Pipe Dream$: How Much Is Your Life Worth? Part II


Part I of “How Much Is Your Life Worth?” was pretty dismal. The issue is that greedy corporations are willing to poison the life on earth in order to make a quick dollar. Our government is in bed with the corporations, and the whole thing is destroying animal life, plant life, and soon human life. It’s important to stop these developments before the sky and water are poisoned.

So I’m one little person, and this problem is really really big. How can I help?
That’s something I had a hard time getting past at first. How does one person try to take on such a big problem?

The answer is that there’s a lot of us. So if we make an effort to live sustainably, and make an effort to tell Big Oil “no”, then we have a chance — together.

  1. Join a Protest

    Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners' Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota
    Protesters demonstrate against the Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S. September 9, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Cullen – RTX2OVHS


Current construction of The Dakota Access Pipeline is ongoing. The Standing Rock Tribe has made huge strides in halting the construction. Energy Transfer Partners spearheading the pipeline has hired security with attack dogs, and the security has allowed for the dogs to bite peaceful protestors, including a pregnant protestor.

Energy Transfer Partners is based out of Dallas (3738 Oak Lawn Ave, Dallas, TX 75219; (214) 981-0700) and has a LLC in San Antonio (800 E Sonterra Blvd #400, San Antonio, TX 78258; (210) 403-7300).

As a resident of Texas, I have seen the protests occurring outside of ETP’s buildings. I hope soon to see protests against Bank of America, and Citi because they are funding the project. Foam boards cost $1, paint is inexpensive, and your time is yours. The only thing you have to lose is the future of the planet.

Energy Transfer Partners has also begun construction on the Trans-Pecos Pipeline from Ft. Worth through Big Bend National Park into Mexico. I am personally looking for a group of people to take to the construction at Big Bend. 

Generally, any pipeline that is under construction… there are contractors, and banks that fund those contractors. Find out those businesses, organize, and protest! Another form of protest is boycotting, and that information can be found in #3.

  1.    Send support to ongoing protests

There are specific donation campaigns for almost every large protest. Some people cannot go out to protest, but they can offer aid to the people on the front lines. If there’s a protest happening that you want to help with but cannot attend, look to see if they have a wishlist on® has a list of needed items for the winter. Supplies, cash, or check donations can be sent to:

Sacred Stone Camp

P.O. Box 1011

Fort Yates, ND 58358

Additionally, sharing facebook posts or articles is a way of supporting the protestors. Education and supporting protests go hand-in-hand.

  1. Boycott oil to the best of your ability

This is a big one, because oil is in just about everything. However, there are thousands of things that you can do to at least cut back on oil consumption. I’ll list just a few that over time can make a huge positive impact (and not just on the oil industry, but other environmental violations too)

  •      Reduce plastics

Purchasing a few reusable water bottles and getting a water filter is probably the easiest fix for most American households. Bottled water is extremely inefficient for energy, and petroleum is a huge part of water bottle expense.

In your household it is pretty easy to replace those convenient disposable items for reusable items. It’s friendly to your pocket, and to the environment. In my household we have replaced paper towels with washcloths from Norwex, we also buy eco-friendly laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, hand soap, dish soap, etc from that company because they are legitimately amazing. I’ve also taken the plunge to stop using disposable maxi pads. There are a couple of options for reusable feminine products – Namely the diva cup and luna panties. 

  •      Looking for a job?

Give consideration to places within biking/walking distance. Carpool to distant jobs. Avoid consuming gasoline unnecessarily.

Go Pokemon hunting with friends to save on gasoline, walk to hatch your eggs instead of driving 10mph shaking your phone with your knee. I know you do it, I did it.

  •      Stop banking with businesses that fund pipelines. Better yet, do your shopping and banking locally. Chances are, if there’s money to be made, a corporation is going to sacrifice people, health, and the environment to make a buck. Your dollar is your vote, so use it wisely!
  •      Avoid meat – I watited to put this one last, because nobody wants to give up their delicious meat. However, meat production is extremely inefficient when it comes to energy. I’ll belabor that point in other posts, but cutting down on meat consumption sends a big message to several different industries that need a big message sent.

