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American Communities and the World's Climate Will Suffer from Tar Sands Pipeline

Frances Beinecke

Posted September 1, 2011

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This week three NRDC staffers were arrested outside of the White House in protest of the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry dirty tar sands oil from Alberta to Texas. They did this as private citizens—NRDC as an institution does not engage in civil disobedience. I admire how they have put personal actions behind deeply held views.

These three have worked on tar sands issues for years. They have seen firsthand how the tar sands fields are devouring millions of acres of pristine boreal forest in Alberta.

They have heard from the climate scientists who say using oil from tar sands generates three times as much carbon pollution as conventional oil. And they have visited with the farmers and ranchers who live along the proposed pipeline route and fear what the pipeline might do their land, water, and families.

Having been at the frontlines of the tar sands battle, they felt compelled to take the fight directly to the White House.

Environmental activist Bill McKibben has organized two weeks of sit-ins in Lafayette Park to urge President Obama to deny the Keystone XL a permit to proceed.

So far, more than 700 people had been arrested. Many of them live in the communities the pipeline would cut through as it makes it through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. They know a pipeline erupted in the Yellowstone River earlier this summer, and another one erupted last July, pouring 840,000 gallons of tar sands bitumen into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. They don’t want the same disaster to come to their towns.

I can understand their concern. I have seen the suffering fossil fuel accidents leave in their wake. From the Gulf fishermen who lost their livelihoods after the BP oil spill to the Pennsylvania homeowners who can no longer drink their water after fracking operations have contaminated their wells to the Tennessee residents who saw their land covered in coal ash after a dam burst, people around the nation are being asked to pay a too steep a price for America’s addiction to fossil fuels.

We must not let the Keystone XL pipeline bring this same burden to more Americans.

Especially when everywhere pays the price of an altered climate, whether it’s in the form of drought, floods, wildfires, or more powerful hurricanes.

Especially when we don’t need the oil it will provide. Much of it will be exported to Asia, Europe, and Latin America. Meanwhile, Americans will soon be driving more fuel efficient cars. In July, President Obama announced new clean car standards that will reduce oil use by 3.1 million barrels of oil a day by 2030 and cut vehicle carbon emissions in half.

Asking people to risk their homes and their families’ health in order to transport a dirty fuel that intensifies climate change and isn’t needed in our gas tanks is most definitely not in America’s interest. President Obama can prevent more fossil fuel disasters by saying no to the Keystone XL pipeline. 

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Gina VentolaSep 1 2011 06:33 PM

Arrested for protesting? I thought this was a free country! Makes me afraid to stand up for any cause. If I get arrested, I could lose my disability money.

Lisa DanielsSep 2 2011 11:59 AM

Wow and to think they don't have better things to do with our money, but to waste it on non criminals. Shouldn't they be catching real criminals and stop wasting time, space, money on non criminals? How pathetic our country has become. Arresting people for doing something right? Hhmmm sounds about right for America these days!

Rishi AggarwalSep 2 2011 12:47 PM

America got the heores and America got the scoundrels of the first order!

DENCOSep 2 2011 07:31 PM

Obama loves big oil!!!!

hebintnSep 3 2011 01:05 PM

If we must have the oil it has to be more efficient to refine it in Canada and ship it where needed. Wear and tear on pumping equipment that has to pump such abrasive material has to be horrific. These points are in addition to the obvious risks of piping this garbage 2000 miles.

GinaSep 3 2011 08:38 PM

Doesn't NRDC have a conflict of interest taking tens of millions each year from Pew and The Energy Foundation which have ties to big oil?

opitSep 5 2011 02:36 PM

Native Americans are protesting to protect the Ogallala aquifer. Since you are familiar with fracking's destruction and that in the Gulf of Mexico you might be interested in how that relates to war games. Hydraulic Warfare is outlined in Wikipedia. I have expanded on that somewhat by continual acquisition of stories about water supply..
And the files in my Topical Index on Energy and Water have much more related info.
As to Climate Change : I am comfortable saying I know of no reasonable 'proof' or verifiable process which leads me to think we have yet the ability to track future temperatures. It's tough to claim 'science' about something not completely understood and using a model which cannot be shown to produce usable results - yet the hollering that such 'denies science' is a constant din.
'Climate in Contention' lists many articles which people saying such are quick to 'rebut' using Talking Points in the style of the GOP which they are so quick to revile....a political trick and not a scientific technique.
Global had a comprehensive section on such last time I looked.
Regardless of that : are you so trusting as to think the people causing such problems can be trusted to address them ?

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