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Giant piles of black material began to rise on the Detroit side of the river over the last few months and local environmental activists have exposed the piles as petroleum coke, or petcoke. This material is produced when oil is refined and in this case what is being refined by Marathon Oil in Detroit is Tar Sands bitumen which produces far more petcoke than conventional oil.
As has been well reported by local responsible journalists, the piles of petcoke produce dust and there are concerns over the leaching of this material into the already over-stressed Detroit River. Local concerns are rightly over who is responsible for the storage of the stuff, what use will it be put to, and who is responsible to regulate the storage of it.
In the meantime, I think we have to take a sort of longer look at Alberta Tar sands production responsible for the piles of petcoke on the riverfront, and at the fact that the Tar Sands production, itself a crime against humanity, is leaving a long trail of environmental effects right across North America – and petcoke is a big part of that trail. Because, as listeners heard on Friday, petcoke is burned in power plants and, in the words of our guest, is the “dirtiest of dirty fuel.
On the phone from Washington DC was Lorne Stockman, Research Director with Oil Change International, an organization that works to “expose the true costs of fossil fuels and facilitate the coming transition towards clean energy.” He “has worked on oil campaigns as campaigner, campaign coordinator, researcher and author for over ten years. For the past three years, he has worked as a consultant with Greenpeace UK, Platform and Oil Change International as researcher and author of numerous reports and briefings studying investor risk in tar sands and other marginal oil sources.”
Lorne is also the author of The Next Gulf: London, Washington and Oil Conflict in Nigeria with Andrew Rowell and James Marriott [, and he] holds a Master’s Degree from King’s College London.” He authored the January 2013 report on petcoke: Petroleum Coke: The Coal Hiding in the Tar Sands.
In a recent Monthly Review article, Jim Hansen, the noted climate change forecaster and activist, is quoted as saying that “coal and unconventional fuels” as “death trains” which will break the carbon budget. We’re worried locally about petcoke, but really it doesn’t matter where it’s burned as it is the shared global environment that is ultimately at risk. Here is the full quote from the article:
Hansen and his coauthor Pushker A. Kharecha demonstrated in a 2008 article in Global Biogeochemical Cycles that the burning of the remaining conventional oil and gas is consistent with climate stabilization at or below 2°C (450 ppm atmospheric CO2). But this is true only if accompanied by a phase out of coal-fired plants without carbon capture and sequestration technology (a technology which is not yet feasible), and provided there is no recourse to unconventional fossil fuels—such as tar sands oil, shale oil and gas, and methane hydrates. Hansen considers coal and unconventional fossil fuels as “death trains,” not only because these are the dirtiest of fuels, but also because their use will break the carbon budget. Canada’s tar sands, he says, contain 240 gigatons of carbon while U.S. shale contains a further 300 gigatons. If we burn it all on top of conventional fuels there is no hope of avoiding the planetary tipping point. (Italics added)
The interview began with an overview of what petcoke is and how it is turning “US refineries into coal factories”.
The discussion includes the risks of a high sulphur and carbon material like petcoke being burned and pumped into the atmosphere. It’s important to understand that petcoke is a by-product of refining and is being dumped onto the coal market:
The Koch brothers have become synonymous with power in politics and now there is a third Koch brother, Charles, and his Oxbow Carbon company that seems to be at the centre of the ‘petkoch’ industry. Stockman explains and wraps up with a sense of the impact the report has had since its January release:
Returning to the program since he was on last July is Ryan Herriot, a UWindsor 4th year medical student, and local campaigner for Canadian Doctors for Refugee Care and that organization, along with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, has been fighting the Harper regime’s abolition of the Interim Federal Health Program administered by Citizenship and Immigration Canada – without consultation I must add.
Herriot gave us an update on the situation since a successful rally at the Windsor CIC location last year and an important recent legal development:
Since Herriot will be moving from Windsor in the near future, and if you are interested in becoming involved in the refugee issue, you can contact him through his blog by clicking the image below:
Track played on air: “All the Birds”: