I've had many friends, even like-minded, eco-friendly friends, ask me, "Why is Keystone a big deal? Isn't it just another pipeline?"
Keystone is a big deal, because it is not just another pipeline. It is the make-or-break piece of the puzzle for profitably exploiting the tar sands in Canada. Without the Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands will still be dug up; but with Keystone, the profits soar, making it a much more lucrative deal for the Canadian oil companies; and to maximize their profits, they will dig up as much as possible. And therein lies the problem. The sheer volume of tar sands awaiting exploitation is staggering. When asked about the impact on climate change, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, Dr. James Hansen, explained burning the tar sands would be "game over" for the climate.
Specifically, this is what Hansen had to say about carbon emissions that would come from the tar sands:
The level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet's species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.
That's a pretty compelling argument if you ask me. Shouldn't that be the end of the discussion?
If we listen to the top climate scientists, we should leave the tar sands where they are, underground. But others will still insist we are going to keep burning oil for years to come, so aren't we better off using Canadian oil rather than Middle Eastern oil? No. Canadian tar sands are a thick, heavy tar (it is the black "goo" in asphalt) and the oil that is produced is 19 percent dirtier and 17 percent more carbon intensive than Middle Eastern crude. In addition, the exploitation of the oil is a much more energy intensive process. They are building entire power plants in Alberta, just to power the tar sands processing.
Of course, the Canadian oil companies would prefer to dig up the tar sands; after all, they have a hefty profit to make. Proponents of Keystone claim the Canadians will dig up the tar sands whether we participate or not. But there are limited options for bringing the tar sands to market. They can ship to Vancouver, but that would require crossing the tribal lands of the First Nations, who strongly oppose the tar sands and have been successful, thus far, in fending off exploitation of their lands. TransCanada could ship the tar sands to the east coast of Canada, but it is a more expensive option that makes the sale of the tar sands less economically viable. The most profitable option by far, is building the Keystone XL pipeline, which may explain why they have invested so much in lobbying in Washington, DC. The Canadians have a lot at stake. But let's remember, this is Canadian tar sands, and Canadian profits, not American. And the only thing worse than caving to oil lobbyists is caving to foreign oil lobbyists.
Not only do we not make the profits from selling the oil, if we flood the energy markets with dirty tar sands, there will be less demand for American renewable energy. So by helping our neighbor to the north, we are handcuffing our own future. The Keystone XL pipeline will create approximately 5,000 short term construction jobs, and according to the State Department report, only 34 long term jobs. The U.S. Council of Mayors report estimated that the potential for jobs in the renewable energy markets is 1.2 million jobs. By building more pipelines, we are choosing a future of fossil fuels rather than renewables.
Furthermore, more fossil fuels means more climate change. And the cost of climate change is enormous. Hurricane Sandy cost $50 billion. The drought in 2012 cost billions. It will cost hundreds of billions to move interstate highways when sea levels rise. There is a cost to transition our economy off of fossil fuels, but the cost of inaction is far higher.
Finally, Keystone XL is a big deal because it is a reflection of the commitment and integrity of our leaders. President Obama made strong statements in both his 2013 inaugural address as well as his State of the Union speech. But actions speak louder than words. Saying we need to address climate change, while moving towards a future of tar sands is completely counterintuitive. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have the chance to change the course of history; they have the chance to be visionary leaders and transform our nation to a society built on innovation that provides both an environment and economy that are sustainable.
That is why Keystone matters.
Visit EcoWatch’s KEYSTONE XL page for more related news on this topic.
At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Australia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. It is home to more than 7% of all the world's plant and animal species, many of which are endemic. One such species, the Pharohylaeus lactiferus bee, was recently rediscovered after spending nearly 100 years out of sight from humans.
Scientists have newly photographed three species of shark that can glow in the dark, according to a study published in Frontiers in Marine Science last month.
- 10 Little-Known Shark Facts - EcoWatch ›
- 4 New Walking Shark Species Discovered - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Incredible Species That Glow in the Dark - EcoWatch ›
FedEx's entire parcel pickup and delivery fleet will become 100 percent electric by 2040, according to a statement released Wednesday. The ambitious plan includes checkpoints, such as aiming for 50 percent electric vehicles by 2025.
- Which Is Worse for the Planet: Beef or Cars? - EcoWatch ›
- Greenhouse Gas Levels Hit Record High Despite Lockdowns, UN ... ›
- 1.8 Billion Tons More Greenhouse Gases Will Be Released, Thanks ... ›