We've got this.
Thanks to the courageous and indefatigable efforts of pipeline fighters everywhere, the tide has finally turned on Keystone XL. As it becomes increasingly clear that Keystone XL's northern leg is not going through, it is time to set our sights on ending all tar sands exploitation.
The Obama administration's latest election year delay on Keystone North is not a victory, but the dominoes continue to fall. Earlier this year, a citizen lawsuit denied TransCanada a route through Nebraska. Last month, it lost its permit through South Dakota. Now it faces a gauntlet of "Cowboys & Indians" vowing to stop it in its tracks.
We cannot let up until Keystone North is vanquished, but all signs point to President Obama nixing TransCanada's cross-border permit after the November elections. Don't just take my word for it.
On April 23, Rolling Stone contributing editor Jeff Goodell wrote: "I was told recently by members of the administration that the pipeline would, in fact, be rejected." On June 18, former Vice President Al Gore wrote in this same magazine: "[Obama] has signaled that he is likely to reject the absurdly reckless Keystone XL-pipeline proposal."
Both pronouncements come on the heels of former President Jimmy Carter pointedly warning the president that Keystone XL "will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced—climate change."
For a president who has suddenly decided to stake so much of his legacy on addressing the climate crisis, approving Keystone North would destroy any shred of credibility on this issue. It would also put an administration that prides itself on outreach to Native American communities in the position of violating the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.
Tom Weis, David Lautenberger, Shane Red Hawk and members of his family and tiyospaye (Lakota for "extended family") viewing the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie in the National Archives vault in Washington, DC.
I recently had the honor of viewing the Fort Laramie Treaty with Shane Red Hawk and his family in the National Archives vault. There wasn't time to read every word of the hand-written document, but there was time to absorb the meaning of the "bad man" clause in Article I on the faded first page:
If bad men among the whites, or among other people subject to the authority of the United States, shall commit any wrong upon the person or property of the Indians, the United States will, upon proof made to the agent, and forwarded to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington city, proceed at once to cause the offender to be arrested and punished according to the laws of the United States.
Tribal leaders mounted on horseback in front of the Capitol Building en route to the "Reject and Protect" tipi encampment in Washington, DC.
Because Keystone North would cross treaty territory, its construction would blatantly violate the "bad man" clause, an arrestable offense the Great Sioux Nation will not abide. President Obama knows this because the presidents of the Oglala Sioux and Rosebud Sioux tribes declared on national television their people are "willing to die" to stop it. He also knows this because his senior counselor, John Podesta, visited the "Reject and Protect" tipi encampment on the National Mall in April where this declaration of nonviolent civil resistance was made.
As fate would have it, I found myself standing next to Mr. Podesta at this historic event. I thanked him for his public opposition to Keystone, then asked him to urge the president to use his bully pulpit to speak out against all tar sands exploitation (this includes preventing the tar sands barons from gaining a foothold in Utah's pristine red rocks country).
We should not be doing business with a misanthropic industry that knowingly poisons First Nations communities in Canada, with immoral disregard for its climate impacts on humanity. Fortunately, the U.S. is in a strong position to help starve Alberta's landlocked tar sands beast by stopping the flow of tar sands crossing our border.
Last month, retired Navy SEAL Team 6 Commander David Cooper provided powerful ammunition for doing just that with his warning to the State Department that the Keystone pipeline is highly vulnerable to attack: "We need a serious national conversation about what we do to head off an attack. Until then, I'd offer a saying we used on the SEAL teams: 'If you cannot defend a position, you shouldn't take it'." His threat assessment described as "the most likely scenario" a spill of more than 1 million gallons of "highly toxic" Keystone tar sands oil.
Caution demands that beyond rejecting the Keystone permit, President Obama order national security assessments on all tar sands pipelines crossing our border, and an immediate shutdown of the built-to-spill southern leg of Keystone XL in Texas and Oklahoma.
We need to heed the indictment of the tar sands industry issued by Ponca Nation matriarch and grandmother Casey Camp-Horinek of Oklahoma: "We're suffering from environmental genocide from this extractive industry." The closing ceremony she led on the final day of the "Reject and Protect" tipi encampment was soul-searing. Gathered near the White House, we looked on as she knelt in the grass to pour some sacred water. What poured were her tears. We watched in reverent silence as she cried, and cried. The tears she shed were for all who weep for what is happening to our precious Mother Earth.
No more grandmothers must be made to cry. No more First Nations people must be made to die. The tar sand industry's brutal assault on the human family—and all our relations—must be arrested.
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You wouldn't know it from the lack of focus and attention by the environmental establishment, but the 485-mile southern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has been built, is being filled and is scheduled to start up on Jan. 22. Front line reports from landowners in Texas and Oklahoma say that TransCanada has patrol planes flying up and down the line, with foot patrols searching for leaks. In a few short days, this 485-mile fuse to one of the biggest carbon bombs on the planet will be lit.
Desperate to stop this, several prominent Texas landowners urgently requested a face-to-face meeting with President Obama in early December, only to be spurned by the White House. In response, I spearheaded an emergency direct action on Jan. 15, the 85th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., outside the White House to demand that the President order the shut down of Keystone XL south.
