- "Keystone" – the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of a masonry arch which is the final piece placed during construction and locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight.
- “Keystone XL Pipeline” – the final piece in a skyscraper of carbon pollution which locks in catastrophic global warming at levels that humans cannot bear.
President Obama should not approve the 1700 mile Keystone oil pipeline stretching from the tar sands of Alberta to the gulf Coast of Texas. Click here to take action to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Producing oil from tar sands is a dirty business. First, it requires the stripmining of the boreal forest, home to the rare and threatened woodland caribouand the nesting ground for millions of the ducks and songbirds that wing their way over the United States every year. After stripmining these precious forests to dig up the tar, oil companies then must burn natural gas for the heat needed to cook the tar until oil separates from the sand. Such an unconventional process results in an unconventional level of greenhouse gas emissions – roughly twice as bad as conventional oil. Mowing down the boreal forest also removes the capacity of the carbon sink to absorb excess gases and store them safely out of the atmosphere.
There are many voices in today’s national political chorus for whom this is not an issue. They discount the existence of global warming or the urgency of acting now. A broad consensus of scientific thought and evidence is warning these voices that they are putting our country and the world at grave risk, but they are stridently anti-science in their ignorance.
The Environmental Protection Agency has yet to comment on the latest State Department analysis, but just last June it took the State Department to task for underestimating the potential greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands. The State Department attempts to minimize the impact of Keystone by comparing its emissions to global emissions. EPA notes that such comparisons, if dispositive, would guarantee global warming disaster – that is, if every project were considered insignificant, the accumulation of all such projects would be catastrophic.
The pipeline will cross 70 rivers and streams, including the Missouri, Platte, Yellowstone, and Arkansas. It crosses aquifers on which millions of Americans rely for drinking water and agricultural irrigation. The threat of pipeline leaks and spills is real. There have already been numerous leaks on the existing sections of the Keystone pipeline. Oil spills will have long-lasting, devastating impacts on the health and livelihood of communities, wildlife, and landscapes. The pipeline will also deepen our oil addiction just when the American public is starting to think about alternatives. It is also clear that Valero, a big oil company at the end of the pipeline, intends to export some – perhaps a lot –of the product from its refineries in Texas to places like China and India.
But the heart of the matter is that this project facilitates the use of an energy source that will shorten the habitability of planet Earth. As NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen has said: “exploitation of tar sands would make it implausible to stabilize climate and avoid disastrous global climate impacts.”
Former president Bill Clinton once observed that "Climate change is more remote than terror, but a more profound threat to the future of the children and the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren I hope all of you have."
Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton once showed a similar understanding of the global threat of carbon pollution. In Iowa in 2007, she declared that “the climate crisis portends drastic changes to our way of life. The last two decades of the 20th century were the hottest in 400 years. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that 11 of the past 12 years are among the warmest since 1850. Rising sea levels along the coastal United States could cost $170 billion in the coming decades.”
As Secretary of State Clinton flew to Copenhagen in 2009 and promised the United States would help raise $100 billion annually by 2020 to assist poor countries in coping with the devastation to be expected from climate change.
And President Obama has demonstrated repeatedly through his legislative and executive actions, his appointments, and his words that he understands the unprecedented looming catastrophe of global warming and it threat to Americans and the world.
Yet Secretary of State Clinton, who is expected to decide the issue before the end of the year, recently indicated that she is “inclined” to approve the pipeline. This would leave President Obama in the position of either reversing the decision of his own State Department or reversing course on global warming.
The buck stops with the president. Fighting global warming with tar sands is like fighting a fire with a flame thrower. It is nice to have a president who knows that this is the wrong way to go. Do we have a president who will protect us from it?