The “Coke Brothers” trash Chicago


It was just a couple of months ago that I was telling you about an environmental monstrosity of epic proportions — massive mountains of a toxic oil-production extract called pet coke piled up precariously on the banks of the Detroit River, blowing poison toward residents of America’s most poverty plagued city. The irony is that the company behind the mounds of coke was none other than the Koch — pronounced exactly the same way — brothers, the ultra-conservative energy billionaires who’ve funded much of the Tea Party and other right-wing causes.

The good news for the long-suffering people of Detroit — who were complaining of respiratory problems as the black clouds of toxins  swirled over the Michigan skies — is that the coke piles have moved on after Mayor Dave Bing ordered them out in August. The bad news, of course, is that this dangerous byproduct from aggressive mining of the Canadian tar sands is simply headed to other poor urban neighborhoods in the United States, in Ohio and now on the Southeast Side of Chicago

Petroleum coke, a byproduct of tar sands refining, is building up along Chicago’s Calumet River and alarming residents, reported Midwest Energy News.

Petroleum coke is a high-carbon, high-sulfur byproduct of Canadian tar sands that are shipped from Alberta to the U.S. to be refined and is rapidly becoming a cause for concern in Chicago. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Southeast Environmental Task Force member Tom Shepherd, told Midwest Energy News. “It’s coming at a breathtaking rate.”

The source, of course, is none other than Charles and David Koch: 

In Chicago they are owned by KCBX, an affiliate of Koch Carbon, which has large parcels of land along the Calumet River and, according to Midwest Energy News, expanded its presence in the area last year. And it’s not just the Koch piles area residents have to worry about; just across the border in Indiana, BP Whiting’s refinery is undergoing a $3.8 billion upgrade which includes construction of the world’s second largest coker.

Not only does petroleum coke pose a serious risk to nearby air and water supplies, but the product can also be used as a cheaper — and even dirtier — alternative to coal. Since most power plants in the U.S. and Canada won’t burn pet coke due to the high level of greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants, the companies often ship the waste product to developing countries with looser pollution restrictions.

This is just one more example of how insidious the boom in Canadian tar sands oil production is becoming. This is a process that produces one of the dirtiest fuels around, that — incongruously — uses a lot of energy to extract, and that is moved around in accident-prone pipelines and rail cars. It is fast becoming a major contributor to global warming — a situation that will only become exacerbated of the Obama administration signs off on the Keystone XL pipeline project.

And here’s the funny thing: Guess who stands to get rich from Keystone XL

Approval of the Keystone XL pipeline could generate $100 billion in profits for billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, according to a report released Sunday, which revealed the extent to which the Kochs would benefit from the tar sands development the proposed pipeline would help spur.

A progressive think tank called the International Forum on Globalization completed the study, which found that the Kochs and their privately-owned company, Koch Industries, hold up to 2 million acres of land in Alberta, Canada, the proposed starting point of the Keystone XL. Several Koch Industries subsidiaries stand to benefit from the pipeline’s construction, including Koch Exploration Canada, which would profit from oil development on its land, and Koch Supply and Trading, which would benefit from oil derivatives trading.

This insanity has got to stop. The Koch brothers have enough money to last many lifetimes at this point. Do we really need to trash Planet Earth just to line their pockets one more time?

To learn more about the Koch brothers coke pollution problems in Chicago, please read:

Check out the facts about the Koch brothers and the Keystone XL pipeline at:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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