Pleading everything from insurmountable expense, to a lack of filtering technology, to space limitations, oil giant BP looks desperate to dodge its August promise to not increase the pollutants it’s dumping into Lake Michigan. The Chicago Tribune reported today that engineers at the Whiting oil refinery, which BP plans to expand with $3.8 billion to process more Canadian crude, are not any closer to cleaning up its polluting ways.
“If there’s a breakthrough out there, we don’t know about it,” Dan Sajkowski, the refinery’s manager, told The Tribune. “We’ve literally looked at all of these proposed solutions and more. If there was an easy fix, don’t you think we would have done that and saved ourselves from going through the past few months?” BP’s lackluster effort to reduce the levels of ammonia and toxic sludge particles in its discharge is another step back from the increasingly empty slogan of “Beyond Petroleum.”
Like the heavy industry that bucked acid rain-related regulations and the automotive makers who called CAFE standards impossible, BP finds it easier to claim that the imposed regulations are too tough, rather than innovate to find ways to make energy production cleaner. BP has even hinted that if they cannot meet the standards they will scuttle the expansion, but with oil prices nearing $100 a barrel and more and more crude coming in from Canada that is very unlikely.
With oil so expensive it is becoming increasingly profitable to develop Canada’s vast tar sand reserves in western Canada, and BP is expanding the Whiting plant to tap these Canadian reserves. However, tar sand mining and refining is 40 percent more energy intensive than conventional oil and yields more toxic pollutants in the refining, or “cracking” process. Though unfortunately BP will not be the only one trying to loosen the pollutant standards as Canadian tar sands exports are expected to triple in the next decade.