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Why I Am Joining the November 6 Action against the Keystone XL Pipeline

John H. Adams

Posted October 20, 2011

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On November 6, I will be leading a group of NRDC members and experts to the White House. The last time I visited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, I had the honor of receiving the Medal of Freedom in recognition of what NRDC and the environmental movement have achieved in the last 40 years. On this visit, I want to focus on the future, not the past. 

My colleagues and I will join thousands of concerned citizens and together we will peacefully encircle the White House in one large ring. We want to send a message to President Obama: We oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and we stand behind the president’s effort create a clean, 21st-century energy system for America.

This will be a new experience for me. In the four decades since I helped found NRDC, I believed the best way for me to defend the environment was as a lawyer, using the legal and scientific strengths of the organization in courtrooms and government buildings.

Adams PMoF (Credit Anthony Clark_NRDC)-2900.jpg

Yet with gridlock in Washington and climate denial on the campaign trail, I believe a different kind of action is needed—one that gets feet on the ground.  I want to be counted as a citizen. I want our elected officials to know that I am one of millions of Americans who believe the future of our nation lies in clean energy, green innovation, and sustainable growth. 

Tar sands oil and the Keystone XL pipeline have no place in that future.

Tar sands strip mines are destroying a wonderful and vibrant part of Canada’s Boreal Forest. This ancient forest was once teeming with caribou, wolves, and millions of songbirds. Now tar sands operations have been devouring these wildlands; full development of tar sands could eventually affect an area the size of Florida.

The destruction doesn’t end there. Turning tar sands into crude oil generates three times the global warming pollution of conventional crude. Burning it in our cars and trucks releases even more.

Building the Keystone XL pipeline—which would haul up to 900,000 barrels of this filthy fuel a day—would cement the devastation of the boreal forest and escalation of climate change.

Massive infrastructure projects like this last for decades. If President Obama approves it, this tar sands spigot won’t be turned off until after my grandchildren are grown. We cannot afford another 50 years of dirty fuels and unchecked carbon. If we want to shield future generations from the pain of climate change, America must stop sinking money into dirty energy infrastructure. Now.

When I started working to stop climate change more than two decades ago, I knew it would take time to build political will for change. What I did not anticipate was the eleventh-hour push to prolong our oil addiction in every conceivable way.

Companies are going to the ends of the Earth. They are drilling miles under the Gulf of Mexico, they are clamoring to get into the Arctic Ocean, and they are injecting untested fracking chemicals into rock formations, groundwater reserves, and families’ backyards. The Keystone XL pipeline is just one more nail in the coffin.

We don’t need to drain the Earth of every fossil fuel. We have plenty of cleaner ways to power our economy. This summer, President Obama proposed new clean car standards that will cut automobile carbon emissions in half. By 2025, new cars and light trucks in this country will go about twice as far, on average, on a gallon of gas. This will save Americans $1.7 trillion in fuel costs and reduce our oil dependency 12 billion barrels of oil by 2030.

This is the kind of innovation America should be investing in right now, not a tar sands pipeline that will lock us into decades of pollution.

It’s time to do what President Obama has urged: “end the tyranny of oil.” I believe our era will be remembered for what we did to address global warming. The President’s decision on the Keystone XL will be a key bellwether: did we prioritize the cleaner path or did we endorse the fuel that would sink us deeper into the climate crisis?

On November 6, I will be one of many citizens urging President Obama to make the right choice. Our plan for encircling the White House has never been done before, but it will be a completely legal and peaceful event. I hope you will support this effort. You can sign up to join us here, or you can send a message to the President at



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DavidOct 20 2011 12:37 PM

A few months ago I also realized it was time for a new and different approach to get our voices heard. Which is why I answered the call to the August 2011 tar sands action in DC and is why I will November 6th.

klemOct 21 2011 10:03 AM

The media will give it almost no coverage. Good luck with this.


Kate ZirpoloOct 21 2011 12:31 PM

First, I want to say I wish I could be with you.
Second, in the paragraph that starts: 'Tar sands strip mines are destroying a wonderful and vibrant part of Canada’s Boreal Forest. '; the word you want is teEming, not teAming.

Sandra DeneaultOct 25 2011 03:00 PM

We do not want to DESTROY OUR FORESTS I urge you to listen to us the people who pay TAXES it is our money STOP feeding the GREED to OIL .

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