Saturday, March 29, 2008

Midwest Oil Refining: A Matter Of National Security, Or Oil Company Security?

While Wisconsin waits for Murphy Oil Co. to submit its permit applications to expand by seven-fold its Superior oil refining capacity across an unprecedented 400-500 acres of wetlands, those backing several of these projects in the US Midwest are defining the question along national security lines.

And taking shots at environmental organizations that argue that the resulting air and water pollution that accompany such refinery activities will harm, not help, national resources.

National security? Depends on what you include in the equation, don't you think?

Murphy Oil's impending expansion at Superior to handle the controversial Canadian tar sand crude - - gouged from the Canadian north in a blowout sacrificing vast quantities of energy and water resources - - is but one of several such projects.

(Peruse a Canadian website devoted to information about tar sand oil and all the implications of its removal, here. (

Some history of Wisconsin's preliminary work with Murphy on the developing project, pre-permitting, is here - - and explains Wisconsin's noticeable silence in 2007 when other Great Lakes states' officials, particularly in Illinois, were confronting British Petroleum's expansion at Whiting, IN, to process a share of Canadian tar sand crude for refining.

Marathon Oil is expanding its Detroit refinery for the same reason; all these projects, and no doubt others in the lower 48 states ,will require vast networks of new pipelines across hundreds of miles of farm, forest and wetlands to move the crude in, and refined products out.

As the great scarring to get at the oil continues in Alberta - - requiring so much energy to extract it that there has been talk in the business media, citing corporate sources, about possibily building a nuclear powerplant nearby.

Proponents are framing the issue around job growth and now, national security.

Conservation? As Dick Cheney famously said, a personal virtue, but certainly no guide for national policy-making.

The oil expansionists are omitting from their national security calculus the jobs lost in alternative energy R&D and production if all the new billions are poured into the oil economy.

They are overlooking the damage to other water-based commerce, such as commercial fishing and tourism.

Not to mention the cleanup costs when the inevitable air and water pollution occurs at pipeline breaks, from smokestacks, or in everyday refinery operations.

In a word, it's sustainability that they disregard: environmentally, economically, politically, even diplomatically, as, sooner rather than later, Americans in the Great Lakes region are going to object to all this Canadian crude spilling into the US Upper Midwest.

And Canadians are not going to like the pollution from refineries wafting across and into the Great Lakes and beyond - - after coming to grips with the environmental disaster unfolding in the Alberta tar sands region.

And was this what the work on the Great Lakes Compact was all about?

Years negotiating an agreement on water quantity protections, only to begin intentionally jeopardizing the quality of those same waters?

And for Wisconsinites and their neighbors who love Lake Superior, here is a specific, bitter irony:

Local, state, federal and Murphy Oil officials have begun touting the positive effects of a multi-million cleanup around the Superior refinery that was years in the making.

What a bizarre time to put all that in jeopardy - - proving that if you don't have a broad view of what constitutes the national (dare I say, an international, or two-nations' interest) - - you will disregard huge opportunities, sustainable benefits, and in Superior's case, even your own recent history.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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In addition, the Hydrogen Education Foundation has recently launched a website to help people better understand hydrogen as a fuel. Please visit to improve your knowledge about hydrogen as an alternative fuel.