[imgcontainer left] [img:familyfarm.jpeg] [source]Economic Research Service[/source] The largest percentage of farms are small, family farms. (See left hand pie chart.) But most production comes from large-scale family farms. [/imgcontainer]

The Congressional Research Service issued a report last week saying that tar sands development made possible by the Keystone XL pipeline would raise greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 21 million metric tons a year, or the equivalent of 4 million additional automobiles, reports Lisa Song at InsideClimate News

The report was done by the CRS after the Obama administration turned down a permit application by TransCanada Inc., the company that wants to build the pipeline from the oil sands region of Western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. The Obama administration turned down the permit largely because the pipeline would cross an environmentally sensitive region of Nebraska.

The CRS looks at another question — the fact that crude oil production from the oil sands emits 14 to 20 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

Song interviewed Stanford University professor Adam Brandt, who has studied this question. Here, Brandt explained why oil sands have a larger greenhouse gas effect than conventional oil production:

It’s not completely different from conventional oil—they’re all hydrocarbons, we produce gasoline and diesel from all of them. It’s just that the oil sands are naturally a different sort of resource.

Conventional oil is traditionally produced from subsurface reservoirs that you drill into, and the oil is produced from a [deep] well. The oil sands, in contrast, are near the surface—or a lot of them are. So they can either be extracted via mining methods where you dig up the sand that has the oil—called bitumen—associated with it, or you can drill wells and inject steam into the ground. Because the oil sands is a heavier hydrocarbon, it doesn’t flow very well. It’s kind of like tar, and it’s very viscous. So it’s difficult to extract compared to conventional oil.

Once it’s at the surface, it’s harder to handle. With conventional oil, you can put it right into a pipeline, or you can process it and it can go into a pipeline that goes to a refinery. Bitumen from the oil sands is too viscous to flow, so you have to do some pre-processing. This involves what’s called upgrading—which is kind of like refining—or it involves diluting the bitumen with a light hydrocarbon diluent [like] a natural gas liquid…so it will flow through the pipeline. Once you do that then you [can] send it to the refinery.

Because it either requires an upgrading step on-site before it’s shipped, or more intensive refining to produce the same gasoline or diesel, the energy intensity and emissions from producing fuels from the oil sands tend to be higher, on average, than conventional crude oil.

• In yesterday’s primary in Kentucky, two of every five Democratic voters voted for “uncommitted” as opposed to President Barack Obama. There was a similar result in Arkansas

• Here’s a one hour interview with former Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyard Administration chief J. Dudley Butler on Ranch Radio KBHB in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

He talks about the “clear choice” of getting food from family farms or from multinational food producers.

• The publisher of the weekly Prairie City News in Iowa wrote about financial problems in the local school district. Now Criste Scarnati is joining other citizens in court as they sue the district. 

Newspaper publishing in small towns is a full time job

• A study of 300 Midwest corn and soybean farmers finds that government support is small, relative to total farm income, and doesn’t vary according to the size of the farm, according to a DTN report

Government farm supports averaged about 2.26 percent of total farm income, which didn’t vary much whether the farm was 100 acres or 15,000 acres, according to an analysis conducted by AgriSolutions. 

• Save the Post Office breaks down the Postal Service’s consolidation of mail processing centers. 

And here is a map and list of the processing stations that will be closed. 

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