Saturday, May 21, 2011

Double, double, oil and trouble

As usual, the hardly-extreme position of wanting to look after the planet--and protect our ecosystems, not to mention our food and water supplies so as to save our own hides as well as leave our grandchildren a decent place in which to live--is under attack. Make that, undergoing a full-on assault.

It needs to be said, again, that opponents of clean energy policy, responsible climate-change policy--indeed, any and all initiatives to educate Americans about climate change and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, period--are the ones behind a significant amount of the attacking, insulting, and discrediting of President Obama that's been going on for as long as he has been in office. (That much of it is also fueled by racism at the base level means it's that much easier for the oil giants to garner support in their attacks on the president--surely you didn't think it was all about his being a secret Kenyan Muslim usurper?!)

At the top of the list of offenders are the reviled Koch brothers and their monied front groups, like Americans for Prosperity, as well as the libertarian and conservative think-tanks they help fund, like the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis.

Despite their open and despicable attacks on the president, the Koch Brothers, who stand to benefit in a big way, would like nothing more than for him to give the Keystone XL Pipeline his blessing. From ClimateProgress:

The Keystone XL pipeline, awaiting a thumbs up or down on a presidential permit, would increase the import of heavy oil from Canada’s oil sands to the U.S. by as much as 510,000 barrels a day, if it gets built.

Proponents tout it as a boon to national security that would reduce America’s dependence on oil from unfriendly regimes. Opponents say it would magnify an environmental nightmare at great cost and provide only the illusion of national benefit.

What’s been left out of the ferocious debate over the pipeline, however, is the prospect that if president Obama allows a permit for the Keystone XL to be granted, he would be handing a big victory and great financial opportunity to Charles and David Koch, his bitterest political enemies and among the most powerful opponents of his clean economy agenda.
And yes, in case you were wondering, it's not just a pride thing, not just a matter of holding grudges against people who smeared you--the pipeline's environmental threats are very real and rather jaw-dropping in their enormity.

The Keystone XL Pipeline would cut through six states; its presence and operation would threaten 2,000 miles worth of American homes and farmlands. This is dirty tar sands oil we're talking about, and its ill effects are much worse than those associated with conventional oil. From Friends of the Earth:
Pollution from tar sands oil greatly eclipses that of conventional oil. During tar sands oil production alone, levels of carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher than those of conventional oil, due to more energy-intensive extraction and refining processes. The Keystone XL pipeline would carry 900,000 barrels of dirty tar sands oil into the United States daily, doubling our country's reliance on it and resulting in climate-damaging emissions equal to adding more than six million new cars to U.S. roads.
How risky would it be? Very.
The XL route touted by (Alberta Premier Ed) Stelmach also passes through an active seismic zone that had a 4.3 magnitude earthquake as recently as 2002. In spite of this danger, the proponent TransCanada has applied to the U.S. government to use thinner steel and pump at higher pressures, saving the company as much as a $1 billion.
Furthermore, the Keystone XL pipeline, if permitted, would put many of the native people living in the northern part of the continent at risk, as pipelines have, in the past, poisoned their sources of food and water which in turn led to spikes in certain cancers and other ailments within their populations; moreover, it would threaten a vast swath of the High Plains Water Table, on which nearly 2 million Americans depend for drinking water (er, Homeland Security? Can you put down the blue rubber gloves for a moment and pay attention to some real, documented threats to our safety?) From Futurism Now:

The State Department considers pipelines carrying the world’s dirtiest oil into the United States to be matters of paramount national interest. To this administration, as with the last, pretty much everything can be a matter of national interest or national security when it is about oil. Bombing Libya was also a matter of “national interest” to Hillary Clinton, and so have been other dirty tar sands pipelines, like the Alberta Clipper pipeline that she approved, to be built in my state. These pipelines are also matters of eminent domain, because the government seizes privately owned land and builds the pipelines across them. Homeowners, land owners have no choice in the matter. All for some of the world’s worst oil representing the world’s worst environmental degradation in Canada.
So where do plans for this pipeline stand right now? A bill supporting it, the North American-Made Energy Security Act of 2011, is currently being circulated in draft form and will be aired publicly when the House Energy and Power Subcommittee convenes on Monday. From yesterday's Reuters feed:
WASHINGTON— Environmentalists understand why so many House Republicans are gung-ho about upping imports of oil mined from the tar sands of Western Canada.
What puzzles them is why Michigan Rep. Fred Upton has emerged as one of the cause's lead GOP cheerleaders. [...]

No doubt the former centrist's embrace of fossil fuels has tightened ever since he took charge of the influential House Energy and Commerce Committee in January. Even though the Democrat-led Senate is less likely to back such a measure, Upton's grip is alarming to conservationists who know how much power his panel wields on Capitol Hill.

"What this bill is doing is perpetuating myths about the tar sands that the Alberta government, the Canadian government and the oil industry want us to believe," Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, an oil sands specialist with the Natural Resources Defense Council told SolveClimate News in an interview. "It's a way for them to promote their own products at the expense and well-being of the American people."

And then, toward the end of the article, one encounters that omnipresent Cerberus of high-ranking power, political campaigns, and lobbyists' influence. Weep along with me for a brief moment, gentle readers, and then waste no time in contacting your Congresscritters:
Upton and his committee, it turns out, aren't the only ones prodding the State Department to meet a specific deadline.

After waiting five months for department officials to release possible communications between TransCanada chief lobbyist Paul Elliott and Clinton, four environmental and ethics organizations sued the State Department Wednesday.

TransCanada hired the native New Yorker as its government relations director more than two and a half years ago. He served as a presidential campaign manager for Clinton in 2008.

Earthjustice, a public interest law firm, is representing Friends of the Earth, the Center for International Environmental Law and Corporate Ethics International in the lawsuit.

"This raises important questions of transparency and fairness," said Sarah Burt, an Earthjustice attorney. "If a decision to approve a transcontinental pipeline is made based on relationships and access to Clinton, while completely overlooking the significant environmental and public health dangers posed by the pipeline, the public needs to be aware of it."
To find your House reps, click here.

And please, sign the petition to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking her to deny approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

(H/T--and thanks--to my Mum)

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