It was there that a brave young man of faith, Jason Miller of the Franciscan Action Network, joined me to bear witness to this grave injustice being perpetrated against our children and future generations. Supported by our brothers and sisters from Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, we took direct action that ended in our arrest. One of those brothers, Rev. Lennox Yearwood, inspired me to describe it as civil resistance to ensure our civil existence. It was in the spirit of Dr. King, and what he called "the fierce urgency of now," that I went to jail to stop Keystone XL South.
What's happening right now in Texas and Oklahoma is deeply immoral. If President Obama does not exercise his executive authority to stop the southern leg of Keystone XL from starting up on Jan. 22, he will have committed one of the most destructive acts any president has ever committed against our children and their future by knowingly exacerbating the climate crisis. No amount of greenwashing by the president, or his political enablers, will remove the stain of Keystone XL south from his legacy. It will be forever remembered as Obama's Keystone XL pipeline.
Senior Advisor to President Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Ms. Jarrett,
Thank you for your recent visit to the Fast4Families tent on the National Mall. I appreciate you taking the time to hear the stories of those of us fasting for immigration reform, and the role you undoubtedly played in the President's subsequent visit to the fasting tent, where he thanked fasters for our collective "sacrifice and dedication."
I especially want to thank you for speaking with me afterwards to hear my request for a face-to-face meeting with President Obama to discuss stopping Keystone XL in its entirety—starting with shutting down the pipeline's 485-mile southern leg in Texas and Oklahoma. I voiced similar requests to Vice President Biden, Denis McDonough, Cecilia Muñoz and Tom Perez when they visited the fasting tent, each of whom is copied on this correspondence. You invited me to send you a letter requesting a meeting, and outlining our objections to Keystone XL, which you offered to share with the President.
In light of the fact that TransCanada began injecting oil into Keystone XL's southern leg on Saturday, with plans to bring the pipeline commercially on line by January 3, it is urgent that we meet with President Obama before the end of the year to identify immediate actions the administration can take to prevent this project from delivering tar sands oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
This letter is co-signed by several east Texas landowners whose rights have been violated by construction of the pipeline's southern leg; a matriarch of the Great Sioux Nation whose treaty rights stand to be violated by construction of the pipeline's northern leg; two prominent faith leaders; and two national environmental leaders. Given the urgency of this matter, your help in arranging a sit-down with President Obama before the end of the year would be most appreciated.
Michael Bishop, Julia Trigg Crawford and Eleanor Fairchild are three of numerous landowners in Texas and Oklahoma who currently have sections of Keystone XL pipeline buried beneath their property against their will.
Mr. Bishop is a Marine veteran who has several lawsuits filed to stop the pipeline's southern leg, including one to revoke Army Corps water-crossing permits that were issued without public hearings, as required by law. His response to those who says it's too late to stop the project is: "The pipe is in there illegally. That's like arguing that if a burglar is already in your house, well, now they have a right to be there."
Ms. Crawford, a Texas farmer who describes the pipeline as "all risk and no reward," is challenging TransCanada in court for abusing eminent domain laws to take her family's property for private use and private economic gain. Despite the late hour, she also maintains, "It is not too late for President Obama to right this great wrong."
Mrs. Fairchild is a 78-year-old great-grandmother who refused to play ball with TransCanada and was subsequently arrested for "trespassing" on her own land and labeled an "eco-terrorist" by the company. She has since traveled to Michigan to see for herself the devastating effects of the three-year old Kalamazoo River tar sands spill (the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history) and says, "Texans do not want this pipeline forced through their homes."
All three of these Texas landowners have vitally important information to share with the President about TransCanada's abusive, deceitful and unjust treatment of U.S. citizens.
Lakota matriarch Debra White Plume will share with the President the unshakable determination of the Great Sioux Nation to nonviolently resist any attempt by TransCanada to build the northern leg of Keystone XL across their treaty territory. Such construction would violate the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which was ratified by Congress. The pipeline would also endanger the Oglala Lakota's sole source of drinking water, putting the lives and health of their people at risk. A series of well-attended "Moccasins on the Ground" nonviolent direct action trainings have already been held to ensure that the pipeline does not cross treaty territory.
Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown will share with the President why America needs to be shooting for the moon with renewable energy, not drilling our way deeper into the climate hole with extreme fossil fuel projects like Keystone XL's southern leg. A green energy "moon shot" will reinvigorate America's economy and generate many more jobs than our nation's current energy policies. The urgency of the climate crisis demands an emergency mobilization - similar to how the U.S. in 1942 restructured our industrial economy in a matter of months—to cut U.S. carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.
Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica will share with the President the myriad of risks posed by Keystone XL's southern leg, including the potential for this continental carbon bomb to ignite catastrophic climate change. By evading a transparent and thorough review of the pipeline's likely impacts, TransCanada has not only jeopardized the American people's rights to clean air and clean water, but is also putting U.S. taxpayers at serious financial risk from tar sands oil spills.
