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.