That's a very self serving opinion Mr. Suess, since if word gets out that _millions_ of gallons were spilled under your agency's watch, yet reported as 10 gallons, that will create a lot of political pressure to change more than curiosity. That difference is a little more than "nothing to see here, move along".
1. Which I have extreme doubts about, but I'll just ignore that for a moment.
Twenty years from now, oil extraction may well be banned, regardless of whether pipelines spill under their watch. But the profits from slap-dash operation can be made today.
What are the stats on gallons spilled from pipelines vs trucks vs trains?
Maybe the answer is we don't ship dangerous materials across vast distances using methods that are dangerous to the local communities. Why does the answer have to be whatever the cheapest most convenient solution for the company? It should be the solution is least likely to cause serious harm and meets the needs of the communities it impacts.
In truth I find your comment quite disingenuous since it is trying to force the burden of responsibility on end consumers - currently the market is strongly indicating a desire for renewables including the high demand for electric and hybrid cars and the fact that in a lot of areas consumers have actually put up with reusable grocery bag laws. Those are nothing but cost and inconvenience to the end consumers and yet it's become much more normalized, don't forget that charging for plastic bags twenty years ago would have driven a grocery store out of business.
Also, just to note, EVs are getting heavy investment right now and will be able to dominate the market without any infrastructure investments.
That shows about 57 tons of CO2 over a 150,000 mile lifespan of a conventional (non-hybrid) car - even more if you assume a larger lifespan.
Estimates I can find for the embodied CO2 of an EV car are around 10-30 CO2 tons. A smaller hybrid would be on the lower side, while an EV SUV would be on the higher side. Also, instead of looking at the entire cost of the CO2 from the car, we should really be using the additional CO2 over replacement, by subtracting how much C02 it takes to create the alternative, a conventional car. Let's just look at the battery. This thread shows Tesla batteries require about 5-14 tonnes of CO2 to create: https://www.reddit.com/r/teslamotors/comments/6sm6rs/the_rea.... Compared to the 57 tonnes of CO2 from a conventional car's lifetime, we're somewhere around a factor of 5-10x better for EVs.
We should be working on encouraging conversion to EV when older cars age out, eventually maybe there'd be a cutoff for on-road usage, but I'd be amazed if that were any closer than 15 years out, and that's super close already.
1. Re-configuring production lines is expensive, it'd likely be environmentally wasteful to force early conversions of production lines by manufacturers - giving them a window to convert allows them to cease any R&D investment into gas only vehicles and invest more in EVs.
I doubt there's a single ICE car on the market that creates as much CO2 to make as it does to run.
The additional CO2 for making an EV is on the order of 5-10x lower than the CO2 it can save (when running on renewable power). Even making a new EV on the order of operating an existing ICE car for ~50k-ish miles.
Er, what? The tar sands products wouldn't be coming to the west coast consumers, myself included, unless it was refined first. The whole point of the pipeline expansion is to add mass export for the diluted bitumen product, which is to be sold for overseas refining and use.
Some of the current pipeline capacity is indeed for end use out here, but I don't think it's got anything to do with the tar sands.
FOH with that strawman.
appears to be incomplete. Specifically, pages 3-7 appear to be missing.
From the article:
> Suess [the state’s Spill Investigation Program Manager] defended his agency’s methods. “What I believe the North Dakota public wants to know is not how big is it, but is this spill a risk to me,” he said. “Personally, I have actually been told by others that we are one of the most transparent agencies out there. My boss is the North Dakota taxpayer, and my door is always open, any citizen can walk in at any time and talk to me.”
That statement sets off all kinds of alarm bells. Forget the facts. You can count on us to tell you what you need to know.
Are there really voting-age citizens that are persuaded by a comment like this?
This shifts debate into an unanswerable questions - whether or not the official in question is lying.
Is that not true? What's the best option for transporting oil and gas?
Robert Moses had shifted the parkway south of Otto Kahn's estate, south of Winthrop's and Mills's estates, south of Stimson's and De Forest's. For men of wealth and influence, he had moved it more than three miles south of its original location. But James Roth possessed neither money nor influence. And for James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway south even one tenth of a mile farther. For James Roth, Robert Moses would not move the parkway one foot.
If you absolutely are going to burn it (sigh), burn it on site for electrical generation. Transmission lines don’t leak methane, and HVDC cables can be buried in a similar fashion to a pipeline. Methane extraction aligns well with geographies that have strong renewable growth and need combined cycle gas turbine backing until battery replacement can occur.
Now, if you’re trying to export it and need it in original form, this doesn’t work and you’re going to try to avoid externalities of transport, which is what regulation is for.
It's also typically not composed of methane but propane+, and while there may be a correlation with renewable energy in the same areas, those regions tend to be quite a distance from the ultimate consumers. high capacity electric transportation is not environmentally neutral and underground networks in these areas would be as costly as pipelines, which is why they are almost always above ground.
