Environmentalists and climate activists may have won a big temporary victory when their efforts persuaded Obama to delay the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline until an in-depth environmental review could be conducted. As we speak, the GOP, their oil industry sponsors, and a small handful of oily Democrats are working to ram through a provision that would overturn Obama's decision, and let the pipeline go forward.
But as progressives, greens, and climate hawks continue to fight the efforts of Big Oil to circumvent democracy, they should keep in mind one thing: Tar sands oil is already everywhere. The tar sands industry is worth an estimated $13 billion or so, and it's already being refined at close to 50 refineries across the U.S.
Here's Mother Jones:
Using data from the federal Energy Information Administration (which tracks imports of unprocessed crude oil), Forest Ethics compiled a list of nearly 50 US refineries that handle tar sands oil...In these refineries, the heavy, molasses-like "bitumen" from the tar sands undergoes heating, blending, and other refining steps and comes out as useable fuel, ready to be pumped into a long-haul semi. What the map shows, Forest Ethics campaign director Aaron Sanger said, is that "unless you take action to take tar sands oil out of your footprint, you've got it in your footprint."
Mother Jones then turned Forest Ethics' data into an interactive map; that's a screenshot above. Head over to MoJo for a deeper investigation into how deeply tar sands oil already pervades the American Economy, and to click around on their oily map.
As you can see from the map above, we're going to have to do a lot more than cancel the Keystone XL pipeline to beat the tar sands--and we should.