Father Jacek Orzechowski and Franciscan Action Network Executive Director Patrick Carolan, who embrace the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and his call for the protection of creation, will share with the President the perspective of Franciscans and other faith leaders who object to Keystone XL in its entirety on moral grounds.
There is a better way.
In June, the President pledged during his televised climate action speech, "I am willing to work with anybody—Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Greens—anybody—to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth."
Our idea is to refrain from taking actions that will make matters worse. Knowing that the southern leg of Keystone XL will exacerbate the climate threat, by allowing more than half a million barrels of climate-destroying tar sands to flow daily from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, it is indefensible, from a climate perspective, for the Obama administration to allow this project to go commercially on line. The President himself stated during a July 24, 2013 interview with The New York Times: I'm going to evaluate this [Keystone pipeline] based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere."
As documented in a recent Sierra Club report, FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test, the Keystone pipeline is a linchpin to more tar sands development, and increased tar sands development will significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere.
The staggering reality is that Canada's tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history, with new tar sands mining techniques allowing up to 70 percent of that tar sands to be removed and burned. Climate scientists warn that fully exploiting this fuel source—which completion of Keystone XL's southern leg would help facilitate—could trigger an uncontrollable over-heating of our planet, threatening civilization as we know it.
The President also acknowledged during this same interview with The New York Times that this export pipeline is likely to raise U.S. gas prices and will generate very few jobs.
President Obama: "That oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States. In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can't ship some of that oil to world markets."
President Obama: "My hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the construction of the pipeline—which might take a year or two—and then after that we're talking about somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people."
Then there is the issue of pubic health and safety. TransCanada's Keystone I pipeline, built in 2010, leaked twelve times in its first twelve months of operation. Just as the President said about immigration reform that "it is not a question of whether immigration reform will pass, but how soon," so do we assert that it is not a question of whether the southern leg of Keystone XL will spill, but how soon it will contaminate any one of the hundreds of rivers and streams it crosses, or the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which supplies water to more than 10 million Texans.
Alarm bells are ringing. Even before the installation of the pipeline's 485-mile southern leg was completed, there were 125 excavations of Keystone XL pipe along a 250-mile stretch in Texas due to "anomalies," including dents, sags and faulty welds. These weak spots in the pipeline pose the very real danger of leaks and spills. From a safety perspective, it would be the height of irresponsibility for federal regulators to allow this project to go commercially on line absent new inspections and a thorough investigation of TransCanada's highly questionable construction and safety practices.
Again, our request is for a face-to-face meeting with the President before the end of the year to identify actions the administration can take to prevent this project from going commercially on line.
We look forward to the President's response. I plan to remain in Washington, DC for the express purpose of this meeting.
Thank you for giving this most urgent matter your personal attention.
Tom Weis, President
Climate Crisis Solutions
Michael Bishop, Landowner
Julia Trigg Crawford, Landowner
Eleanor Fairchild, Landowner
Debra White Plume
Oglala Lakota Nation
Lester Brown, President
Earth Policy Institute
Erich Pica, President
Friends of the Earth
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network
Father Jacek Orzechowski, OFM & Chair,
Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate for the Franciscans of the Holy Name Province
Vice President Joe Biden
Chief of Staff Denis McDonough
Director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
"Consider this: nearly all life on Earth could go extinct because of manmade climate change."
Internationally syndicated talk show host and bestselling author Thom Hartmann released a devastatingly powerful new film, LAST HOURS. A jolting wake-up call for humanity, this 10-minute film describes a terrifying science-based scenario where runaway climate change is triggered by massive releases of frozen methane. Here's the devastating part: the melting of these trillions of tons of carbon is already underway.
"Methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, has already started to percolate into the open seas and atmosphere from methane hydrate deposits beneath melting arctic ice, from the warming northern-hemisphere tundra and from worldwide continental-shelf undersea methane clathrate pools."
"If we do not begin to significantly curtail the use of carbon-based fossil fuels, this freed methane threatens to radically accelerate the speed of global warming, potentially producing a disaster beyond the ability of the human species to adapt."
The film documents how our planet has experienced five major extinctions in geologic history and how our prolific production of greenhouse gases has the ability to trigger a sixth mass extinction.
"By the end of the Permian mass extinction, 95 percent of all life on the planet was dead. And why is this important today? Because today a sixth extinction is underway, one that will test the survival of not just human civilization, but possibly of the human species itself. And it bears a horrifying resemblance to several previous global warming-driven events like the Permian mass extinction."
Earth is sending us an urgent and unmistakable message, one that we ignore at our own peril. Failure to drastically slash carbon emissions now could mean the end of humanity.
Watch and share LAST HOURS with everyone you know. Then take action by supporting Climate Crisis Solution's campaign to stop a major new source of carbon pollution—the 485-mile southern leg of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Learn more at RideForRenewables.com.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
I had a chance to read FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test, a recent report issued by the Sierra Club and Oil Change International and endorsed by a dozen other environmental organizations. The 17-page report makes a rock solid case that "constructing Keystone XL will lead to tar sands industry expansion, and tar sands industry expansion will significantly exacerbate climate pollution. "
The report documents how the Keystone XL would be a pipeline through the U.S. by delivering toxic tar sands to Gulf Coast refineries, thereby opening the floodgates for Canada's dirty energy to be exported overseas.