Figure 4: The energy (in kilowatt hours) to produce foods


Table 1: Energy efficiency of foods


In order to boycott oil, you don’t have to give up meat entirely. If you know a hunter, offer to buy your meat through them. There are some online companies that sell meat, and they guarentee that it’s grass-fed and/or organic – contact them to see how much energy they use per pound of your desired meat. The prices will probably be more expensive, and you’ll need to put more thought into it than buying a bag of Tyson® from Wal-Mart®. However, it’s worth the expense when you take a hard look at what Big Oil is doing to this planet. Keep your eye on the prize, that your water is more important than convenience.

4. Call government officials that have pipeline construction under consideration


We elected these officials to act as our voice. Make sure that they know what our voice really wants to say!


“I am a resident of __State__. I am concerned about the pipeline that has been approved in __Official’s State__. I understand that the crude oil has components that when leaked into water sources, contaminate the bed, surface, and the air in the area. Pipelines are an unsafe practice, as evidenced by The Gulf Coast spills, the Keystone pipeline, and the spill at the Kalamazoo River, with multiple other occurrences throughout the United States.

I would like to request that the pipeline construction be denied or halted so that the community’s safety in the surrounding areas, and your jurisdiction can be ensured. Thank you.”

Additionally, some former Texas Mayors *cough, Rick Perry, cough* sit on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, the company responsible for the DAPL and Trans-Pecos Pipeline.

5. Help the movement for alternative energy sources



We have made some amazing technological advances in the last twenty years. Should our energy still be coming from fossil fuels? The problem isn’t as dismal as it looks. The oil companies have been buying patents from inventors for a long time, and stashing the plans away so that our oil dependency continues. If the oil companies want to stay in business, then lets urge them to break out those patents. They have the money to make it happen, so vote with your dollar (boycott). That’s the only language these companies speak, and it’s a language that we need to learn how to use better.

Additionally, personally looking into oil and energy alternatives (hemp, algae, ethanol, solar, wind, etc) and finding out about the good and the bad that comes with them can help you with the final suggestion for how to change our nation’s dependence on oil.

  •       Hemp – can be used to replace petroleum plastics. It’s biodegradable, and easily renewable. Hemp plants have a growing cycle of 12-14 weeks, and the plants take in 4x the amount of carbon dioxide that trees do!

The downside is that:

  1. It’s illegal
  2. Biodegradable plastics don’t work for liquid containers
  •       Solar – Solar panels convert light (photons) into electricity. There are no harmful emissions, and the excess energy can be stored in batteries.

The downside is that:

  1. Solar energy cannot be created at night
  2. Even the most efficient solar cells convert around 20% of the sun’s rays to electricity
  3. Expense
  •       Wind – Wind power is another renewable source of energy that has the potential to produce 20 times more energy that what the entire human population needs. The wind turbines are space-efficient, and the operational costs are low.

The downside is that:

  1. Wind fluctuates
  2. Wind turbines can hurt wildlife (flying critters die in turbines frequently)
  3. Noise
  •       Ethanol – Most automobiles available in the U.S. are flex-fuel capable, which means that a switch from Oil to Ethanol could take place at relatively low individual cost. With corn-based ethanol the biproducts (CO2 and DDGS) can be used for agriculture. I’m not a fan of this form of alternative energy for a few reasons, so my con’s list is biased.

The downside is that:

  1. Energy for our bodies should be prioritized over energy for our cars
  2. Monsanto (the corporation that has basically monopolized corn) would gain control not only over our food, but over the energy sector too. Monsanto is evil, we don’t like them.
  3. Ethanol absorbs water, which contaminates it as fuel, and makes it difficult to ship through the pre-existing oil pipelines. And while ethanol spills are innocuous in comparison to oil, I’m still wary.
  •       Algae – Algae have fats and carbohydrates in varying amounts. A fast growing, hardy algae that produces a substantial amount of fat can be selected, grown quickly (using CO2 and producing O2), and then the algae oil can be converted into biodiesel using lye, vegetable oil, and methanol.

