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Keystone XL Energy Security Sham

Energy
Keystone XL Energy Security Sham

Oil Change International

By Lorne Stockman

Oct. 7 sees the final public hearing in the national interest determination process surrounding the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,700 mile pipeline would bring up to 900,000 barrels per day of dirty tar sands crude to the Gulf Coast from Alberta, Canada if approved by the State Department. The hearing will take place in Washington, D.C.

The debate has recently focused most intensely on the false dichotomy of jobs versus environment. False because the transition that we must make to a clean energy future will likely create more jobs than maintaining the dirty energy status quo and also because the claims about the pipeline’s job creation potential have been blown up out of all proportion.

Another aspect of the pipeline shrouded in misinformation is the idea that it will enhance America’s energy security. A barrel of oil from Canada must be better than one from the Middle East, right? Wrong. There is no evidence that suggests the U.S. has enjoyed any relief from the volatility of the global oil market since Canada became America’s number one source of imported oil (since 2005) .

Keystone XL Is Effectively an Export Pipeline

As an export pipeline, Keystone XL will have no impact on U.S. dependence on Mideast and Venezuelan oil. Refiners in the U.S. Gulf Coast are at the forefront of a 60 percent increase in U.S. petroleum product exports since 2007. Latin American and European markets need diesel and Gulf Coast refiners are increasingly providing it. In fact, with U.S. gasoline demand set to decline over the long term, the refiners that will receive Keystone XL crude have configured their refineries to maximize diesel production from heavy sour crudes such as those from the tar sands. This means that Keystone XL is serving growing global demand rather than U.S. domestic need. Keystone XL oil will therefore be as well as, rather than instead of, other sources of heavy sour crude such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

Canadian Oil Brings No Protection against Energy Supply Disruption

Canadian oil runs at full capacity and does not hold spare capacity to be brought on stream in times of an emergency. Canadian oil may add to U.S. and global supply, but when a major disruption occurs in the global oil market, Canada cannot boost production without investing billions of dollars and building new infrastructure.

Canadian Oil Brings No Protection against Oil Price Spikes

Canada has been America’s largest source of oil imports since 2005. Today the U.S. imports over 2.5 million barrels per day (Mb/d) of crude oil and petroleum products from Canada. This is more than double the imports from Saudi Arabia and 38 percent more than current imports from all Persian Gulf states. Yet this increasing reliance on Canadian oil has not protected the U.S. from oil price spikes. In 2008, as oil hit $147 per barrel, U.S. gasoline prices spiked over $4 per gallon. In 2011, when the Libyan crisis took about 1.6 Mb/d out of the global oil market, U.S. gasoline prices jumped 26 percent in two months despite U.S. stocks of crude oil hitting record highs. The dominance of Canadian oil in the U.S. market provided no buffer against the vagaries of the global oil market on these occasions.

Canadian Oil Will Not Significantly Decrease OPEC Revenues

It feels good to send oil money to Canada rather than to hostile regimes that threaten the U.S. But does it make a difference? According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, OPEC countries are likely to earn over $1 trillion in 2011 from oil exports, rising slightly in 2012. The International Energy Agency (IEA) forecasts that by 2035, under a business as usual scenario in which tar sands production grows in line with industry ambitions, OPEC’s share of the global oil market will rise from 41 percent to 52 percent. With 77 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves, OPEC producers will always dominate the world’s oil market. That the U.S. is buying more oil from Canada matters little to OPEC producers. Canada pumping more oil allows them to pump less in order to maintain high prices. Revenues to OPEC are therefore likely to be stable with or without Canadian oil.

Only Demand Reduction Enhances America’s Energy Security

Demand reduction in line with climate limits decreases expensive tar sands production and reduces revenues to OPEC by $5 trillion:

The IEA calculates energy supply and demand if the world were to stay within recognized limits for stabilizing climate change. This strategy not only provides the environmental security of a stable climate but also significantly enhances American and global energy security. In this scenario, by 2035:

  • U.S. oil consumption would be 40 percent less than today;
  • U.S. oil imports would be 45 percent less than business as usual;
  • Tar sands production would be 30 percent less than business as usual;
  • OPEC revenues would be cut by $5 trillion from business as usual.

Most importantly, only in this scenario is U.S. and global oil demand firmly in a downward trajectory, meaning that demand decline is a long-term trend enhancing environmental and energy security beyond 2035.

For more information, click here.

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For more on Keystone XL and energy security, click here.

To attend the hearing in Washington as well as a rally in support of pipeline opponents, click here.

To attend the premiere of Pipe Dreams, a new documentary about the pipeline followed by a discussion panel, click here.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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