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California's fracked up oil: nearly as bad for the climate as Keystone XL?

by: RLMiller

Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 09:44:14 AM PST


by RL Miller

IMAG0681The Keystone XL pipeline has birthed a movement, massive rallies, and even the Keystone Principle - "Specifically and categorically, we must cease making large, long-term capital investments in new fossil fuel infrastructure that "locks in" dangerous emission levels for many decades." Keystone is a carbon bomb.

Very nearly as explosive, yet virtually ignored: California's oil awaiting fracking. The state's oil reserves - 400 billion barrels - were long considered dwindling, until fracking the oil has promised to liberate, or something, 15 billion barrels.

The math puts the carbon impacts of California's oil on par with Keystone. The respected Skeptical Science blog calculates Keystone's impact over 40 years as adding 7 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions. I did the math and found that California's easily available oil awaiting fracking is 6.45 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

7 billion tons of carbon pollution is more than 6.45 billion tons, but not much more.

The chemistry agrees: California's oil is as dirty as the Canadian tar sands. State data shows that several California oil fields produce just as much carbon dioxide per barrel of oil as the tar sands do. A handful of fields yield even more.

The ugly physics of handling this dirty oil are reminiscent of the Keystone pipeline's politics of exporting pollution. California's landmark global warming law, AB32, institutes a low carbon fuel standard. High-carbon oil won't be refined here. It will be shipped to  less climate-conscious states or less finicky countries. And transporting dirty oil out of state will create yet more pollution.

The Keystone Principle demands that California's oil stay underground; the terrifying new math of global warming demands that California's oil stay underground. Meanwhile, the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity paints it as "black gold": video here.

One would think that environmentally aware Governor Jerry Brown and the Democrats in the California legislature who passed AB32 would be lining up to oppose fracking this carbon bomb.

One would be wrong.

The people attending Forward on Climate rallies throughout the nation don't want fracking - the Los Angeles rally that I attended yesterday had prominent anti-fracking signs and speakers. But not a single Democrat in the California legislature will touch a fracking moratorium bill. They're too busy nibbling around the edges of regulating well casings, as if that somehow makes it all right to frack all this dirty carbon. They're too busy siding with the Koch brothers, against the people who elected them, and against the climate. They're going to frack up the Golden State.

RLMiller :: California's fracked up oil: nearly as bad for the climate as Keystone XL?
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Oil Basics (4.00 / 1)
In my opinion, the greater environmental tragedy about the Alberta Tar Sands is not how much CO2 is produced from using the oil, but how much energy is used (and hence, how much CO2 is generated) to refine the tar sands into oil in the first place; and the vast lakes of toxic waste it produces (ever so conveniently tucked out of site in a remote wilderness few will ever see).

By contrast, the risk of fracking in California (as I see it) is the possibility of contaminating the groundwater that is so desperately vital to agriculture in the central valley, and which helps reduce pumping from the California Delta.

I've given up on global warming. We're never going to stop it. We're better served at this point investing in ways to cope with it.  


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