Sunday, December 8, 2013

Keystone XL Pipeline, Prevent Future Tragedy Now: Qingdao Pipline Explosion Kills 62

Once again the Keystone XL Pipeline issue is heating up.  More and more pressure is being applied to President Obama to have the State Department approve building the Pipeline from Canada to Oklahoma.  The portion from the giant oil hub at Cushing, OK to Houston refineries is already under construction.  I asked a pro environment person from Texas how serious that was.  His said that area is already so damaged by the oil industry that this additional pipeline makes little difference.  This link describes 45 oil disasters in 2013 the industry doesn't want you to know about. 

Here is a spill which occurred in North Dakota on March 20, 2014.  There are a lot of comments.  People are beginning to realize that once the pipelines are built, most of the jobs will actually be for repairing the damage these pipeline spills and breaks cause. Here is an interesting analysis of the impact, good and bad, of major oil development in North Dakota.  I wonder how many jobs were created by the $1 billion+ Kalamazoo River spill?  A recent follow-up reports a mixed outcome on this 2010 mess, and that at one time 300 people were working on the clean-up.

Here is another North Dakota spill which is larger than all spills there in the past 10 year. Photos and a detailed description show how much work is involved in correcting this leak from a quarter-sized hole.  This recent gas pipeline spill in Michigan has resulted in the evacuation of 500 people who are being sheltered outside their homes [Sept. 2014].  It was a 24 or 36 inch pipe and people have not even begun to assess how much harm it has caused.  The line is owned by Trans Canada and runs from Canada to Texas.

The significant drop in gasoline prices starting in November 2014 should also impact the XL Pipeline issue.  According to this article, 92% of tar sands oil production needs a per barrel price of $95 to be profitable, and the rest needs $75.   Light crude for Jan. 2015 is around $63, and futures don't even break $73 until Dec. 2021.  The heavier Brent crude is currently (Dec. 2014) below $67 and is still expected to be below $83 in Dec. 2021.  Thus, for the moment they may have a poor argument for building the pipeline.

More recently (Nov. 2014), New Jersey has approved allowing a Perth Amboy facility to handle larger amounts of tar sands oil by train shipment.  This is approval for the area around the Perth Amboy location which is flat land and probably does not have the grade risks that led to the Lac Megantic disaster.  New Jersey also has a good record regarding safe oil handling.  On the other hand, overland transport is not covered by the current approval and no doubt needs thorough evaluation.

From April 22 to 27, 2014 the Cowboy and Indian Alliance descended on DC for a week of stop Keystone XL action.  Reject and Protect brought tribal communities, ranchers, farmers and friends to DC to call on Pres. Obama to reject the pipeline with it's threat to climate, land, water, and tribal rights.  People wishing to support their efforts should click the link above to their site.  The Hip Hop Caucus with Rev. Yearwood also had a DC event as part of their Act on Climate Tour, on April 22, 2014. This short video from The Washington Post shows the Mall encampment.  

The latest information is that now the Senate may do an end run around the President.  [May 2014] Here is a list of current climate change deniers in the House and Senate. Contact your Senators, send them disaster photos from the links listed below.  Also use with all your elected representatives.  Convince them more pipelines especially with this unusually dangerous oil are a really bad idea.  Urge them to pass legislation that will encourage more solar, wind and other renewable energy sources.  This includes R & D for cellulosic ethanol rather than using corn for ethanol production.

Over 100 people have died in the past year primarily from two major oil shipment disasters--one is a pipeline in China, the other an oil tanker car train on the US/Canada border.  Cleanup of a toxic dilbit (tar sands) oil spill on the Kalamazoo River has already cost over $1 billion and is still not clean.  This link has a number of articles detailing this spill as well as other pipelines of major concern, including a 60 year old one in the Mackinac Straits between the US and Canada Your elected leaders need to know how you feel about this.  Anyone who says transporting this oil is harmless, I DARE you to look at the photos in the two links further down.

While Canadian tar sands oil and the pipelines or trains to carry it can contribute to long range climate disaster, people who are not climate activists are more likely to be persuaded to care by immediate disaster scenarios.  The massive Qingdao oil pipeline explosion has received very little media coverage in the US, and is being suppressed in China. This link explains Qingdao censorship by China, as does this one.  Is it also being suppressed in our country?  Commentary on one Chinese netizen site even suggests the current flap about flying over certain islands is a ruse to distract Chinese people from the disaster and focus anger on Japan.  Was Vice President Biden aware of this prior to his China visit??  There seems to be no recent Qingdao news at Google, and the Chinese and South Korea are now making nice, with SK helping to return bodies of Chinese soldiers buried in SK during the Korean War.

Further research shows that on Nov. 27, China's Ruler visited Qingdao where stories promoted the lovely emergency shelters and good food provided by the military.  The same day, China, without warning announced an expanded defense zone off its coast, which prompted angry responses from Japan, South Korea, and the US as is shown in this link.  I predict that soon after Biden's visit, they will relax this crisis as they hold trials for those "responsible" for this disaster and promised major reforms.  A more recent story shows the damage to sea life from oil that flowed into the bay.  The latest articles for 2014 at this Google site mention that 63 people will be punished and that Sinopec (the company in charge) will pay damages.

