I went to a cool little rally last evening here in New York City. We were standing across from the David H. Koch theater at Lincoln Center to say “No!” to the KXL. We were there, of course, because the Koch Brothers have been the principal funders in recent years of any number of reactionary organizations, including Americans for Prosperity and ALEC, not to mention the Tea Party itself. Of course, they have a serious vested interest in the Canadian tar sands. By the time I left, we had a good 200 or so people out on a cold night. The excellent folks at 350NYC organized the rally and we knew that there were scores more across the country at the same time.
We were there to highlight the importance of President Obama vetoing the pending legislation from Congress. The Republican-led House of Representatives has already passed a bill that would override the ongoing process, mandated in law, for the State Department to review the project. (Because it’s a pipeline that crosses an international border into the US, the State Department is the lead agency for review.) The Secretary of State is required to gather all the materials from the Environmental Impact Statement, and whatever other input he may request, and then make a recommendation to the President. It is, appropriately, an exhaustive process. State received over 2.5 million comments on the EIS.
Nevertheless, the blowback as the US tries to decarbonize its economy, however slowly and with however-many fits and starts, is enormous. The Republican Party – the only major political party on Planet Earth that denies the reality of climate change – along with fossil-fueled Democrats from the likes of West Virginia, Texas, North Dakota and Louisiana, want to keep the floodgates wide open for more oil and coal, and so want to make a loud statement that a pipeline carrying some of the dirtiest oil on earth is in the best interests of this country. (Forget the planet. That’s not even a consideration for these yokels.)
Given the retrograde direction of American politics at the moment, fueled so abundantly by Koch money, we now have Jim Inhofe, the US Senate’s leading troglodyte – and that’s saying something with that bunch – as the chairman of the Environment & Public Works committee. The push is on for a companion to the House bill. It will get something like 63 votes.
There’s a strong counter-movement to the total carbonization of the American economy, not only in the US Senate, but also among the public. In the Senate, people like Sheldon Whitehouse and Bernie Sanders have been standing up to the Denialists. My other favorite leading national female elected official from California, Barbara Boxer, has been working for sanity on the environment and climate change for years. (John Kerry was perhaps the leading climate hawk in the Senate before he became Secretary of State.)
So, to make a long story short, the Senate will pass its Keystone override in the next couple of weeks, and the President is poised to veto it. A strong statement to that effect came from the White House last week. After that, the process will play itself out, with the President making a final decision when he considers all the facts from State and other agencies, and after due deliberation. It wouldn’t make any sense, at this point, to approve the pipeline, for any number of reasons. The President himself has called it into question a number of times. He even used the expression “tar sands” in his landmark speech on climate a year and a half ago. That’s a signal of his skepticism, to be sure.
At the end of the day, if demand destruction keeps going for oil, and the prices continue to spiral down, then the numbers will not look good for the tar sands and the KXL. The ever-pellucid reasoning of Amory Lovins is brought to bear on precisely this aspect of the subject: What If Congress Threw a Keystone XL Party and Nobody Came?
(For an update on the rallies in all 50 states, see this from 350.org.)