Don't Worry, That Black Liquid Creeping Up Your Driveway and Choking Birds Isn't Technically OilS

So you live in Mayflower, Arkansas, where that ExxonMobil pipeline sighed open last Friday, and now your street's been full of a stinky dark tar slurry, like diarrhea of the gods, spitting forth a stream of Canadian tar sands crude on your crape myrtles.

Relax. Be zen about this. There is no oil, dude.

Thanks to an obscure 1980 federal regulation, that black devil vomit killing your begonias and the neighbor dog is considered dilbit, a tar sands sludge, and not oil.

Why the hell does that matter, you ask?

Oil companies are required to pay taxes into a special federal kitty, the Oil Spill Liability Fund, which defrays the cost when government agencies have to clean up the industry's petroleum-based eco-fuckups. The corporations pay 8 cents into the fund for every barrel of oil they transport.

Only tar sands dilbit—the muck gushing through the Ozark brush right now, and the stuff that's supposed to coarse through the controversial planned Keystone XL pipeline—isn't oil. Who decided this? Top men in the IRS...with some help from the industry, according to Environment & Energy News:

The IRS ruled on taxation of the oil sands crude that Keystone XL would carry in a January 2011 memo, issued at the request of a company whose identity was kept secret...it noted that a congressional report accompanying that law excluded "synthetic petroleum" from its definition of oil.

"Accordingly, tar sands imported into the United States ... are not subject to the excise tax on petroleum" that keeps the spill-cleanup fund flush, the IRS wrote.

Keystone's supporters claim it would carry up to 590,000 barrels per day of not-oil to not-oil refiners in the United States, so they can convert this non-oil into non-fuel that will fill the tanks of your cars and tractors and buses and planes and heaters. That translates to $17,228,000 per year in oil-spill-cleanup funds that will not be collected from pipeline operators, because, you know, not-oil.

That's chump change to not-oil companies, but not necessarily to the folks that deal with not-oil spills. The Pegasus pipeline, the one that's ejaculating all over Appalachia right now, delivers 95,000 barrels a day, which means that it avoids $2.7 million in spill taxes on its non-oil. Hardly enough to compensate an executive officer, but probably sufficient to buy Bob down the street a new Weber grill that's dilbit-free.

So chill out. That's not oil mutating your fish. That's not oil barfing on your birch trees, annihilating your A/C unit, and dyeing your ducks and making them cry. That's freedom from economic tyranny. And I believe the words you're looking for are "Thank you, Exxon!" [RT, ThinkProgress]

[Image via AP]