What the report fails to mention, however, is the central fact that it is the 485-mile southern leg of Keystone XL already being constructed in Texas and Oklahoma—not the pipeline's proposed northern leg—that will give TransCanada strategic access to these U.S. coastal ports.
Here's the inconvenient truth about the Keystone XL: TransCanada does not need the pipeline's northern leg to begin pumping hundreds of thousands of barrels of toxic tar sands daily through America's breadbasket for export overseas. This map shows how they will accomplish this by simply connecting Keystone XL's southern leg to Keystone I (the orange line on the map) built by TransCanada in 2010.
Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune is right to describe the Keystone XL as "a test of the president's commitment" to combating climate change. But the test isn't being given in 2014 over whether Obama approves or rejects a permit for the pipeline's northern leg. The test is being administered right now in Texas and Oklahoma, where the Keystone XL's 485-mile southern leg is already 90 percent constructed and scheduled to go online by late this year or early next.
Here are some key findings of the FAIL report:
The Keystone XL pipeline is absolutely critical to the expansion of tar sands development in landlocked Alberta, because it would provide the industry with a major low-cost connection to export markets and world oil prices.
Experts predict that the approval of the pipeline could lead to a 36 percent increase in tar sands exploitation.
A pipeline that would contribute 181 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) each year for 50 years risks blowing our ability to mitigate dangerous levels of climate change, in and of itself.
The Keystone XL pipeline is a linchpin to tar sands development, and increased tar sands development would be disastrous for the climate.
To borrow a phrase from the report, the question that climate protection demands we ask is this: if "from a climate perspective it is indefensible for the U.S. government to approve [a presidential permit for] this project, in light of the future implications it would have for accelerating the growth of one of the most polluting fuels on the planet," is it not magnitudes more indefensible for the president to have approved the actual construction of this same project in Texas and Oklahoma? Why does the report fail to address this key point?
The dire findings of the FAIL report—that "Keystone XL is key to unlocking massive expansion of one of the world's most carbon-intensive sources of oil, an environmental Armageddon"—cry out for its authors to demand that President Obama stop the construction of Keystone's southern leg, before it is too late. But for the fearless resistance of local landowners, and the heroic efforts of the Tar Sands Blockade and Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, toxic tar sands might already be surging through the Keystone pipeline to Gulf Coast port refineries. In the words of one of those landowners, Michael Bishop: "You should not be swatting at flies where there is a lion outside your door."
The FAIL report seals the deal on why President Obama must immediately reverse course and pull the plug on the construction of this 485-mile climate disaster. But this requires an environmental movement unified behind this demand.
Yes, we must also block the permit for Keystone's northern leg, which would allow even more toxic tar sands to flow across America, but no one is going to buy that as a victory if TransCanada succeeds in getting their southern leg linchpin in place. If the climate movement fails to draw a line in the sand against Keystone XL in Texas and Oklahoma—and this tar sands nightmare is allowed to go online—we will all have flunked the climate test.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
In June, after more than four years as president, President Obama finally proposed a climate action plan for America. True to form, the president gave an eloquent speech, with strong words for those still in denial about the severity of the crisis we face: "We don't have time for a meeting of the Flat Earth Society."
Unfortunately for all of us, the blueprint he presented is more PR than plan, and has zero chance of stabilizing the climate. To the contrary, it promises even more climate chaos by promoting fracking, mountaintop removal coal mining, offshore and Arctic oil drilling and tar sands exploitation. It also threatens future generations with the specter of more radioactive nuclear power.
The president opened his speech with a poetic tribute to the Apollo program, a generational mission championed by President John F. Kennedy more than half a century ago. But no comparison can be made between Kennedy's bold vision and Obama's timid plan. At the moment in history when the moral urgency of the global climate crisis demands a U.S.-led green energy "moon shot," President Obama offers us a cloud shot. Are we really supposed to take seriously the anemic goal of cutting carbon emissions 17 percent by 2020 when experts like Earth Policy Institute's Lester Brown have shown that nothing short of 80 percent carbon cuts by 2020 may be enough to save civilization?
Instead of calling out Obama on his hollow words, big national environmental groups—many with deep ties to the Democratic Party establishment and the Obama White House—fell over themselves congratulating the president on his speech. This, despite the fact that neither of America's two corporate political parties has any intention of giving up their oil-soaked campaign contributions to take on the fossil fuel lobby.
Jon Queally, writing for Common Dreams, posed the right question: "With a showering of praise from 'big green' groups like Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club and Environment America—the last of which decided to launch an expensive 'thank you' TV ad for the president—is it possible that the environmental movement is easing off the pressure at exactly the moment they should be holding Obama's feet more firmly to the fire?" This is exactly what many of these same groups did when the president postponed until after the election a decision on Keystone XL's northern leg permit, only to see him turn around and fast-track the pipeline's southern leg. Instead of learning from history, they repeat it.
With the aforementioned as context, let's look at some of what the President actually said in his speech and how his words fail to translate into the action needed to help stabilize the climate in the short time humanity has left to act.
