COLUMN-Koch's unsightly coke mountain: Kemp

Mon May 20, 2013 10:20am EDT
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By John Kemp

LONDON May 20 (Reuters) - Petroleum coke piled up along the banks of the Detroit River has sparked a storm of protest from local residents and environmental campaigners, who claim they are just one more problem associated with the bituminous tar sands being mined in western Canada.

"A black mound of Canadian oil waste is rising over Detroit," the New York Times scolded in an article published on Friday.

"Detroit's ever-growing black mountain is the unloved, unwanted and long overlooked by-product of Canada's oil sands boom," the Times explained. "No one quite knows what to do about it, except Koch Carbon, which owns it."

The three-story pile of petroleum coke covers an entire city block on the other side of the river, according to the Times.

The implication is that tar sands oil is uniquely dirty: without it the residents of the U.S. city of Detroit, and neighbouring Windsor across the border in Canada, might be spared an eyesore some fear could also pose health risks.

However, it is misleading to blame the coke mountain along the Detroit River on Canada's oil sands as if they were uniquely problematic.

No one is likely to welcome a stockpile of petroleum coke stored at the bottom of their street because it doesn't look very pretty. But if there is a problem, the solution is tougher zoning regulations, not trying to blame oil sands production.   Continued...