Last year, hundreds of activists protested a proposed tar sands oil pipeline by getting arrested on the White House's doorstep. Thousands showed up weeks later to encircle Obama's digs with a human chain. All the commotion worked; the environmentalist community won a major victory when the administration announced it would delay the pipeline until the State Department reexamined TransCanada's application for the Keystone XL permit.
The future of the pipeline remains in question, and the oil companies are getting antsy. So at least one major Canadian tar sands producer is skipping the pipeline altogether—it aims to open a dedicated rail terminal with which to ship the ultra-dirty bitumen to the United States refineries by freight train.
The Calgary Herald reports that this is looking like an increasingly viable option for oil companies with a glut of supply on their hands, and who hope to sidestep the pipeline process:
Southern Pacific Resources ... will open a dedicated rail terminal in a few weeks just south of Fort McMurray and ship its product in leased tanker cars via CN Rail all the way to Natchez, Miss. From there, it's just a short barge ride down the Mississippi River to one of the eight refineries in Louisiana, where the crude will fetch $20 to $30 a barrel more than it could at the congested terminal hub in Cushing, Okla.Seems that activists, environmentalists, and anyone else with the good sense to want to keep the tar sands oil in the ground have got a whole 'nother fight on their hands.
"I think Canadians are going to have a much more difficult time getting crude to market than we may expect and that's because of the delays in the (Northern) Gateway and Keystone (pipelines)," said Byron Lutes, chief executive of Southern Pacific. He said that using the CN line will demonstrate "another safe and viable alternative for transporting bitumen."
Unlike pipelines, that means no public hearings and no environmental protests.