be greatly enhanced and we would be creating jobs by the tens of thousands.

Ms. Port makes numerous claims about Oil Sands crude that are not accurate. Alberta’s Oil Sands comprise an area the size of Illinois. The area that is mined is roughly the size of Chicago. Production in the remaining 97 percent of the Oil Sands is accomplished using less invasive steam-assists. Also, the Province of Alberta has one of the strictest reclamation programs in the world. Today, the earliest Oil Sands developments begun decades ago are reclaimed and home to bison and abundant wildlife.

Water is stored in holding ponds which are arrayed in a series so as to gradually remove contaminants.

When measured on an “oil well to wheels” basis (from the oil field to your car), the carbon footprint of Oil Sands crude is comparable to current oil imports from Nigeria and Venezuela. It is also much lower than some crude oil produced in California.

Oil Sands crude has been shipped in pipelines through Minnesota since the early 1980s. It is no more corrosive than any other crude oil. Opponents of the Oil Sands have even been known to suggest that it contains sand, which is not true. Today, over 80 percent of the crude oil consumed in Minnesota comes from Canada. Over half of that amount is produced in the Oil Sands. 

Canada is America’s largest supplier of crude oil and, if opponents of Oil Sands imports succeed, our cousins to the North have already stated that they will sell it to nations like China, which do not have environmental standards for refining as stringent as EPA regulations.

Finally, before we succumb to “wishful thinking,” please keep in mind that one-third of a barrel of crude oil goes to products other than motor fuel. Plastic, computers, fertilizer, medicine, medical equipment, bicycle tires, carpet, paint and thousands of other products are derived from petroleum.

Dan Gunderson, Fulton