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Keystone XL Tar Sands Protests: A Moment in Our History

Rocky Kistner

Posted February 5, 2014

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Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr at the Keystone XL vigil       Photo: Rocky Kistner/NRDC

Several hundred Keystone XL tar sands pipeline protesters gathered in Washington DC’s Lafayette Park Monday night, familiar territory for one of the biggest environmental fights in history. It was one of nearly 300 protests and vigils that took place across the country, just days after the release of the U.S. State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that reported the pipeline could add as much carbon pollution as 5.7 million cars a year.

An enthusiastic crowd of people young and old braved cold temperatures to send a message loud and clear to the White House: no to 830,000 barrels a day of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet, a toxic river of crude that would pour across the Canadian border through America’s agricultural heartland to refineries in the Gulf, much of it for export; no to the ravages of global climate change that would be exacerbated by the expansion of carbon-heavy, boreal forest-killing tar sands mining operations in Alberta that are the largest in the world; and yes to a clean energy future.

Here’s how the Hip Hop Caucus’ Rev. Lennox Yearwood, Jr, put it to a raucous crowd chanting and clapping in the chilly night air:

This day now becomes a day of history…and the next generation will look upon this day with all of us gathered around this wonderful country of ours to say that we must transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and we must do it right now!

It was an emotional speech, a reminder that people still have the power to stop even the most politically-influential special interests from getting their way in Washington. My colleague Elizabeth Shope described it this way in her blog yesterday:

The outpouring of energy in opposing Keystone XL was inspirational, though not surprising – as the climate-wrecking pipeline has garnered tremendous opposition for years, with over 1,200 people getting arrested in front of the White House in sit-ins in August 2011 protesting the pipeline; over 10,000 people rallying and encircling the White House in November 2011; thousands coming back to Washington, DC to rally in November 2012; over 40,000 people braving sub-freezing temperatures in Washington, DC in February 2013 to call on President Obama to move Forward on Climate, and events in all 50 states this past September 2013 calling on President Obama to Draw the Line and say no to Keystone XL.

Protesters at the Keystone XL vigil in DC                 Photo: Rocky Kistner/NRDC

The battle over Keystone will continue, as the State Department enters its next phase of pipeline review of National Interest Determination, and other federal agencies have time to weigh in. This fight is still a long way from the finish line.  Keystone XL has become a rallying cry to protect the climate and our health, a moment in our history that can send an critical message to the world: it's time to cut carbon emissions and stop feeding the most environmentally destructive project on the planet. Join us to say no to Keystone XL, and fight for a cleaner, healthier future. We have the power to make a better way.    


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James Singmaster, III, Ph.D.Feb 6 2014 02:11 PM

BEST altenative for us is MAKING THE SUN OUR SOLE ENERGY-POWER SOURCE. This can be achieved with several steps.
1. By splitting water with a catalyst and sunlight to get hydrogen, the clean fuel, as reported in several articles in Science from AAAS and one in The New Yorker in May, 2012. President Obama and his Sec. of Energy seem totally unaware of the report in Science, Dec, 2012 pg 1341-4 as that ought to be getting attention as the best action for clean energy-power. In a report, Energy Sec. Moniz, soon after being appointed, claimed fossil fuel energy would have to be our prime energy source for some decades.
2. By using pyrolysis on our mounting biowaste messes including separable solids(95%+ cellulose) in sewage to get an expelled fuel mix. That mix is also usable for refining to get various organic chemicals to make drugs, detergents, paints etc. without oil. If we do not get such action going soon, our kids are going to be buried by ever growing biowaste messes. Or be burned off earth slowly by CC/GW due to increasing CO2 levels being caused by naturally occurring biodegradation. Charcoal is also formed thus stopping reemission of some CO2 to lower CO2 level on earth. This charcoal may have some plant nutrients and might serve as a fertilizing supplement for plants.
3. By planting millions of trees to take up more CO2, and in time, getting them into a pyrolysis program as well. About 50% of the carbon becomes charcoal to bury resulting in a CO2 removal action to lower CO2 levels in the biosphere to be reducing CC/GW. However the charcoal might serve to smelt iron ore instead of using messy soft coal, a major source of mercury pollution due to coking process. Such a program could get started now using bark beetle infested trees dying in the Pacific NW and could be combined with planting new trees other than attacked trees. In time the new trees can be cut down and sent to pyrolysis plants, and the expelled fuel-chemical mix provides a saleable product to underwrite the operation.
James Singmaster, III, Ph.D. UCDavis, 76, Environmental Chemist, Ret.

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