The disaster happened on Nov. 22, in the port city of Qingdao. A 15 minute leak, failure to evacuate nearby people, and 7 hours later a huge explosion occurred.  [See horrific photos in 3rd link below.]  The most recent/final? count is 62 dead and 136 hospital treated.  Nine arrested, a national day of morning, and near silence except for nice human interest stories.  Very little meat with the potatoes.  See below.

This article points out that China plans to do a major infrastructure study throughout the country.  Should we do the same with our oil pipeline system, some of which are decades old, like the Enbridge pipline that caused the $billion plus Kalamazoo River toxic spill?  Do we have dangerous infrastructure siting issues here in the US, and specifically here in DC?  Yes we do, see last paragraph for details and link on a significant current issue that our Council has not addressed.  This link looks at important urban planning issues and danger to the public.

This link on Dec 7 has many youtube short clips and a long detailed explanation of how the disaster unfolded if you click "show more".  The following material includes two links with scores of photos from both the Qingdao pipeline disaster and the Lac Megantic oil train disaster.  Please forward these terrible pictures to as many movers and shakers as possible.  The danger is here and now, costly in lives and clean up, not just in some questioned (not by us) distant future.  Both disasters cost around 50 deaths. Moving certain kinds of oil including tar sands and some types of Bakken shale oil is far more dangerous than conventionally recovered oil types as explained here. These oils are also far more corrosive to the tank cars and pipelines transporting them.  Moreover, recent investigations show that these problems have been known for several years, and shipping is still being poorly regulated.  The material below was written 4 days after the Qingdao disaster when I first heard about it. 

In watching US news sources, I have failed to see the most recent major pipeline disaster in Qingdao, China mentioned.  It helps to look at the TV 30 channels, especially those from China.

This pipeline leak, fire, and explosion has killed at least 55 people, wounded over 150, with others still missing, and some arrested by the government for neglect and other (non terrorist) charges.  See links:  the second with a huge number of photos makes a powerful impression.

I have participated in a number of Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline events, including the one at the State Dept. where 70 people had committed to being arrested.  This is one more massive piece of evidence of why we need to move away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible.  First we had the tar sands oil pipline spill at the Kalamazoo River costing more than $1 billion to clean, so far unfinished, forcing people to abandon their lovely riverfront homes.  Wikipedia has an excellent article on the spill, explaining that Enbridge (the pipeline owner) knew in 2005 there were safety issues with this 40 year old pipe.  The Michigan Coalition Against the Tar Sands (MICATS) has been mobilizing activism:  Students at McGill and elsewhere are urging universities, as are people in cities, to divest their investments in oil companies and related industries.

Then we had the horrific run away train derailing and exploding in the Canadian border town of Lac Megantic, incinerating 47 people and a big chunk of downtown.  A recent update reports that although safety rules/laws have been changed, there are big loopholes with bigger dangers:
A Jan. 1, 2014 editorial by the Montreal Gazette calls for a mandated judicial inquiry, as it appears the government can't be trusted with the regulator process or investigation.  I googled for more follow-up in 2014.  If you skip the first few stories regarding reopening the Lac Megantic library, there are a number of likely looking articles.
There has even been a more recent explosion in rural Alabama from a train carrying similar ND volatile Bakken oil.  For those who have forgotten, or for those who should see them, like our legislators, hundreds more horror photos.

Some suspect there may have been sabotage by pipeline interests to show how dangerous rail shipping is, the bottom line is that oil is dangerous to ship by whatever method, and some oils much more so than others.  Solar and wind can never cause the catastrophic damage and death already caused by oil, gas and coal.  We must move as quickly as possible away from carbon fuels (some will always be needed) and embrace the full potential of solar, wind, and super insulation.  

Please use these links to further environmental activism and alert our people and politicians to the very current dangers.  Now we can compare visually the impact of oil train versus oil pipeline catastrophe and human error.  On Dec. 30, 2013, another oil train explosion occurred in a small (under 2,500) town 20 miles from Fargo, ND.  A grain train derailed hitting the oil train and exploding cars.  Fifty of the 104 cars have been pulled away, but the fire is so intense they are just letting it burn and debating whether to evacuate the entire town.  Should we think, oh, no, we must use pipelines, here is a recent summary of big pipeline problems.  And this Wiki article on 21st Century accidents lists 34 just for 2013.

One last word--has anyone looked at the dangers of having freight hauled through our own Washington, DC?  What kinds of toxic, flamable or explosive materials are allowed on DC railroad tracks?  How good are our emergency response plans and responders?  Would they wait 7 hours before evacuating DC residents in a dangerous situation?  Does anyone have an informative comment?  I decided not to wait for information from others and found this link.  It describes current planned rail construction in DC which Eleanor Holmes Norton has viewed with alarm, but which, so far, does not seem to be on the radar of our City Council.  This must change!!

Is this our future?  [62 dead]

Damage caused by the Qingdao pipeline explosion

Or is this?  [47 dead]


  1. The residents should have been informed about this before starting up the project. After all, the people paid for it on their tax rate schedules.

    1. I'm not clear if you are talking about the Qingdao problem or the Washington, DC problem. If you read the links, I think the answer to your comment will be clearer.