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Letter: The Dirtiest of the Oil Sources

To the Editor:

Thank you for Robert Bryce’s op-ed piece about the railroad industry’s plans to ship tar sands oil out of the north (“Stopping the Keystone Pipeline Won’t Stop Flow of Tar Sands Oil,” Feb. 25). His argument seems to make our already-crowded railroad into part of the problem by expanding their capacity simply to carry the absolute dirtiest of oil sources.

Bryce also pooh-poohs as “easy” the Feb. 17 mass rally in Washington, D.C. Three busloads of us Vermonters joined 35,000 to 40,000 others to help President Obama get some spine to stand up to Exxon. I did not see Bryce on my bus, so he may not know that most of us found the rally to be spirited, inspiring and rejuvenating, but not “easy” due to the bitterly cold wind.

Perhaps the most powerful speakers at the Washington rally were three Native American women leaders from tribal areas stretching from Alberta to Oklahoma. Their lands are currently being, or are planned to be, ruined with legal impunity by the massively polluting tar sands project.

One of the blocks to organizing to stop this devastation is the carbon companies’ prohibition against reporters photographing their tar sands operation. Fortunately the online Business Insider did an end-run by sending a photojournalist up in a low-flying plane over a massively destroyed area of far northern Alberta. The Business Insider tar sands photos are on the web at: http://www.businessinsider.com/photos-destructive-canada-oil-sands-2012-10. I especially recommend photo 8, which shows clear cutting of northern Alberta’s boreal forest. Photo 9 shows the follow-up bulldozing of the denuded forest loam (the “muskeg”). Finally, we see the oily underlayer being scooped into million-pound capacity trucks — said to be the world’s largest dump trucks. Drivers are paid $55 per hour, quite an incentive to relocate to the far north and cooperate with any capital-driven devastation.

Again, I think Bryce’s essay makes the railroads appear to be part of the short-sighted problem, when what we need are more big-picture solutions. And more pictures.

Robert Spottswood

Norwich

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