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The EPA is now calling on tar sands pipelines – like the Keystone XL – to be treated differently from regular oil pipelines, according to this NPR report.
That's just recognizing reality. Tar sands oil – technically diluted bitumen, or dilbit – IS different from regular oil.Bitumen is heavy, dense, and sticky. In order to push this gunk through a pipeline, it needs to be diluted with chemical solvents. It is then pumped through at a high temperature in order to make it flow at all.
What difference does that make?Tar sands oil is more corrosive than regular oil. It eats away at the pipeline. Tar sands Pipelines break down more often than regular pipelines. This gives us devastating SPILLS, like the one this year in Arkansas, or the one three years ago into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan.
And when it spills , it's harder to clean up.The Kalamazoo River spill was the biggest in US history, has cost more than $1 billion and still is no closer to be cleaned up. Tar sands oil is denser than water. It sinks to the bottom of rivers, ponds and oceans and coats everything in its path. Tar sands oil is stickier than crude. "Everything it touches, even rocks, cannot be cleaned and needs to be thrown away," notes Michigan State University professor Stephen Hamilton.