·       Nuclear – Nuclear energy deserves its own article. It’s such a hotly contested energy source. I’ve done a lot of personal research on the subject, and it seems like if handled properly, it can be relatively safe. However, since 80% of the country’s energy is owned by the private sector (notorious for greed and colossal screw-ups), I’d dare say that the power of nuclear would not be handled properly.

  1. Educate

Educate yourself, your friends, your representatives, and strangers! Education is the only way to really make a permanent change. I like to wear T-shirts or pins that start up conversations with strangers. Why talk about the weather, when you can change the world one person at a time?


Do you have any additions? Comments? Questions? Just want to say hi? Post a comment below!

Kate Minola



Pipe Dream$: How Much is Your Life Worth? Part I

Ending Oil Is Not A Pipe Dream

It’s relatively safe to say that almost everyone reading this has someone younger than them that they don’t want to see die from thirst. Most reasonable people would say that water is more important than a job. It’s pretty easy to rationalize that if one trades a job for water, then their job will only last long enough for them to die of thirst.So it seems counter-intuitive that any individual would accept a pipeline going through any water supply. It may create jobs, but with that promise is a gamble on the local water supply. A simple search for “Pipeline Accidents” yields lists with hundreds of entries.

I’d like to talk about some of the major accidents that have occurred recently. If at any point you’re overwhelmed, please read the second installment of this article. There are ways to create positive change in the world even as an individual citizen. But first, please make the effort to become fully informed. This article will detail five major pipeline accidents beginning with the notorious BP Gulf Coast spill in 2010, and ending with Alabama’s pipeline rupture that recently occurred in September of 2016.

Figure 1: Map of oil spills 2010-2015


Crude Oil – Composed mainly of pentanes and heavier hydrocarbons. Crude oil is a liquid that flows easily without stimulation (in contrast to bitumen).
Benzene – Benzene is used to thin the crude oil for improved flow, but it is an extremely hazardous chemical linked to leukemia and anemia.
Bitumen – Also known as “Fresh tar sands” is a dirt-like substance composed of hydrocarbons, heavy metals, sand and clay. The mixture can clump and clog pipelines. In order to keep it thin, benzene (or liquid constituents of natural gas) is used to break up the clogs. This allows for the oil to travel through pipelines more efficiently. However, when a pipeline bursts into a river bed, the dirt-like oil will blend in with the river’s natural dirt bottom, the oily sheen will rise to the surface, and the liquid constituents will vaporize into the air. Each one of these three oil products within the pipelines are hazardous to live organisms.
Figure 2: Tar Sands are thick oil deposits that must be solvated in liquid constituents of natural gas.

An oil worker holds raw oilsands near Fort McMurray, Alta., on July 9, 2008. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh


The BP Oil Spill in the Gulf Of Mexico May 2010:

BP’s official response to the oil spill includes a brief summary of the reason it occurred. The website states

The fire burned for 36 hours before the rig sank, and hydrocarbons leaked into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was closed and sealed. The accident involved a well integrity failure, followed by a loss of hydrostatic control of the well. This was followed by a failure to control the flow from the well with the blowout preventer (BOP) equipment, which allowed the release and subsequent ignition of hydrocarbons. Ultimately, the BOP emergency functions failed to seal the well after the initial explosions.

The rest of the article explains BP’s deep regret for loss of human life, and compensation for the accident. BP’s article offered up information that they will compensate the accident, but it does not mention that they were compelled under federal law to do so. The scientific assessment of the environmental effects is ongoing, with no clear end in sight. The current liability case for as much as $13 billion is ongoing. U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier found that BP acted with “gross negligence and willful misconduct.” BP’s senior vice president Geoff Morrell does not acknowledge the environmental impact that the spill continues to have.