President Obama: "We should strengthen our position as the top natural gas producer because, in the medium term at least, it not only can provide safe, cheap power, but it can also help reduce our carbon emissions. We're going to partner with our private sector to apply private sector technological know-how in countries that transition to natural gas."
Real World Translation: The President calls natural gas "clean," despite knowing it's a major greenhouse gas emitter. He calls natural gas "safe," when the known dangers of fracking are causing communities across America to rise up against the poisoning of their local water supplies. The President's plan would not only ramp up this dangerous technology domestically, but also export it overseas.
President Obama: "So the plan I'm announcing today will help us double again our energy from wind and sun."
Real World Translation: This sounds impressive until you realize the percentage of America's electricity currently generated by wind and solar power is in the single digits. The president's plan ensures that the vast majority of our energy will continue to be generated from burning dirty fossil fuels.
President Obama: "So today, I'm setting a new goal: Your federal government will consume 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources within the next seven years."
Real World Translation: This is an example of the president's "cloud shot" mentality. It would be like Kennedy announcing a goal of flying one-fifth of the way to the moon. Two Swiss explorers just flew day and night across America in a 100 percent solar powered airplane. If they can accomplish that in the air, America can do it on the ground.
President Obama: "Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward."
Real World Translation: Thanks to the president, the Keystone XL pipeline is already charging forward, with zero regard for carbon emissions or America's interests. In fact, the pipeline is now 90 percent complete in Texas and Oklahoma. If Obama does not intervene to prevent the last stages of its construction, Keystone will open the floodgates to climate killing tar sands by transporting toxic tar sands from Canada to Texas refineries by the end of this year. TransCanada will accomplish this—with or without the pipeline's northern leg—by connecting the southern leg of Keystone XL to the already built Keystone I.
President Obama: "We're building the first nuclear power plants in more than three decades—in Georgia and South Carolina."
Real World Translation: The President is promoting a revival of nuclear power while Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant continues to leak deadly radiation more than two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster began. Certainly he knows that 23 nuclear reactors in the U.S. use the same "Mark 1" reactor and containment design as Japan's crippled nuclear plant. His plan not only promotes more nuclear power in the U.S., but worldwide.
President Obama: "I'm directing the Environmental Protection Agency to put an end to the limitless dumping of carbon pollution from our power plants, and complete new pollution standards for both new and existing power plants."
Real World Translation: The president's directive sounds pretty good until you realize the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is already required by law to establish carbon pollution standards for coal plants. The president also fails to call for an end to the barbaric practice of mining coal by blowing off the tops of the Appalachian Mountains.
President Obama: "Today, I'm calling for an end of public financing for new coal plants overseas—unless they deploy carbon-capture technologies, or there's no other viable way for the poorest countries to generate electricity."
Real World Translation: The President is actually saying we will continue to publicly finance new coal plants overseas if developing countries really need it, or if they are willing to deploy cost-prohibitive and unproven "clean coal" technologies (which are set to receive up to $8 billion in loan guarantees domestically under his plan).
President Obama: "But I want to be honest—this will not get us there overnight. It's going to take time for carbon emissions to stabilize."
Real World Translation: The President is right to acknowledge that stabilizing carbon emissions will take time. What he fails to tell us, however, is his plan will never get us there. His plan comes nowhere near to stabilizing carbon emissions.
President Obama: "So the question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late. As a President, as a father, and as an American, I'm here to say we need to act. I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing."
Real World Translation: By promoting a plan that has zero chance of success, the President answers his own question: the action he is taking "as a President, as a father, and as an American" is anything but courageous and condemns "future generations to a planet that's beyond fixing."
President Obama: "I want to be clear—I am willing to work with anybody—Republicans, Democrats, independents, libertarians, greens—anybody—to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth."
My Response: If the President is genuinely open to new ideas, I have one for him: treat this like the existential threat it truly is, and launch a wartime-like mobilization—similar to how the U.S. in 1942 restructured our industrial economy in a matter of months—to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020. A green energy "moon shot" (i.e. a national goal of 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020) will generate many more times the jobs than his administration's irrational "all-of-the-above" energy policy.
If the President is truly willing to work with "anybody" to combat this threat, he should read the Green Shadow Cabinet's critique of how his climate plan falls "dangerously short." He may also want to consider the views of outspoken critics like author Chris Williams, who cites the President's "dismal domestic and international record on environmental issues—it was, after all, he who was the lead protagonist in wrecking the international climate talks in Copenhagen in 2009." He wrote this about Obama's speech: "It's hard to take someone seriously when that person has presided over the biggest expansion of the security state in U.S. history and relentlessly pursued government whistleblowers with unprecedented ferocity, when they say simultaneously in a climate speech that they are directing the Environmental Protection Agency to generate new standards for the regulation of existing power plants in 'an open and transparent way.'"
