This column started with my cell phone’s ring. A recorded voice told me to call Secretary of State John Kerry and ask him to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline – to create jobs and cheap energy. No name was given.
I was inspired to realize that if some nameless party has enough money to blanket the country with these calls, the issue must be urgent.
I already knew it was urgent. In fact I remembered years ago when the question of this Pipeline went to NASA climate scientist James Hansen, he said the Pipeline would be “game over for the planet.” Hansen is not just any NASA scientist. He was the first to predict that climate change would be caused by the excess carbon from our industrial world. And as record drought, fire, typhoon, flood, hurricane and temperatures prove he’s right, we can be proud he’s from Iowa!
So I explored to see what might inspire all this money supporting the Pipeline. It was confusing, of course. The XL Pipeline is actually Phase 4 of a pipeline that started in 2008. Three earlier phases are now in use. They move crude oil from the tar sands of Hardesty in Alberta, Western Canada down to refineries in Nebraska, Illinois, Oklahoma and Texas. They’re owned by a company called TransCanada – very important to that company as a route to warm harbors in the U.S. Gulf and world markets beyond.
Controversy abounds. Opposition is strong in Nebraska because the Pipeline would cut a long route across ranch and farm land and near the vulnerable Ogallala Aquifer. Questions about that route caused President Obama to delay approval back in 2011. The Nebraska District Court just found the current proposed route unconstitutional because of the risk to water and land – and people. And a crowd of 35,000-50,000 gathered near the Washington Monument last year to protest the Pipeline.
TransCanada promises it would create 20,000 jobs while a study from Cornell University says XL would bring only 2,500 to 4,650 temporary jobs – and would eventually reduce employment.
Studies commissioned by the State Department as to the environmental effect see no evidence of environmental impact, but that’s not reliable because the firm that did the report has connections with TransCanada. The New York Times recommended against the Pipeline because even by State Department calculations it will add to climate change problems. What actually makes the Pipeline so dangerous for the environment is largely the tar sands source. Producing crude oil from tar sands generates three times the global warming pollution of conventional crude because refining low grade tar requires vast amounts of water and energy. While Canada is taking steps to make the process cleaner, and while the environmental effect of tar sands petroleum continues whether the U.S. approves or not, a “yes” to this project further opens the spigot on a climate-change process instead of moving full speed toward developing alternative energy sources to give us earthlings a livable future.
And my phone call? Who’s spending money to promote the Pipeline? The petroleum industry. They get government subsidies even as they earn record profits – and yet they want more access to petroleum sources. They pay nothing for the carbon waste they give our atmosphere.
So my call to Secretary Kerry in this “comment period” will urge, “Say NO to Keystone XL. Remember Obama’s call to become ‘the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil.’" And it’s bipartisan – President Bush warned of our “addiction to oil” !!