There's a reason why coal is hauled to power station, instead of being burned near mines.
Power stations need a ready and ample supply of water for power generation and cooling. This is why they can often be a long way from mines and oil/gas fields.
“HVDC transmission has typically 30-50% less transmission loss than comparable alternating current overhead lines. (For comparison: given 2500 MW transmitted power on 800 km of overhead line, the loss with a conventional 400-kv AC line is 9.4%; with HVDC transmission at 500 kV, it is only 6%, and at 800 kV it is just 2.6%.)” 
Also, there are many coal plants sited right at coal mines.
Edit: Down to #23 since I wrote the comment. It's gotten 200 votes in an hour, should be at least top 5. The #1 and #2 posts have only gotten 49 and 23 votes respectively in the past hour.
Edit 2: Now it's up to #21 & 209 points...
Edit 3: Down to #24 & 228 points...
Edit 4: Up to #20 & 239 points...
Edit 5: Up to #14 & 278 points...
Edit 6: Dropped way down to #40 with 312 points, only 2 hours old...
Edit: as others mentioned it could factor in people flagging the post, comment to upvotes ratio, etc
I'm wondering if there's some sort of artificial manipulation going on, as it's a story that's heavily embarrassing to one of the world's most powerful and influential industries.
"Why would we invest in more clean/green energy sources when we have this brand new pipeline?" It essentially hardens the argument (and subsequent lobbying) for these industries.
I get that it is a huge source of income for folks who travel to and live in these areas. However, it's not a forward looking path--particularly when the environmental impact and costs are so high up front.
In that respect, using trucks--while theoretically having a larger short term impact on emissions--allows for future flexibility and doesn't break into the earth in such a permanent and invasive way.
On that measure, trucks are clearly lower-risk. On other measures, they fare worse. There was also the option of running the pipeline through a different area, but the government claimed that wasn't worth the extra expense, and that there would definitely be no spills like the one there obviously was.
Even if you know nothing about oil pipelines (and I don't), there's simply no chance this story was going to end with "The First Nations got a raw deal in every interaction with the United States for the past 200 years, but this time it turned out perfectly fine."
The U.S. was a signatory of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851. Go check out the area of land which the U.S. agreed to lay no claim to.
First, the many native bands in Canada have had a variety of motivations for slowing/blocking the Trans Canada Pipeline project - some have been about environmental protection and preservation of heritage, sure, but a lot of it is political.
Band leaders are, rationally, trying to maximize funds flowing from federal coffers to their bands in the form of grants, subsidies, etc. Some use this funding to help their people, and some don't - it varies widely, just like municipalities do - but holding up infrastructure projects is a tried-and-true method of getting more funding.
While bands are rationally acting in their own self-interest, the government has to strongly consider the interests of the nation, state, region, etc. as a whole.
All of these native concerns, plus the potential environmental impact, have to be weighed against the benefits: fewer petroleum shipments via rail, which is much more dangerous than pipelines, tax revenue, jobs in the oil & gas sector, strategically vital energy security, etc.
Also there's this "pretend that macroeconomics doesn't exist" notion among pro-pipeline hard-liners. By allowing crude oil to be transported in greater quantities without accounting for the permanent environmental costs, we're actively fighting against market forces that make green energy more feasible. If the supply of oil increases, then its prices drop, and the demand for alternatives to fossil fuels lessens.
: Congressional Research Service - https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43390.pdf
America is built on the automobile and most working families can't afford a Tesla at this point - intentionally pushing up oil prices by cutting supply would essentially be a regressive tax.
Tesla is approaching this the right way, however - make electric products that are superior to what's on the market, then aim for economies of scale to dramatically reduce prices and make them affordable. No supply-side manipulation of oil prices necessary, it just takes time.
There is a real cost to the environment, communities, and people’s health that is completely externalized and unaccounted for by the fossil fuel lobby. It’s a real cost that will eventually be paid by taxes and lives, not a manipulation. Ignoring that cost in the price of oil is the opposite of market-driven.
To address negative externalities there are other proposed solutions - such as a carbon tax - which would not require the intentional scuttling of pipeline projects, although I'm not a huge fan of those either.
My solution would be to walk down the list of emitting sources and tackle each individually. Electricity production is #1, and utility-scale anything is much easier to influence at the policy level. Subsidize the shit out of nuclear and remove the regulatory barriers to getting projects done. Ditto with grid-scale solar and wind.
Transportation is next... get the cost of electric vehicles down by encouraging economies of scale. You can use specific positive incentives here rather than broad-based negative ones.
Anyway, you get the point. Given the complexity of energy policy I find the idea that a soundbite-worthy policy would be the panacea to be laughable. Not building pipelines would just hurt the petroleum industry and have nearly zero measurable impact on carbon emissions.