Simply put, President Obama's climate action plan is not even close. We need to get real. Humanity just reached the grim milestone of 400 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and is now speeding towards dangerous and irreversible climate tipping points. We don't need pretty speeches. We need all hands on deck. It is time for the U.S. to launch an emergency mobilization to combat this mortal threat, before it is too late.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
For the past year, most blog posts, action alerts and appeals to “Stop Keystone XL,” “Reject Keystone XL,” “Fight Keystone XL” and “Resist Keystone XL” have focused on blocking the pipeline’s northern leg, while ignoring President Obama’s support for the 485-mile southern segment. During this time, TransCanada has been busy building that southern leg, which is now 75 percent constructed.
This should alarm every climate activist. As Mark Karlin, editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, warned in a recent editorial, when the Obama administration endorsed Keystone XL’s southern leg, “the spigot was opened to transport the climate-killing tar sands oil to refineries and ports in Texas.”
His editorial goes on to say: “What most U.S. citizens don’t know—including most progressives—is that when the southern pipeline segment starts flowing with tar sands oil in a short while, the fuse will have already ignited the (carbon) bomb.” Given that we just passed 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it is time for every big national environmental group to demand that President Obama extinguish this 485-mile carbon bomb fuse, before it’s too late.
As someone who pedaled the entire route in 2011 in support of farmers, ranchers and tribal communities fighting this toxic tar sands pipeline, I am as committed as anyone to blocking TransCanada’s northern leg permit, but how can anyone seriously talk about stopping Keystone XL without mentioning the need to stop the actual construction now dangerously close to completion in Texas and Oklahoma?
The key to blocking Keystone XL’s northern leg is ensuring that Keystone XL’s southern leg never gets completed. If you agree, join me, and more than 5,000 others, in signing the "Tell President Obama to Stop Construction of the Southern Leg of Keystone XL” petition. We will be delivering the petition to the White House soon, in dramatic fashion.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
Why aren’t all Keystone XL opponents loudly demanding that President Obama stop construction of the pipeline’s 485-mile southern leg that is destroying the lives of our fellow Americans in Texas and Oklahoma? This is a classic case of something being hidden in plain view.
By approving construction of Keystone XL’s southern leg last spring, our “I’m all for pipelines” president not only sold out the people of Texas and Oklahoma, he is currently lighting the fuse to the tar sands “carbon bomb.”
I ask in the name of loving justice: why isn’t blocking the actual construction of Keystone XL’s southern leg being met with the same level of outrage by everyone as blocking the potential construction of the pipeline’s northern leg?
Let me state clearly that I honor and respect the hard work and personal sacrifice of everyone who is engaged in the fight against Keystone XL. As a former presidential campaign operative, I understood–but vehemently disagreed with (along with many others)–the decision by Obama’s political allies to shield their candidate from Keystone XL criticisms during the 2012 election, but there can be no excuse for protecting him now. The campaign is over and Obama can’t run again, so he no longer needs political cover.
With the knowledge that completion of Keystone XL’s southern leg would open the floodgates to Canadian tar sands exploitation comes a moral obligation—to our children, to future generations and to all the other beings with whom we share this miraculous planet—to stop its construction.
TIME’s senior national correspondent, Michael Grunwald, recently wrote:
“Keystone isn’t a perfect battlefield, but neither was Selma or Stonewall. In a war, you don’t always get to choose where to fight. You still have to show you’re willing to fight.”
To extend the analogy a bit further, Texas and Oklahoma may not be where everyone wants to fight, but they are the front lines of this war right now. Obviously, we must do everything in our power to ensure that the president also rejects TransCanada’s permit for the northern leg, but “stopping Keystone XL” means stopping the construction of the southern leg that is already halfway completed and on track to begin pumping tar sands slurry from Alberta’s mine fields to Gulf Coast refineries by the end of this year.
We need to show this corporate bully what the American people are made of by using every creative and nonviolent means at our disposal to terminate Keystone XL. Here are a few of the opportunities to take a stand against this tar sands monstrosity in the coming weeks. Participate in the Tar Sands Blockade’s March Week of Action from now through March 23. Join the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate on March 21 for a nonviolent civil disobedience at the White House. Contribute to the legal defense of Marine veteran Michael Bishop and other brave landowners who are fighting Keystone XL in court. Sign the petition demanding that Obama stop Keystone XL in its entirety. Or come up with an action of your own.
Last Friday, White House officials briefing reporters on Air Force One strongly indicated that President Obama would approve the northern leg of Keystone XL, while downplaying the pipeline’s dangerous climate impacts. This should not really come as a surprise, given the president’s earlier approval of the southern leg, but it is a slap in the face to everyone who has literally demonstrated our expectations of this White House.
Humanity is in a climate fight for survival. Pinning our hopes on compromised politicians to save us is futile. It is up to We the People to demand justice, for our fellow Americans in Texas and Oklahoma, and for all life on Earth. Together, we must end the tyranny of fossil fuel pushers and put America back to work leading a green industrial revolution before the clock runs out on us all.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
Sign this petition to tell President Obama to stop Keystone XL in its entirety. This means not only denying TransCanada a presidential permit to build the northern leg of their tar sands pipeline, but using his presidential powers to immediately halt construction of the southern leg of Keystone XL in Texas and Oklahoma.
If the southern leg of TransCanada’s pipeline is allowed to be completed, the fuse to the tar sands "carbon bomb" will be lit.