Bob Marshall, an environmental writer for The Lens and longtime outdoorsman gave an interview with NPR about how the BP spill has affected the environment of the Gulf. He explained that “The oil coated the roots of those mangrove trees and then they died, and without the mangroves to hold the islands together, within three years most of those islands were gone.” When noting a dead dolphin in the water he mentioned “I’ve never seen a single dead dolphin out here. Now I’m seeing two.”

In the same NPR article Cynthia Sarthou, executive director of Gulf Restoration Network was interviewed. “Dolphin deaths continue, oil is still on the bottom of the ocean, tar balls keep coming up,” she says. “And nobody really is able to say what we may find in five years, 10 years. It’s really distressing to me.” Sarthou says there’s a distinct possibility that the spill will be a problem for generations to come.

“It’s not publicly seen but it is out there. It’s in the marine environment, and so whether we see it or not the potential impacts of its presence may plague us for decades.”

The spill was a disaster for the environment and economy in the Gulf Coast. Tourists are not interested in a beach covered in oil. The jobs that were brought to that area were far surpassed by the jobs that were surely lost in the economic downturn after the spill.

Kalamazoo River Oil Spill July 2010:


A timeline report of the Kalamazoo River oil spill can be found here.

Enbridge Energy’s 30-inch steel pipeline that runs 286-miles sustained a 6-foot rupture that leaked approximately 843,000 gallons of crude oil into the Talmadge Creek before the leak was stopped. The Talmadge Creek feeds into the Kalamazoo River. A state of emergency was called, and residents evacuated from the site due to high levels of Benzene. In 2012 the river was reopened to the public, with a reported 90% of waste cleaned up. Enbridge Energy states that the wildlife and vegetation is almost back to normal, however an article by EcoWatch questions that narrative. I highly suggest reading the entire article, but I will paste a large amount of the important information below. And for added convenience and your skimming pleasure, I’ll bold the parts to which you should pay special attention.

Fresh tar sands crude looks more like dirt than conventional crude—it’s far too thick to travel through a pipeline. To get this crumbly mess to flow, producers thin it out with the liquid constituents of natural gas. Diluted bitumen, or dilbit, as it’s called in the tar sands industry, is approximately three parts tar sands crude, one part natural gas liquids.

When dilbit gushed into Talmadge Creek in 2010, the mixture broke apart. The volatile natural gas liquids vaporized and wafted into the surrounding neighborhoods. The airborne chemicals were so difficult to find and eliminate that Enbridge decided it would be better to simply buy some of the homes that were evacuated, preventing the residents from ever returning.

The tar sands oil, which stayed in the water, presented an even bigger chemistry problem. Most forms of oil, including conventional crude, are less dense than water. That’s why oil makes such pretty colors when dropped into a rain puddle—it floats and plays tricks with the sunlight. Traditional oil spill cleanup technology relies heavily on this density relationship. Skimmers and vacuums remove it from the surface. Floating booms prevent surface-level oil from moving into environmentally sensitive areas. Tar sands crude behaves differently.” Put simply, the spilled dilbit traveled in every direction—into the air, with the current, to the bottom of the river—at the same time.

A half-decade later, some of the oil still remains. Enbridge’s bungling began even before the spill. First, the company knew the pipeline was vulnerable by 2005, if not earlier. When the rupture finally came in July 2010, operators dismissed the alarms as a malfunction of the system for 17 hours before finally accepting that the pipeline had failed. Making things worse, six hours after Calhoun County residents were complaining to 911 about the smell of oil, Enbridge employees were still trying to fix the problem by pumping additional oil into the pipeline. In its review of the accident, the National Transportation Safety Board faulted Enbridge’s “culture of deviance” for what happened, pointing out that the response team in the first hours consisted of four local pipeline maintenance employees who were inadequately trained and made a series of bad decisions.

Not only did Enbridge fail to make the EPA’s initial cleanup deadline, it also blew through a series of fallback deadlines across more than four years. Not until late 2014 did the agency finally sign off on the remediation effort, handing the remaining responsibilities to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. As the cleanup winds down, though, there is little cause for celebration. Some local residents accuse the company of overstating its progress. “In the process of beautifying everything and giving money to everybody and making everybody feel good about it, they’re not really telling people about the dangers still there in that water,” says Linda L. Cypret-Kilbourne of Michigan’s Potawatomi tribe.”

