Keystone XL Protestors Aiming at Wrong Target
Written by Robert Rapier
The Keystone XL pipeline is a project proposed by TransCanada that would be an extension of the existing Keystone pipeline system. The pipeline would transport syncrude from the Athabasca Oil Sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. The project requires U.S. State Department approval because it would cross the U.S.-Canadian border. The proposed extension has been controversial because many feel that it supports further expansion of the oil sands, considered by many to be an environmentally harmful energy source.
In the face of fierce protests, the Obama Administration recently delayed the decision to approve the project until after the 2012 presidential election. But as the debate played out over the Keystone XL pipeline, I couldn't help but believe that those who are protesting against the pipeline are aiming at the wrong target.
The addiction metaphor is somewhat overused and admittedly imperfect, but I believe there is a very relevant example that illustrates the problem. If someone has a drug problem, you can try to eliminate the drug supply, or you can treat the addiction. In the U.S., we have conducted a very long war on drugs that has made the drug trade even more lucrative. Desperate people commit crimes to buy drugs they can't afford, and drug traffickers commit violent crimes to ensure that the profits keep flowing. Yet we still have a drug problem.
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The point is that as we cut off one supplier, another springs up. We have not cured the disease. However, if demand for drugs fell, the suppliers would go out of business. This is analogous to our dependence on oil (and apologies to oil producers who are offended by the analogy). I think protestors who feel that stopping this pipeline will strike a blow for our oil dependence grossly underestimate the lengths that we will go to in order to acquire oil. Thus, I don't believe stopping the pipeline addresses the root problem, and threatens to worsen some problems that protestors have largely ignored.
I could be wrong, but I think the oil sands will get to market regardless. In fact, there are people that I respect a great deal who disagree. But Canada has shown no inclination to slow development of this resource. Production from the oil sands has grown steadily over the past few decades with no signs of slowing. Current production is more than 1.5 million barrels per day, with most of that being exported to the United States. Canada projects that by 2020 production will be over 3 million bpd, and by 2030 it will be 5 million bpd. None of this growth is contingent upon the U.S. approving this pipeline. If the price of oil remains high, then the oil will find its way to market, and the U.S. will simply continue to source the same sort of oil -- such as oil from Venezuela's oil sands. Addressing the demand side of the equation is the only way the goals of the protestors can be achieved.
Robert Rapier works in the energy industry and writes and speaks about energy and the environment. He has worked on cellulosic ethanol, butanol production, oil refining, natural gas production, and gas-to-liquids (GTL). He has a Master’s Degree in chemical engineering from Texas A&M University, and is presently employed as the Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President for Merica International, a Hawaii-based renewable energy company. Merica is involved in a wide variety of projects, with a core focus on the localized use of biomass to energy for the benefit of local populations. See his blog here: R Squared Energy Blog
Hydrostor receives $4m funding for A-CAES facility in Canada
Hydrostor has received $4m funding to develop a 300-500MW Advanced Compressed Air Energy Storage (A-CAES) facility in Canada.
The funding will be used to complete essential engineering and planning, and enable Hydrostor to plan construction.
The project will be modeled on Hydrostor’s commercially operating Goderich storage facility, providing up to 12 hours of energy storage.
Hydrostor’s A-CAES system supports Canada’s green economic transition by designing, building, and operating emissions-free energy storage facilities, and employing people, suppliers, and technologies from the oil and gas sector.
The Honorable Seamus O’Regan, Jr. Minister of Natural Resources, said: “Investing in clean technology will lower emissions and increase our competitiveness. This is how we get to net zero by 2050.”
A-CAES has the potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by enabling the transition to a cleaner and more flexible electricity grid. Specifically, the low-impact and cost-effective technology will reduce the use of fossil fuels and will provide reliable and bankable energy storage solutions for utilities and regulators, while integrating renewable energy for sustainable growth.
Curtis VanWalleghem, Hydrostor’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “We are grateful for the federal government’s support of our long duration energy storage solution that is critical to enabling the clean energy transition. This made-in-Canada solution, with the support of NRCan and Sustainable Development Technology Canada, is ready to be widely deployed within Canada and globally to lower electricity rates and decarbonize the electricity sector."
The Rosamond A-CAES 500MW Project is under advanced development and targeting a 2024 launch. It is designed to turn California’s growing solar and wind resources into on-demand peak capacity while allowing for closure of fossil fuel generating stations.
Hydrostor closed US$37 million (C$49 million) in growth financing in September 2019.