By signing this petition your name will be added to the comments below and sent to President Obama.
Show your solidarity with the landowners and activists fighting this pipeline by signing this petition today.
Endorsing Organizations: Tom Weis, Lt. Dan Choi, Indigenous Environmental Network, Calhoun County Resource Watch, NacSTOP, San Antonio Bay Waterkeeper, Texas Injured Workers, CODEPINK, Pineywoods Sierra Club, Arctic Voices, Citizens Climate Lobby, EarthAction, 2020 Action, Tantoo Cr Cardinal, Tar Sands Blockade, Conscious Global Leadership, Landowners Rights Alliance (LORA), Compassionate Earth Walk, Fast for the Earth, Highland Winds, Ed Begley, Jr., Dr. James E. Hansen, Paul Hawken, Students for Environmental Action, Julia Butterfly Hill, WilderUtopia, Lester Brown, EcoJive, Daryl Hannah, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, The New York Green Advocate, Mariel Hemingway & Bobby Williams of The Willingway, Grassroots Environmental Education, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Franciscan Action Network, 350 Colorado, Shyla Nelson, One Earth. One Voice., Center for Biological Diversity, 350 Central Virginia, Be The Change U.S.A., Grand Riverkeeper, Michael Bishop, Randy Thompson, Julia Trigg Crawford, All Tribes, Nations and Peoples Council of Fires, The Rainbow Warrior Coalition, Burnaby Residents Opposing KinderMorgan Expansion (BROKE), Clean Energy Future OK, HIVE of Planet-Loving Activity, Bonnie Raitt, Clean Energy Action, Peaceful Uprising, Tim DeChristopher, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Buckeye Forest Council, Athens County Fracking Action Network, Surfers' Environmental Alliance, Jason Box, Brock Evans, Debra White Plume, Thomas Merton Center, Cherri Foytlin, Randy Hayes, The Earth First Initiative, Jews of the Earth, Marti Matsch, eGo CarShare, Dallas MoveOn Council, Harvard Ayers, 350 Boone
If your organization is interested in endorsing this petition, email Stefanie Spear at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
With President Obama’s blessing, TransCanada has been laying pipe for the 485-mile southern (OK-TX) leg of Keystone XL in the face of persistent nonviolent direct action by determined landowners and Tar Sands Blockade.
Look at the map below. If the southern leg of TransCanada’s pipeline is allowed to be completed, the fuse to the tar sands "carbon bomb" will be lit.
Connecting the southern leg of Keystone XL to the already built Keystone I (the orange line on the map) would open the floodgates to tar sands exploitation by allowing toxic tar sands slurry to flow south from Alberta's minefields to Texas Gulf Coast refineries, threatening everything in its path.
As critical as it is that Obama deny TransCanada a cross-border permit to build the northern leg, preventing the “carbon bomb” fuse from being lit requires stopping Keystone XL’s southern leg. Maps don’t lie. Right now, ground zero for this fight is in Texas and Oklahoma.
It is time to demand that President Obama reverse course and use his presidential powers to immediately halt construction of Keystone XL in Texas and Oklahoma, before it’s too late.
Last spring, President Obama made a special trip on Air Force One to the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” to call for fast-track approval of the southern (OK-TX) leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Note to President Obama: You approved it. You own it.
By now, most people following the Keystone XL saga know that last spring, President Obama made a special trip on Air Force One to the “Pipeline Crossroads of the World” to call for fast-track approval of the southern (OK-TX) leg of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Standing in a pipe yard in Cushing, Oklahoma, the President declared:
“And today, I'm directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”
Since then, TransCanada has constructed roughly one-third of the 485-mile southern leg (if not for fierce push back by a few determined landowners and the courageous efforts of Tar Sands Blockade, it would be more).
With ownership comes responsibility. As the pipeline president, Obama not only owns Keystone XL, he also owns the atrocities being committed in its name in Texas:
- Great grandmothers being pepper-sprayed in the face and having their land fraudulently seized by a foreign corporation
- Peaceful protesters being sadistically assaulted by local law enforcement, with the encouragement of TransCanada officials
- I could go on … this is sick stuff.
All this is occurring despite the fact that countless landowners in six Great Plains states whose private property the pipeline would cross don’t want it. Native American tribes whose treaty lands the pipeline would desecrate don’t want it. Even the President’s own U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator, Lisa Jackson, reportedly resigned in large part because of it. So why does President Obama want it so badly?
- It can’t be jobs. Obama’s Keystone XL risks destroying more jobs than it creates.
- It can’t be energy independence. Obama’s Keystone XL is being built as an export pipeline for Canada to sell its dirty oil to foreign markets.
- It can’t be cheaper gas. Obama’s Keystone XL portends higher, not lower, gas prices for the Midwest and Rockies.
- It can’t be public health. Obama’s Keystone XL threatens to further poison the air of people living near tar sands oil refineries.
- It can’t be economic security. Obama’s Keystone XL imperils U.S. aquifers and waterways and the local economies they support.
- It can’t be national security. Twenty prominent scientists have warned of the climate impacts of Obama’s Keystone XL, with an elite Military Advisory Board declaring climate change a threat to our national security.