The operators for the pipeline noticed the pressure change in their telemetry, and tried to fix it by pushing more oil through – thus exacerbating the spill. This foolhardy attempt to regain pressure occurred for 17 hours. If while working at a gas station, an alarm went off that notified pressure loss in the gasoline pumps, how long would it take for the attendant to shut down the pump for an expert to inspect? If I may be allowed some conjecture – I’d dare to say that an employee that notices a problem that they cannot fix themselves would call their superiors. I don’t believe that this issue came solely from having inadequately trained maintenance employees. Their superiors didn’t put forth the effort to train them adequately, and my guess is that the superiors are also inadequate.

Keystone Pipeline Spills April 2016:

TransCanada reported 187 gallons of crude oil spilled to the federal government. The pipeline was shut down, and TransCanada issued a statement saying “no significant impact to the environment has been observed.” However, the estimate is now nearly at 17,000  gallons have been spilled onto South Dakota soil. After being commissioned in 2010, TransCanada reportedly recorded 35 leaks in its first year alone, including a spill of 21,000 gallons of oil in North Dakota. After seven years of active protests against continuing the Keystone XL, the president finally ruled against the pipeline’s continuation. However, TransCanada is not giving up on the pipeline. They claim that Obama’s decision was arbitrary and unjustified. Therefore they are now suing Obama’s administration for $15 billion under The American Free Trade Agreement.


Shell Gulf Coast Oil Spill May 2016:

The Shell facility in the Gulf Coast is equipped with high-tech telemetry to indicate pressure and flow metering, but the leak was discovered by accident. A helicopter pilot noticed the tell-tale sheen near Shell’s well. By the time that it was “contained” roughly 88,200 gallons were spilled.

Sue Sturgis writes“How long would this leak have continued, if not for the sheer luck of having a vigilant pilot happening by?”


Multiple leaks in Alabama Pipeline Sep 2016, :

The most recent leak occurred September 2016 in Shelby, Alabama. A reported 336,000 gallons of oil were spilled, and have been mostly been recovered at two of the three mining retention ponds. Benzene, an environmental hazard that was discussed in the Kalamazoo spill has prohibited the crew from immediate action. Colonial Pipeline said it had no indication of a leak prior to the inspector’s report, either from pressure readings in the pipeline or from routine aerial inspections it performs on the line.

Between 2010 and 2015 Colonial has gone from reporting an average of one Alabama incident per year over the last six years to at least five in the first nine months of 2016. Nationwide, the company filed 125 incident reports with PHMSA between April 23, 2010 and May 4, 2016, PHMSA records show.

The EPA gave a statement about the pipeline laid by Colonial read:

The government maintained that pipeline corrosion, mechanical damage, and operator error in seven recent spills resulted in the release of approximately 1.45 million gallons of oil and other petroleum products into the environment, including numerous rivers, streams, and wetlands.


Figure 3: Map of pipelines within the United States.


Our government is continuing to approve drilling permits and pipeline projects, but the spill response plans are inadequate at best. It’s overwhelming to know that pipelines are destroying ecosystems, and that they’re being laid by huge companies that are largely negligent. What is a citizen to do?

Please continue onto Part II for information on how the individual citizen can make a difference, because let’s face it – Washington isn’t on our side in this fight.

The Nation’s infrastructure doesn’t need to be based on a commodity that is inherently spreading death. Allow yourself to hope for a future with a living earth – a place where your family doesn’t have to trade jobs or anything else for water.

Figure 4:  Pipelines continue to be approved without adequate spill response procedures.



Kate Minola is a biophile, interested in medicine, human rights, animal rights, and ecology. She graduated with a Batchelor’s Degree in Chemistry, concentration in Organic Chemistry. In her spare time Kate enjoys homeless outreach, and animal rescue. Most importantly, she has a voracious appetite for sensibly warm socks.