There was a gathering of the tribes in Washington yesterday to give support – also known as political cover – to President Obama so that he can just say “No!” to the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline and, by extension, Canadian tar sands development. Why should he say no? The pipeline would enable the expansion of one of the world’s most environmentally destructive projects and that expansion makes no sense if we are to reduce our carbon footprint and, as President Obama has vowed, turn the tide on the climate crisis. The President said, in his State of the Union address last week: “…for the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change.” He went on to say that “…if Congress 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.” What better action could he take than to deny the Keystone XL permit? It is a mystery to me how, at this late date, and with this administration driving to decarbonize our energy economy, the question even remains.
168 organizations, spearheaded by groups like 350.org and the Sierra Club, saw 40,000 activists and their friends and family descend on the nation’s capital for the Forward on Climate Rally. I think those 40,000 were very much joined in spirit by millions more from the US and Canada, and beyond. Indeed, InsideClimate News reported that “In about 18 cities from Boston to Los Angeles, thousands more participated in solidarity rallies—and helped garner unusual nationwide media attention for an issue that has typically slipped under the local media radar.”
The Washington Post reported that Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said: “We are going to have the president’s back and he is going to have our back.” That is the story, for my money: We need to let the President know that concerned environmentalists helped elect him, twice, and that we are going to do everything we can to advance a progressive agenda on climate and energy. We think he wants this too. We think it’s the right thing to do.
There is a very good article today in the NY Times about the flip side of the coin for Obama. He can do the right thing, as far as protecting the environment, advancing a smart agenda on clean energy, and standing up with the people who have stood up for him and with him, or he can succumb to the business-as-usual political pressures from the Canadian government, the oil special interests, and big construction unions. “This is a tricky political challenge for the president,” says Michael A. Levi from the Council on Foreign Relations in the article. Maybe.
The NY Times article would have you believe that Canada is full tilt for the tar sands and the pipeline. Well, that is certainly true of the present, very Conservative government. The Canadian ambassador has practically been having a stroke over the mere suggestion that the US could reject the pipeline. The Hill reported the other day that this worthy “believes the press is doing a lousy job covering the proposed Keystone XL oil sands pipeline that Canadian officials are urging the Obama administration to approve.” (Shades of Nixon: Blame the media for your ills.) What the good ambassador may not want you to know is that the Canadian people themselves are very much split on the question of tar sands development.
So, I encourage you to drop the President a line. Encourage him and his new Secretary of State, John Kerry, a climate hawk if there ever was one, to reject the pipeline. We can do better. The Canadians will get over it. It will, at the end of the day, just make all of our jobs easier in mitigating the climate crisis. Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club said in his speech: “President Obama holds in his hand a pen and the power to deliver on his promise of hope for our children. Today, we are asking him to use that pen to to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and ensure that this dirty, dangerous, export pipeline will never be built.”