Thank you to those resisting the Keystone XL pipeline


I want to acknowledge and say thanks to constituents in District 62B and others who are actively involved in protesting the construction of the Keystone pipeline system (“Keystone XL”), and especially those who attended the major rally for climate action today on the National Mall in Washington D.C.

The rally was organized by the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus. It is not surprising that the Board of the Sierra Club broke a 120 year tradition of no civil disobedience to help organize the rally for climate action. If the oil industry is allowed to complete Keystone XL, the project threatens to wipe out the relative progress we have made in the reduction of greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels.

I admit I did not know much about Keystone XL before I ran for office. Thanks to my constituents, and the numerous publications and articles written about the project (a few of which I did read) and the statements made by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (I watched the video) in connection with the rally for climate action, here is what I have learned so far:

  • The Keystone XL will be used to transport synthetic crude oil and diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from the Athabasca oil sands region in northeastern Alberta, Canada to multiple refineries in Illinois, Oklahoma and along the Gulf Coast of Texas.
  • In January 2012, President Obama rejected the application to build Keystone XL, yet on March 22 Obama endorsed building of the southern half of the pipeline that begins in Cushing, Oklahoma.
  • There is more oil in the Alberta tar sands than in Saudi Arabia.
  • Because the tar sands oil is synthetic oil as opposed to light crude oil, its production will create 3 times the amount of carbon that results from the production of light crude oil in Saudi Arabia.
  • “Due to their extreme energy intensity, the tar sands have a higher carbon footprint than any other commercial oil product on the planet. The dirtiest projects burn extreme volumes of natural gas to create steam to melt oil out the ground. These in situ, or steam plants, now use four times more natural gas than mining operations. Some projects are now 10 times dirtier than production of oil in the North Sea.”…

If climate change is not real enough for Congress, maybe some of the economic and environmental impacts of pipeline spills are reasons enough to stop Keystone XL, such as:

  • While Keystone XL will create some temporary construction jobs and about 150 permanent jobs, according to ranchers and farmers the project will eventually cost jobs due to harm caused by spills in pipeline system. (The pipeline will run down the middle of the Oglala aquifer, which provides irrigation to the region where most of our agricultural products are grown.)
  • The oil industry claims that it has the technology to prevent spills, yet we know that the latest technology did not prevent the Exxon pipeline spill last year along Yellowstone River, which destroyed 30 miles of the river.
  • The cleanup of the Kalamazoo River in Michigan continues two years after the Enbridge company’s pipeline ruptured and spilled over a million gallons of tar sands crude oil.…

If you are not able to watch the interview of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., posted at… here is a summary:

  • The biggest barrier to renewable energy (wind and solar) is that we don’t have enough transmission lines to get renewable energy to market.
  • If renewable energy producers have a level playing field they can get their products to market cheaper than coal, oil, gas or nuclear energy.
  • Congress has made it very difficult to build transmission lines. (In the last 10 years, 600 miles of transmission lines have been built compared to 16,000 pipelines built during the same time period.)
  • Although more transmission lines are not a long-term solution, they are far less harmful than pipelines.

So far the President has put off the decision to fully endorse Keystone XL twice and may not make a decision until June. If Congress does not act, will President Obama use his executive power to fight the oil industry’s immense political power (backed by a $100 billion of net profits last year) and its hold over Congress? In his State of the Union speech, the President stood before Congress to say:

… if [you] won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.

Stopping Keystone XL may have to be one those executive actions taken by the President.

Again, thank you to all who are organizing political pressure to stop Keystone XL.