10,000 Surround the White House to Protest Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline
While thousands of protesters surrounded the White House on Sunday November 6, a hundred people marched through downtown Los Angeles in solidarity. All called for President Obama to reject the 1,700-mile tar sands oil pipeline proposed by TransCanada from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas. Obama has said he will make the decision by the end of the year, along with the State Department mulling whether it is in the National Interest. According to reports in the Los Angeles Times, however, the can could be kicked down the road, so to speak, delaying the decision until after the 2012 election. The Obama Administration fears backlash from either the forces of Big Oil or the thousands of citizen protesters from environment, climate, indigenous rights groups and midwestern land-water interests.
So, the best case is, Barack Obama says, “You know what? This thing is a bad idea. My foremost climatologist, Jim Hansen at NASA, says that if we tap the tar sands heavily, it’s game over for the climate. That should be enough.” But if he also says, or instead says, “It’s very clear that this process has been completely flawed and that the environmental review that the State Department conducted was a joke, and so we’re sending it back to square one for a fresh, independent review,” well, I think there’s no way this pipeline proposal would ever survive that.
The Environmental Impact Statement submitted by the State Department and supposedly an objective document was completed by Entrix, a client of TransCanada. Hence, no surprise this review declared that a 1,700 mile pipeline carrying diluted bitumen crude oil from the second largest carbon pool on earth would have “no significant environmental impact.” The study should be rejected and sent back for reworking.
Obama Administration officials might require a new pipeline route be assessed that would avoid the most sensitive areas. Further steps might also be demanded to limit greenhouse gas emissions, though considering tar sands bitumen burns three times more carbon than Saudi crude, this could hardly placate the climate protesters. Assessing environmental effects of alternative mitigation measures take months, buying Obama political cover.
As well, the study funded by TransCanada that claimed 20,000 new jobs would be created by the project was found to have used suspect numbers. The reality is that the project will create a few thousand temporary jobs and no more. The only credible study, done by a think tank at Cornell, found no new net jobs, as many postions would be destroyed by the project, including those necessary to create an alternative energy economy, solar panels, sustainable biofuels, wind power, more efficient automobiles, homes and offices. As well, rising fuel prices necessitated by the multi-billion dollar project would also destroy jobs.
The permit process for the $7-billion pipeline has already taken more than three years. Further delays could make the pipeline financially unfeasible for TransCanada and the companies that plan to ship crude through it. A delay in the project would not satisfy opponent complaints about the cozy relationship between the State Department and TransCanada, the issue that thousands of comments went missing last week. On the other hand, the oil industry has argued that if Keystone XL does not get a permit, TransCanada and its clients would develop the oil sands anyway and ship the crude west in a pipeline to the Pacific Coast. But environmentalists contend that there is far too much local resistance in Canada for that to occur.
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