Posts Tagged ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’

Statement of Tyson Slocum, Director, Public Citizen’s Energy Program

Public Citizen applauds President Barack Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The Keystone pipeline is not about improving U.S. energy security. It’s more about padding Big Oil’s profits by increasing America’s refined petroleum product exports than protecting those on Main Street.

Today’s announcement delivers another well deserved blow to a project that would shuttle dirty tar-sands oil through America’s heartland for export to the global market and, defies political threats issued by Big Oil and its cronies in Congress.

The current Keystone XL pipeline proposal would transport the dirtiest oil in the world through America’s largest freshwater aquifer, risking a major oil spill and causing dangerous pollutants to be released into the air during the refining process. This risk is not remote. TransCanada’s first tar-sands pipeline leaked 12 times in its first year of operation, despite the company’s estimation that it would leak just once in 14 years.

President Obama’s decision to send this proposal back to the drawing board acknowledges the unacceptable risks posed to citizens living near the pipeline’s path.

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Often lost in the important arguments of why to oppose the Keystone pipeline that would bring dirty tar sands oil from Canada to r"Tar Sands Action" "Keystone pipeline gas prices"efineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast is that it will raise gasoline prices. How does bringing in more oil supply result in higher gas prices, you ask? Let me walk you through the facts. A combination of record domestic oil production and anemic domestic demand has resulted in large stockpiles of crude oil in the U.S. In particular, supplies of crude in the critical area of Cushing, OK increased more than 150% from 2004 to early 2011 (compared to a 40% rise for the country as a whole). Segments of the oil industry want to import additional supplies of crude from Canada, bypass the surplus crude stockpiles in Oklahoma in an effort to refine this Canadian imported oil into gasoline in the Gulf Coast with the goal of increasing gasoline exports to Latin America and other foreign markets. As the Wall Street Journal noted yesterday (subscription required) :

“The sale of an oil pipeline running from Oklahoma to Texas upended U.S. energy markets Wednesday, sending the price of crude surging above $100 a barrel …Enbridge Inc.—which bought a 50% stake in the Seaway Pipeline—announced it would reverse the direction of the flow, allowing more crude to move south from oil storage in Cushing, Okla., into the world’s largest refinery complex along the Gulf Coast. Over the past two years, the U.S. has started producing so much oil that existing pipelines have been unable to move it to refineries. That has led to a glut of oil in the center of the country, keeping the price of American crude far below that of petroleum traded overseas…With a new supply of oil headed to Gulf Coast refineries, exports of gasoline are expected to rise…For decades, oil has been imported from overseas to the Gulf Coast, then either refined there or moved elsewhere in the U.S. for processing.

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On Friday, hundreds of activists turned out for a rally held during the final State Department public hearing on the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project. Among these activists were folks that traveled from states that will bear the brunt of the impact from the proposed pipeline. They came to Washington D.C., on their own dime. They were joined by activists that just a month earlier were arrested as part of a two-week sustained demonstration in protest of the pipeline. Others in the crowd had spent the entire night outside of the hearing room just to ensure an early spot on the speaking list in an attempt to thwart line holders hired by industry.

I read in one account of the public hearing and the accompanying activities that supporters of the pipeline held a counterrally at the same time as the opposition rally. I didn’t witness the counterrally, but I can imagine what it looked like.

In addition to paying folks to stand in line to register pro-industry speakers, the oil industry also bused in employees and sympathetic union members. You could tell who they were because they all were sporting the same bright T-shirt. The numbers the industry turns out are impressive, but the enthusiasm for the cause usually is lacking. The directive is for them to be in the room. Often only a few provide public comments. And the message is honed: Jobs, Jobs, and Jobs.

In this case, the erroneous jobs statistic that is echoed by proponents is that 20,000 direct jobs and thousands more indirect jobs will be created by the Keystone XL project. But the job creation numbers were supplied by TransCanada, the corporation seeking approval to build the pipeline. In fact, the State Department’s own study suggests that far fewer jobs – no more than 6,000 direct jobs – will be created, and most of them will be non-local and temporary.

Fuzzy math, like bright T-shirts, is becoming another hallmark of the oil industry.

According to a recent article in The Washington Post, for more than a year, the American Petrolem Institute (API) has been highlighting the number of jobs it says are linked to the oil and gas industry.

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On Friday, the State Department released its final environmental impact statement for the Keystone XL pipeline. Like tar sands actionthe two preliminary statements before it – which the Environmental Protection Agency deemed inadequate – the State Department has determined that the pipeline would produce “limited adverse” effects.

Disagreement with this finding is precisely why 2,000 people – me among them – have pledged to risk arrest at the White House by participating in non-violent civil disobedience. The timing of the two-week long tar sands protest targeting the Obama administration was no coincidence but was specifically intended to coincide with the State Departments report. Contrary to the report’s main conclusion, the proposed 1,661-mile pipeline could have extremely adverse effects on the climate, drinking water and public health.

