ECA Review Reporter
Cycling the route of the Keystone Pipeline is Carol Hsin. As a Yale undergrad, she is an environmental engineering major and has been researching renewable energy for a few years now. Hsin has mainly looked at algal biodiesel and microbial fuel cells and has studied throughout Europe and Eastern Asia. Hsin started cycling at the end of May and has been making steady progress on her tour, recently passing through Hardisty and will finish on August 18.
The decision to cycle the pipeline came from a desire to have an adventure before finishing her program. Hsin noted that the idea was planted while she was in Seoul and a Scottish man told her about his friend who cycled around the world. The idea to cycle the Keystone Pipeline specifically though came from the “Studies in Grand Strategy” class she was taking which started in the spring, requires a summer project and then has more classtime in the fall. For years Hsin has been interested in, and has also researched, energy issues and international relations, so she decided to go a bit of a different direction with this project by researching fossil fuels and the United States energy strategy.
The first thought she had was to look at competition between the US and China for energy resources, however, her professors told her Canada was a “bigger player in US energy strategy and Keystone XL, along with the oil sands, have become a controversial, national issue.” Hsin’s interest was piqued by the concerns about the Keystone XL as the original Keystone pipeline had relatively little media attention.
She noted that examining the Keystone and areas around it is a good way to look at the XL’s issues as the projects bring about similar concerns such as energy security, economic development and environmental degradation. Furthermore, she said that “in order to look at the impact and role, one has to see the issue through multiple areas.”
Taken by the idea, Hsin began to plan her trip. She decided to use a bike because the pipeline is not on public transportation paths and cycling is more environmentally friendly. Hsin also got a tent and a sleeping bag for her journey so she can camp out in campgrounds or churches with lawns.
There were three places Hsin knew she had to go – Hardisty (which is the beginnging of the pipeline), the Patoka, Illinois tank farm and the Roxana, Illinois Wood River refinery (which are both at the end). Hsin had found some other places she thought would be good for her trip, but as she talked to local people, her route changed. She said “I would start a random conversation with someone in one of the towns and that would lead me to cycling about five miles to a farm and then 100 to a town…In fact, I didn’t stick to my plan very much.”
In addition to stopping at places along the pipeline, Hsin has found herself in Edmonton, Saskatoon and the refinery in Regina and also plans on going to Calgary and Fort McMurray.
Along the way there have been a few complications, like how in Patoka and Roxana there were some interactions with concerned security officials. She has also had a few accidents leaving her to deal with cuts, blood and flat tires.
When it came to going from Hardisty to Camrose, there was heavy rain and hail, but she fortunately met with a group who offered to give her a ride. The group had heard there was a tornado warning and worried she might be electrocuted. Hsin said, “It was nice of them.”
The most difficult aspect of her research so far has been “separating truth from misinformation and exaggeration or just facts out of context.” Hsin also says she learned more than she expected because of the interactions she has had that showed her new sides and areas of the pipeline and issues around it.