The people who will be most impacted by climate change and rising seas will also be those least able to afford it.
You can tax carbon and offset it with a tax credit, so it doesn't hurt poor households as much. British Columbia does it.
There are better ways to tackle global warming... I proposed a few ideas above.
example: Alberta sits with land-locked oil while eastern Canada imports massive quantities from the middle east because "oil is dirty" when you can see how the sausage is made.
Second, what's Mr. Suess resume look like? His LinkedIn profile only shows his work as a regulator, was he in the industry in a previous life? The revolving door between industry and regulation at the highest levels seems to be a precursor to "oversights" like this.
I would absolutely want to see statistical evidence of that before I supported it. Regulatory agencies are destroyed from within. If you tie funding to prosecution, a few corrupt appointees can cripple an agency for years. Simply by passing on a few big cases they would destroy the funding flow and lose critical employees even if they didn't intend to.
If there is an external funding supply, it can be cut off but at least the agency will survive bad appointees. The US government in particular is built on checks and balances; betting everything on the agency keeping itself afloat is not balanced.
Since this is a blog, it doesn't even have the benefit of built-in (although perhaps suspect these days) credibility of investigative journalists and editorial vetting at the NYT, Guardian, WSJ, etc. One would imagine that such outlets would have reporters on flights immediately. A spill larger than the Valdez would certainly be news-worthy!
There are no photos of this spill in the article, except for a photo of some tainted water that could be anywhere and an irrelevant photo of salt-water contamination. I'd think that a spill of this magnitude would have highly visible proof from drone or even satellite photos, on the ground, etc. Did all of the gas condensate, and evidence, seep into a massive hole in the ground?
The sole piece of "evidence" is what appears to be an email with all identifying information, logos, etc removed. Even the alleged company or investigating agencies are redacted. It doesn't appear to be an official form, purchase order, etc. It could have been completely fabricated in ten minutes in Google Docs. No deep fakes necessary.
In fact, @mods, the HN headline should probably be changed from the submitter's Whistle-blower reveals N Dakota leak of 11M gallons of gas condensate in 2015 to the actual Did North Dakota Regulators Hide an Oil and Gas Industry Spill Larger Than Exxon Valdez? Even the blog's headline is a question and not an answer.
As hackers/scientists/intellectuals, we should be asking for facts, hard data, and photographic evidence.
These companies are making way too much money if they can survive for 3 years leaking that much oil.
That's about $15 million, which though not 0, is not going to have an effect on the vast majority of oil companies.
The state of North Dakota has direct financial incentive from the oil industry. The profit margin is great enough that they can afford to lose millions of gallons of oil over a few year period and still have resources to cover it all up.
I don’t foresee the state changing its priorities anytime soon. I believe fixing this will take federal oversight or intervention of some kind.
Edit: This particular spill was not on a reservation, but the article talks to people on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation who have been affected by spills on many occasions. Many of my sentiments remain.
We can't rely on a Swedish 16-year-old with autism any more.
It's no wonder people arrive at adulthood with the impression the lunatics are running the asylum and there's no alternative to their own direct action.
Why is her autism relevant?
if you don't punish the criminals they will keep committing crimes. and no getting rid of laws (deregulation) will not stop criminals from committing crimes.
It's not crude oil, and it's not in the ocean where it spreads to coat an entire coastline.
The real problem comes down to the state giving priority to the industry instead of its own people.
The ongoing practice of minimal reporting of these incidents, as well as the conspiring to cover it up, should be investigated, and those involved should be held responsible.
It had more votes than any story above it, except one, and the votes to comments to time ratio was all better on this article.
Someone at HN really hates North Dakota, doesn't feel like a coverup is something techies should be talking about. Frustrating.
23th place and falling.
What will you do different tomorrow?
Why did it take a whistle-blower to break this news?
Why did he/she refused to give out their identity?
Again, how is US different from China in "covering up" you know what.
* national embarrassments
"That is despite the fact that a North Dakota regulator has acknowledged the spill was much larger, and even the official record, right after stating the spill was 10 gallons, notes that the area was “saturated with natural gas condensate of an unknown volume,” and thus may have been larger."
Hardly a coverup if they immediately stated the area is "saturated".
> Suess readily acknowledged that the officially listed spill size was too low. “We know it is significantly bigger than 10 gallons. We have known that since Day One,” Suess continued. Yet he defended the state’s decision to continue to list the spill as just 10 gallons.
This is a major part of the wider issue. Regulatory bodies are financially incentivized to not work as intended. There needs to be a restructuring of the current incentives, so as to balance the priorities of the people and the planet.
Unfortunately, the rule makers are the profit takers, so don’t expect them to self regulate..