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Elizabeth Shope’s Blog

20 Scientists call on President Obama to block Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and invite public to join protests

Elizabeth Shope

Posted August 4, 2011

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Yesterday, 20 scientists led by Dr. James Hansen released a letter to President Obama asking him to block the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, concerned about the environmental impacts of developing the tar sands. They write:

When other huge oil fields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the Earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy—and that we leave the tar sands in the ground.

The group of scientists includes the founder of the Woods Hole Research Center; professors at four Ivy League universities; and a professor from Montana – one of the states which Keystone XL would traverse. Their fields include climate science, oceanography, ecology, and hydrology.

In their letter, the scientists not only express that this pipeline is not in the national interest, but also include a call to action: “We hope those so inclined will join protests scheduled for August and described at”

On June 22, Bill McKibben along with ten other prominent “elders” from the United States and Canada published an open letter inviting the public to participate in civil disobedience at the White House to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline. This scientist letter is the third letter that has followed calling people to participate in the protests.

On July 5, a group of local leaders from Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC brought the tar sands issue home, writing: 

This development is doubly tragic for the Maryland, Virginia and DC area. That’s because, as a region, we are right on the cusp of developing our own major new energy resource: offshore wind power. Indeed, there is enough clean, harness-able wind power off the coasts of Maryland and Virginia to power millions of electric cars – forever. With zero pollution.

And on July 20, a group of over 2 dozen Executive Directors from environmental, religious and social justice organizations discussed some of the local issues as reasons to protest the pipeline:

The demonstrations, which may involve some peaceful civil disobedience, are designed to persuade the administration to block plans for the so-called Keystone XL pipeline. That pipeline will run from the tar sands of the Canadian province of Alberta down to Texas. It raises great risks from leaks and spills along the way, and it damages indigenous lands; native leaders and local farmers and ranchers have mounted spirited protest along the way.

The Keystone XL pipeline is a bad plan from start to finish: it would cause environmental and health problems where the tar sands are extracted, along the pipeline route where the extra corrosive acidic oil would put America’s heartland at risk of catastrophic oil spills, and in the already-polluted Gulf Coast communities where this dirty oil would be refined. Not to mention, it would actually raise gas prices – and all so that Big Oil can have access to a port from which to export the tar sands around the world. You can help stop this dangerous pipeline right now by taking action at

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