How the 99 percent beat Keystone XL

Jamie Henn writes: On Thursday afternoon, President Obama announced that the State Department will be sending plans for TransCanada’s controversial Keystone XL pipeline back to the drawing board. Most analysts think the 12- to 18-month delay will cause enough cost overruns and missed contracts that TransCanada will have to scrap the project altogether.

Keystone XL was going to be another fuse to the largest carbon bomb in North America: the Canadian tar sands. The tar sands are the dirtiest fuel on the face of the planet, and our top climate scientist says fully exploiting them could be “essentially game over” for the climate. We haven’t defused the bomb yet, but fighting Keystone has taught us a lot about how to dismantle it.

This fight started in indigenous communities in Canada and quickly spread down the pipeline route to ranchers in Nebraska and farmers in Texas. National environmental groups picked up the beat a while back. But it was the bravery of 1,253 people that transformed Keystone XL from a regional fight into the most important environmental question facing President Obama before the 2012 election.

For two weeks this August, one person after another was led away from the White House in handcuffs protesting Keystone XL. The sit-in united a uniquely diverse movement, from consummate D.C. insiders to indigenous leaders to Tea Party supporters. I was arrested on the second Wednesday with an architect from Philadelphia, a lawyer from National Resources Defense Council, and Darryl Hannah.

From those 1,253 people, the movement quickly spread. Protests met President Obama at nearly every public campaign stop. Groups of 50 to 100 people started visiting Obama for America offices to say, “We’re not going to donate or volunteer for your campaign until President Obama lives up to the promises he made in 2008, stands up to Big Oil, and kills this pipeline.” Hundreds of people were arrested in Ottawa to turn up the heat on the Canadian government. And this Sunday, more than 12,000 people surrounded the White House in a Keystone XL protest.

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Comments

  1. I live in Alberta, where once again, greed has overwhelmed intelligence. The TV stations all run about screaming “the sky is falling”; politicians and oil industry heads predict the end of the world (the end of their greased-palms world); the public is blind to the dire consequences of magnifying the present carbon dioxide bombs at Fort McMoney and thinks they are being cheated.

    Cheated out of what, one wonders. A high proportion of the jobs were going south, and since the Alberta workers, by and large, amount to people from other parts of Canada who couldn’t make it there, the benefits of the jobs were bound to be exported anyway. The claims on modest development of the resource to share with future generations counts for nothing with people who want everything NOW. They do not consider that digging up the ground beneath their feet is not a sustainable lifestyle. Alberta 2101 or so will be a very poor backwater when the world has moved on from a carbon economy.

    But one thing should be mentioned to straighten out the environmentalists. Alberta is a very big place, and though I have driven across the moonscapes around Ft. McMurray I have driven in a thousand percent more boreal forest that has no recoverable tar sand beneath it. We owe a debt of gratitude to the aboriginal peoples who have lit up the whole of North America through their protests and that alone obligates our concern and support for their loss of homeland, but the loss of control over our atmosphere is a far greater disaster.

    There are other ‘tar sands’ around the world, Venezuela has a bigger deposit than Alberta –the world’s oil shales have an equivalent oil recovery of 3 trillion barrels — against Saudi Arabia’s mere 260 billion. Killing the Keystone XL is the keystone of our attempts to kill all these future carbon bombs.