Senate Votes in Favor of Dirty Tar Sands Pipeline, Senators Supporting Keystone XL Received Nearly $31 Million from Fossil Fuel Industry
The U.S. Senate voted in support of the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on Friday, which would deepen our dependence on tar sands oil from Canada. The measure, introduced by Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), signifies yet another attempt by Republicans to pressure President Obama to approve the TransCanada permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.
According to Environment America, full production of the oil from tar sands would add 240 billion tons of carbon dioxide into our atmosphere, severely hampering any efforts to tackle global warming. Unchecked global warming will harm present and future generations of Americans in many ways, including more extreme weather events like superstorm Sandy, the worst drought since the Dust Bowl and wildfires raging in the West.
The vote was on an amendment (#494) to the Senate budget resolution, which is not binding, and the White House still has the ultimate authority for approving or rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline.
“By voting in support of the reckless and dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, these Senators have turned a blind eye to the threats global warming poses to our country and sided with the fossil fuel industry over Americans, our environment and future generations," said Nathan Willcox, Environment America’s global warming program director. "We are deeply disappointed in their vote tonight, and urge them to oppose any future measures on this or other bills which threaten Americans’ health or our environment.”
"Tar sands pipelines have no place in the debate over the federal budget and Congress has no business rubber stamping dangerous, unnecessary Big Oil projects," said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "This vague, nonbinding resolution does nothing but show how eager these Senators are to please their Big Oil masters."
New analysis from Oil Change International reveals that supporters of the non-binding Keystone XL pipeline amendment received 3.5 times more in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests than those voting “no.” In total, researchers found that supporters took an average of $499,648 from the industry before voting for the pipeline, while sponsors took upwards of $800,000, for a staggering total of $30,978,153.
“Today’s vote presents yet another reason why Congress is less popular than root canals,” said David Turnbull, campaigns director for Oil Change International. “Every single effort from Congress to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision has been backed by millions in dirty energy money, and today’s was no different. The vote today was nothing more than a 31 million dollar sideshow whose sole purpose was to kiss the rings of the Senate’s Big Oil benefactors.”
The amendment pre-judges but does not replace the ongoing process being undertaken by President Obama’s State Department to review the project which remains in place.
Ahead of the Senate’s vote, Oil Change International released analysis showing that the ten original co-sponsors of the Hoeven amendment received an average of $807,517 from the fossil fuel industry, 254 percent more than the average non-sponsoring Senator, for a total of $8 million dollars from the industry based on data from DirtyEnergyMoney.org.
According to the new analysis, those voting for the amendment received $499,648 from fossil fuel interests, on average, and nearly $31 million in total over their careers. Meanwhile, those voting against the amendment received $143,372 on average.
In other words, those voting for the pipeline received roughly 3.5 times more in fossil fuel industry contributions than their counterparts in the Senate.
“It’s high time for President Obama to publicly reject industry corruption of our politics and the toxic Keystone XL Pipeline,” concluded Turnbull.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
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After sustained declines in the number of COVID-19 cases over recent months, restrictions are starting to ease across the United States. Numbers of new cases are falling or stable at low numbers in some states, but they are surging in many others. Overall, the U.S. is experiencing a sharp increase in the number of new cases a day, and by late June, had surpassed the peak rate of spread in early April.
