5 Reasons Senate Must Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline
On Tuesday, the Senate will vote on a bill forcing President Obama to green light the Keystone XL pipeline for dirty tar sands oil. The Keystone XL threatens our air and water and would intensify the climate change already pounding our communities. The bill is a gift to the oil and gas industry, but if it passes, the American people will be stuck paying the price.
This bill would bypass essential reviews, skip safety assessments, and fast track a dangerous project. This has sweeping implications for future generations. And yet it is entangled in the politics of the moment.
In its first major vote after the midterm elections, the House passed a bill forcing the approval of the tar sands oil pipeline. Now Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, caught in a runoff election, is pushing a similar bill in the Senate.
When we take the politics out of the equation and ask the single question before the President—is this in the national interest of the U.S.—the answer is a resounding no.
The President himself outlined some of the problems with the project on Friday, saying, “Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land, down to the Gulf, where it will be sold everywhere else. It doesn't have an impact on U.S. gas prices."
Here are five reasons the Senate should reject the Keystone XL pipeline:
Total Jobs: 35
TransCanada, the company behind the pipeline, told the U.S. State Department the pipeline would create 35 permanent jobs. There will be temporary jobs for 1,950 construction workers for the two years. Then they'll be gone. Clean energy companies, meanwhile, announced more than 18,000 new jobs in more than 20 states in just the past three months.
17 Percent More Carbon Pollution
Tar sands oil is the dirtiest fuel on earth. Because producing it consumes so much energy, a gallon of tar sands crude generates 17 percent more carbon pollution than conventional crude oil. The State Department calculated that the incremental carbon pollution from the tar sands pipeline would be as much as putting up to 5.7 million additional cars on the road.
Without Keystone, Less Tar Sands Oil and Less Pollution
Industry analysts and energy executives say that without Keystone, they have few options for getting their landlocked product to port. Other pipeline proposals have failed to make headway, and investors are pulling back on expansion plans. Statoil announced in September it was postponing an enormous tar sands project due to rising costs and a lack of pipeline space. That's the third major cancellation this year, preventing significant amounts of pollution from entering the environment, at least temporarily.
Major Threat to America's Breadbasket and Water
The pipeline would cut through Montana, South Dakota, and Nebraska—states where ranches and farms produced $41.6 billion worth of food in 2012. The pipeline would cross 1,073 rivers, lakes and streams and national recognized water resources, such as the Ogallala aquifer, threatening them with a spill of tar sands crude, which has proven more difficult to clean up than conventional oil.
Tar Sands Oil Spills Harder to Clean Up
Much of Michigan's Kalamazoo River is still suffering from a tar sands pipeline blowout that contaminated 38 miles of water in 2011. In Mayflower, Arkansas, more than 200,000 gallons of tar sands crude polluted backyards and neighborhoods when a pipeline blew in 2013. Rare accidents? Hardly. TransCanada's Keystone I pipeline through the Midwest had 14 leaks in its first year of operation.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a threat to our nation. It would increase pollution and intensify climate change for generations to come. We must raise our voices and demand our leaders reject this dirty scheme.
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"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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