Salon reports: When President Barack Obama decided in early November to delay a decision on TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline until after the next election, America’s environmental movement celebrated one of its biggest victories in recent memory. And no doubt the news came as a blow to Alberta’s tar sands industry, and to Canada’s oft-stated dream of becoming the next global energy superpower.
But behind activists’ jubilation lurked a somber reality, an untold story with much wider implications. The broader fight to reform Alberta’s tar sands, the one which actually stood a chance of breaking America’s addiction to the continent’s most polluting road fuel, has been quietly abandoned over the past several years. For that we can thank the planet’s richest oil companies and their Canadian government allies, who’ve together waged a stealthy war against President Obama’s climate change ambitions.
Their battle-plan is revealed in more 300 pages of personal emails obtained through a Freedom of Information request to the Alberta government. The story in the emails, reported for the first time here in Salon and The Tyee, Canada’s leading independent online news site, traces a year in the relationship of Michael Whatley, a GOP-connected oil industry lobbyist and his friend, Gary Mar, a smooth-talking and ambitious diplomat at the Canadian embassy in the Washington, DC.
The messages lay bare a sophisticated and stealthy public relations offensive, one designed to manipulate the U.S. political system; to deluge the media with messages favorable to the tar-sands industry; to sway key legislators at state and federal levels; and most importantly, to defeat any attempt to make the gasoline and diesel pumped everyday into U.S. vehicles less damaging to the climate. The goal of it all? “Defeat” Obama’s effort to reduce carbon consumption and keep America hooked on Canada’s $441 billion tar sands industry, no matter what the cost to our planet’s future.
That campaign has largely succeeded too, with only a small group of players any the wiser.
Reuters reports: Environmental opponents of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline aimed to deluge the White House and Congress with phone calls on Friday, slamming a Republican plan to speed approval of the project in exchange for extending a payroll tax cut.
“Red alert – call the White House and tell them not to back down to big oil on Keystone,” environmental activist Bill McKibben said in a tweet. McKibben mobilized some 10,000 demonstrators outside the White House earlier this year to protest the pipeline.
A spokesman for Friends of the Earth said a call for grassroots opposition to the deal generated more than 10,000 phone calls to U.S. senators on Friday.
“We are surprised at the extent to which the Republicans have decided to go to bat for Big Oil here,” said Nick Berning, a spokesman for the group. “We’re urging the Democrats to stand strong with the position they’ve articulated and not to cave.”
House Republicans warned last week they planned to include approval of the Keystone pipeline to a payroll tax cut bill, a challenge to President Barack Obama, who has said he would veto such a bill if the pipeline deal is part of it.
But on Friday, a White House spokesman left open the possibility that Obama might consider approving the legislation to get the extended tax cut.