The Republican preoccupation with the passage of the Keystone XL pipeline is emboldened by the Nebraska Supreme Court even though four of seven judges ruled the approval process was unconstitutional. No matter what happens in Congress the President has vowed to veto the legislation. As explained by White House spokesman Josh Earnest, “If the bill passes this Congress, the President won’t sign it.” Today, Tuesday January 13, a number of environmental groups are taking it one step further by staging rallies across North America to demand that Obama reject the pipeline once and for all.
The Senate followed the House in passing legislation approving the KXL. Senators who support the KXL profit from the oil industry’s generous gifts, but they do not have the two-thirds majority (67 votes) needed in the 100-seat Senate to override a presidential veto. As far as the Presidential veto is concerned, (and contrary to the misinformation from conservatives), Obama has only vetoed two bills in his first six years in office.
There are a number of good reasons why the KXL should not be built.
Republicans are exerting a lot of pressure for a project with little economic impact.
According to a study from Cornell university, the KXL will offer between 2,500 and 4,600 for the building of the pipeline and as few as 35 long term jobs. The KXL will not reduce gas prices which are already lower than they have been for a very long time. The Cornell study suggests the pipeline would actually increase oil prices nationally by an additional $5 billion.
With the current price of oil below 47 dollars a barrel, the tar sands make no economic sense.
Safety is another major concern as pipelines inevitably leak. For years now fears about leaks have added to reservations about the KXL. TransCanada, the company responsible for building the KXL has a poor safety record. The Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs from Alberta to Cushing, Oklahoma, had 14 leaks in its first two years of operation. TransCanada’s poor safety record was revealed by a Canadian National Energy Board review in 2012. TransCanada failed in four of the nine safety areas reviewed: hazard identification; risk assessment and control; operational control; measurement and monitoring; and management review.
Not only is the safety record a real concern, there are serious health problems associated with the pipeline and the tar sands in general. Fossil fuel extraction poisons the air, ground and water and this is particularly true of tar sands oil. After decades of health complaints, a 2014 report by Alberta’s Energy Regulator (AER) formally linked emissions from tar sands oil production with serious health impacts in the Peace River region.
The most serious concern about the Keystone XL involves its climate change causing emissions profile. Fossil fuels are known to cause climate change and as such they are a clear and present danger. All fossil fuels contribute to global warming but the tar sands are some of the most carbon intensive energy on earth. The climate change causing impact of the tar sands has been found to be four times worse than originally thought.
The KXL would increase tar sands oil extraction and according to James
Hansen, expanding the exploitation of the tar sands represents “game
over” for efforts to curtail climate change.
Investors see the writing on the wall, as most of the known oil reserves are unburnable and this will effectively strand assets. The day is coming when divesting from fossil fuels will be a fiduciary duty. Even oil companies are backing away from tar sands oil this includes Shell, Statoil and the French company Total.
While it has frequently been said that if the KXL does not get built the tar sands will find alternate routes. However, pipelines like the Northern Gateway and Energy East have also been stopped by protests and local governments.
The supreme court of Canada has also supported the rights of Canada’s indigenous people which dis-empowers the fossil fuel industry.
A number of environmental groups are organizing to oppose Republican efforts to push the KXL forward.
What environmentally concerned people want the world to know is that the
KXL is not only a political football, it is a pipeline that would
deliver to market 800,000 barrels of some the most carbon rich oil on
The NRDC is trying to “build a wall of opposition to KXL that is big enough to sustain a Presidential veto.” Their efforts include, a “rapid-response truth squad” that will confront misinformation. They are also active in Washington — making the case against the Keystone XL to lawmakers, thought leaders and key members of the Obama Administration. Finally they are mobilizing their supporters to show the new Congress that “the American people won’t stand by while they deepen our dependence on dirty fossil fuels and accelerate climate change.”
The NRDC is far from the only environmental group focused on opposition to the KXL. On the evening of Tuesday January 13, rallies will be held coast-to-coast to tell the President that it’s time to reject Keystone XL. This North America wide protest will include organizations like:
- Indigenous Environmental Network
- Oil Change International
- Rainforest Action Network
- The Sierra Club
Protests have already produced substantial results. According to a 2014 report, delays to the KXL have already prevented at least $17 billion in new tar sands investments that would have produced carbon equivalent to 735 coal-fired power plants.
While a Presidential veto will prevent the Republican sponsored legislation from moving the KXL forward there are also legal avenues that could still be pursued.
The full Senate is expected to vote on the Keystone XL bill on Friday January 16 and it could be on Mr. Obama’s desk before the end of the month.
As chief executive, President Obama has a job to do. As explained by Naomi Klein,
“It’s about whether the US government will throw a lifeline to a
climate-destabilizing industrial project that is under a confluence of
pressures that add up to a very real crisis….”
If we are serious about curtailing climate change we must also be serious about stopping oil pipelines, particularly those that carry tar sands oil.
Sanders Keystone XL Amendment
Video – Sen. Elizabeth Warren on the Keystone XL
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Republican Congress to Push the Keystone XL
Reasons Why the Keystone XL is a Pipedream
Keystone XL will Emit 4 Times More Pollution than Originally Thought
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A Brief Review of the Keystone XL Saga
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The Fate of the Keystone XL: The Ball is in Your Court Mr President
Refuting the Rationale for Approving the Keystone XL
Comparison of the Keystone XL and Renewable Energy
How Come the Keystone XL is so Hard to Kill