There’s still a way out of this mess, but the window of opportunity is rapidly closing on this presidency. The minute we see President Obama use the powers of his presidency to end this immoral assault on America is the day we’ll know he is ready to deal with a climate spiraling out of control on his watch.
This begins with:
- Immediately halting construction of Keystone XL’s southern leg.
- Rejecting outright TransCanada’s permit to build the northern leg.
- Using the bully pulpit of the presidency to begin a long overdue adult national conversation about how we’re going to solve the gravest challenge of our time.
The hour is late, but it is not too late for President Obama to trade out his dead-end “all of the above” energy strategy for a life-affirming green industrial revolution. A principled leader would use the next four years to do what is hard: stand up and fight like hell for the future of life on Earth—earning the eternal gratitude of generations to come.
A compromised politician would do what is easy: cave into the fossil fuel lobby and sacrifice the future of our children and grandchildren on the rotting altar of corporate greed. If President Barack Obama continues down the dangerous path he is currently on, he will go down in history as the pipeline president who knew the horrors of the climate peril we face, but lacked the moral courage to act.
It’s choice time.
If you missed the 10-week Rocket Trike Diaries video series of my 2,150-mile ride down the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route, I have rolled the highlights into some of the most raw and compelling footage you will ever see on Keystone XL.
Watch this 15-minute film profiling the powerful voices of front line families threatened by TransCanada's toxic tar sands pipeline and ask yourself how we can let this happen.
Welcome to Rocket Trike Diaries—a 10 week video tour of the 2011 "Ride for Renewables: No Tar Sands Oil On American Soil!" Join Renewable Rider Tom Weis as he pedals his rocket trike 2,150 miles through America’s heartland in support of landowners fighting TransCanada’s toxic Keystone XL tar sands pipeline scheme. Here are the video entries from Week Ten:
Video Entry #65: Keystone XL Pipeline Christmas Gifts
Renewable Rider Tom Weis and Ron Seifert are joined by local pipeline fighters for some street theater in front of TransCanada’s Houston, Texas headquarters, where they unwrap gift boxes containing 12 of the most egregious lies and abuses TransCanada is “gifting” the world through tar sands exploitation and Keystone XL. The gift boxes containing “TransCanada’s 12 Disgraces of Christmas” were later returned to the corporation’s headquarters.
Renewable Rider Tom Weis is given a special tour of struggling Port Arthur, Texas by Goldman Environmental Prize winner Hilton Kelley. Rolling past one boarded up building after another in a city with 14% unemployment, Hilton shares how the town was drained of its vitality over time and talks about the strong local desire for redevelopment through green technology. Calling clean air and clean water "a basic human right," he talks about the Community In-Power & Development Association's successful local efforts to push EPA to step up their enforcement of surrounding refineries and chemical companies. In a powerful history lesson, he explains how in the Deep South, railroad tracks were commonly used "to divide and segregate" African American communities from white communities, causing untold suffering. He shares a tragic story about a young woman living on the west side of Port Arthur who lost her baby during childbirth because a train blocked her access to the town's only hospitals, which were all on the east side of the tracks. To this day, there is only one underpass under the tracks and not a single health clinic on the west side.
Video Entry #67: Goldman Prize Winner Pilots Rocket Trike
Renewable Rider Tom Weis watches 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner Hilton Kelley take the rocket trike for a spin. Hilton is founder and director of the Community In-Power & Development Association in Port Arthur, Texas, home to a disproportionate number of oil refineries and chemical plants, where children are suffering from acute respiratory illnesses. After giving the younger kids a turn, he shows us "how it's done" with his natural command of the specialized trike. A pumped up Hilton says, "Working together, we can get it done. Let's stop that pipeline!"
Video Entry #68: Goldman Prize Winner Hilton Kelley Recites "My Toxic Reality"
Renewable Rider Tom Weis meets with 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Hilton Kelley on the final day of the Keystone XL "Tour of Resistance." Hilton is founder and director of the Community In-Power & Development Association in Port Arthur, Texas, home to a disproportionate number of oil refineries and chemical plants, where children are suffering from acute respiratory illnesses. Listen to Hilton recite his powerful poem: "My Toxic Reality."
Renewable Rider Tom Weis formally ends the 2,150-mile Keystone XL "Tour of Resistance" at a playground in the shadow of polluting oil refineries in West Port Arthur, Texas. He is greeted at the Carver Terrace housing project by 2011 Goldman Environmental Prize winner Hilton Kelley and other members of the community.
Video Entry #70: Ride Conclusion Press Conference
Renewable Rider Tom Weis concludes his 2,150-mile Keystone XL "Tour of Resistance" at the fence line community of West Port Arthur in the shadow of oil refineries spewing emissions. He is joined by Goldman Prize winner Hilton Kelley in denouncing the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and in demanding that President Obama reject TransCanada's presidential permit without delay. Weis launched the tour 10 weeks ago at the U.S./Canada border and has pedaled the entire U.S. length of the proposed pipeline in his "rocket trike" in support of landowners and communities in six states fighting Keystone XL.