Seven day rolling average of number of people confirmed to have COVID-19, per day (not including today). This chart gets updated once per day with data by Johns Hopkins. Johns Hopkins university doesn't provide reliable data for March 12 and March 13. Johns Hopkins CSSE Get the data
To Have a Second Wave, the First Wave Needs to End.<p>A wave of an infection describes a large rise and fall in the number of cases. There isn't a precise epidemiological definition of when a wave begins or ends.</p><p>But with talk of a <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/27/new-covid-19-clusters-across-world-spark-fear-of-second-wave" target="_blank">second wave in the news</a>, as an <a href="https://www.american.edu/cas/faculty/mhawkins.cfm" target="_blank">epidemiologist and public health researcher</a>, I think there are two necessary factors that must be met before we can colloquially declare a second wave.</p><p>First, the virus would have to be controlled and transmission brought down to a very low level. That would be the end of the first wave. Then, the virus would need to reappear and result in a large increase in cases and hospitalizations.</p><p>Many countries in <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41562-020-0908-8" target="_blank">Europe and Asia have successfully ended the first wave</a>. <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/08/new-zealand-abandons-covid-19-restrictions-after-nation-declared-no-cases" target="_blank">New Zealand</a> and <a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/06/08/how-iceland-beat-the-coronavirus" target="_blank">Iceland</a> have also made it through their first waves and are now essentially coronavirus-free, with very low levels of community transmission and only a handful of active cases currently.</p>
Different States, Different Trends<p>Looking at U.S. numbers as a whole hides what is really going on. Different states are in <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html" target="_blank">vastly different situations right now</a> and when you look at states individually, four major categories emerge.</p><ol><li>Places where the first wave is ending: States in the Northeast and a few scattered elsewhere experienced large initial spikes but were able to mostly contain the virus and substantially brought down new infections. <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/new-york-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">New York</a> is a good example of this.</li><li>Places still in the first wave: Several states in the South and West – see <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/texas-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Texas</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/california-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">California</a> – had some cases early on, but are now seeing massive surges with no sign of slowing down.</li><li>Places in between: Many states were hit early in the first wave, managed to slow it down, but are either at a plateau – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/north-dakota-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">North Dakota</a> – or are now seeing steep increases – like <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/oklahoma-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Oklahoma</a>.</li><li>Places experiencing local second waves: Looking only at a state level, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/hawaii-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Hawaii</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/montana-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Montana</a> and <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/alaska-coronavirus-cases.html" target="_blank">Alaska</a> could be said to be experiencing second waves. Each state experienced relatively small initial outbreaks and was able to reduce spread to single digits of daily new confirmed cases, but are now all seeing spikes again.</li></ol><p>The trends aren't surprising based on how states have been dealing with reopening. The virus will go wherever there are susceptible people and until the U.S. stops community spread across the entire country, the first wave isn't over.</p>
What Could a Second Wave Look Like?<p>It is possible – though at this point it seems unlikely – that the U.S. could control the virus before a vaccine is developed. If that happens, it would be time to start thinking about a second wave. The question of what it might look like depends in large part on everyone's actions.</p><p>The <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1086%2F592454" target="_blank">1918 flu pandemic</a> was characterized by a mild first wave in the winter of 1917-1918 that went away in summer. After restrictions were lifted, people very quickly went back to pre-pandemic life. But a second, deadlier strain came back in fall of 1918 and third in spring of 1919. In total, <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/flu/pandemic-resources/1918-commemoration/1918-pandemic-history.htm" target="_blank">more than 500 million people were infected</a> worldwide and upwards of <a href="https://theconversation.com/compare-the-flu-pandemic-of-1918-and-covid-19-with-caution-the-past-is-not-a-prediction-138895" target="_blank">50 million died</a> over the course of three waves.</p><p>It was the combination of a quick return to normal life and a mutation in the flu's genome that made it more deadly that led to the horrific second and third waves.</p><p>Thankfully, the coronavirus appears to be much more <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.meegid.2020.104351" target="_blank">genetically stable</a> than the influenza virus, and thus less likely to mutate into a more deadly variant. That leaves human behavior as the main risk factor.</p><p>Until a <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-needs-to-go-right-to-get-a-coronavirus-vaccine-in-12-18-months-136816" target="_blank">vaccine or effective treatment is developed</a>, the tried-and-true public health measures of the last months – <a href="https://theconversation.com/this-simple-model-shows-the-importance-of-wearing-masks-and-social-distancing-140423" target="_blank">social distancing,</a> <a href="https://theconversation.com/masks-help-stop-the-spread-of-coronavirus-the-science-is-simple-and-im-one-of-100-experts-urging-governors-to-require-public-mask-wearing-138507" target="_blank">universal mask wearing</a>, frequent hand-washing and avoiding crowded indoor spaces – are the ways to stop the first wave and thwart a second one. And when there are surges like what is happening now in the U.S., further reopening plans need to be put on hold.</p>
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