The proposed TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline would run from Canada through the Ogallala Aquifer in Texas to the Gulf of Mexico, where refineries would make oil available for export.

The Ogallala Aquifer is the primary source of drinking water for millions of Americans and provides 30 percent of the nation’s irrigation groundwater. A spill would clearly be devastating.

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1) Climate Change is politically contested – not scientifically contested.

There is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is happening, it is a result of human activity, and its impacts are and will be increasingly devastating to the land, air and water we depend on for survival.

The existence of climate change has been endorsed by every national academy of science of every major country on the planet, every major professional scientific society related to the study of global warming and 98 percent of climate scientists throughout the world. In the latest and most authoritative study by 3,000 of the very best scientific experts in the world, the evidence was judged “unequivocal.”

2) Denying climate change is a business decision.

Those that have lead the effort to cast doubt on the existence of climate change are party to a conscious and calculated strategy to maintain the status quo.  Denying climate change is a business decision made by industries that profit from pollution and is carried out by these industries’ political beneficiaries. In fact the seeds of doubt can often be traced directly to those who have the most to lose if carbon emissions were capped.  A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that ExxonMobil funded 29 climate change denial groups in 2004 alone and since 1990, the company has spent more than $19 million funding groups that promote their views through publications and Web sites that are not peer reviewed by the scientific community.

In 1991, The New York Times offered a peak behind the climate denial curtain by exposing an internal document drawn up by a consortium of the largest global-warming polluters. It spelled out their principal strategy: “Reposition global warming as theory, rather than fact.”

Corporate polluters are willfully attempting to cover up the threat of manmade climate change, and because of their clout in Congress, no comprehensive climate change legislation has been enacted. In fact, not only have decision-makers failed to pass climate legislation, but a full court press assault has been waged to roll back existing safeguards aimed at protecting the public and environment from corporate polluters.

An analysis undertaken by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) determined that the Republican-led House has voted to “stop,” “block” or “undermine” efforts to protect the environment 110 times since January.

3) Blasting environmental protections wasn’t always a GOP litmus test.

GOP presidential hopefuls appear to view past support of climate change-curbing measures as a political liability. With the exception of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, candidates are back-peddling on any votes or political statements they have made in the past that suggest they agree with environmental protections or restraints on greenhouse gas emissions.

And while some, like Tim Pawlenty, are apologizing for supporting cap-and-trade legislation, others are stepping up their rhetoric against rules designed to curb pollutants. In a June speech, Michele Bachmann pledged to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency. More recently she vowed to lock its doors and turn off the lights, concluding, “It will be a new day and a new sheriff in Washington, D.C.” if she is elected.

Not to be out done, potential candidate Sarah Palin claims to love the smell of emissions.

It hasn’t always been this way. According to recent Time article, the surprising truth is that the extreme political polarization of environmental and energy issues is a relatively recent phenomenon. There have long been prominent conservatives who proudly called themselves conservationists back in the days when Republicans for Environmental Protection – an actual political group, founded in 1995 – wasn’t an oxymoron. Theodore Roosevelt – who has a strong claim as the greenest president in U.S. history – helped create major national parks and launched the U.S. Forest Service. Richard Nixon created the EPA and signed the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. George H.W. Bush signed the landmark 1990 amendment to the Clean Air Act and supported a cap-and-trade program that successfully fought acid rain.

4) Creative actions and nonviolent civil disobedience are necessary to challenge political inaction.

Perhaps predictable, the anti-environmental agenda is becoming more zealous as climate change impacts become more visible and our dependency on dirty fuel becomes more of a liability.  All of the evident indicators that should demand action -from the worst oil spill in U.S. history to the frightening severity of dangerous weather – have failed to ignite a sense of urgency.  Many who have attempted to fight climate change through legal and political action feel that the time for incremental change and small victories has long since passed.

In response, thought leaders within the climate movement like founder, Bill McKibben have issued a new clarion call for action. On the heels of a spring that brought 10,000 activists to Washington, D.C., for the Powershift conference and a summer that sent many of those same people to West Virginia to march against mountain top removal, climate leaders are calling for sustained acts of civil disobedience against the proposed expansion of the Keystone tar sands oil pipeline. Already, thousands of citizens from throughout the country have pledged to participate in the two weeks of action at the White House.

The climate movement’s new attitude might best be reflected in the words of activist Tim DeChristopher, who was arrested after bidding for land at a public auction to save it from oil interests; at the time, he didn’t have the money to buy the land.  At his sentencing hearing in July, he said, “I do not want mercy, I want you to join me.”


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