The right wing has long maintained that America should reduce its oil dependency on the Middle East. Considered the root of the last war in Iraq and a compelling reason for Gaddafi to hold on so tightly to power over Libya’s oil fields, Republicans have pushed through a series of catastrophic measures to secure their own oil supplies in the United States. But this time, some of the country’s most respected scientists and environmental activists are risking arrest to fight the latest such folly.
Fast-tracked for presidential approval by the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Panel, the $7 billion Keystone XL Pipeline poses one of the greatest dangers humanity has ever experienced. The 1500 mile pipeline would transport heavy crude oil (or bitumen) evacuated from Northern Alberta’s tar sands to Texas refineries. If burned, this heavy crude oil would release up to 82% more carbon emissions into our atmosphere than conventional oil. More emissions = more erratic climate changes = worsening quality of life for everyone. One hundred and fifty protestors have already been arrested in Washington D.C., where they are putting pressure on President Obama to make good on the promises that got him elected.
The man America elected in 2008
The man who convinced the American public while campaigning for President that he would fight to clean up the country’s appalling environmental record but has since signed off an array of ruinous coal and oil exploration projects, Obama has to approve the bill that would allow TransCanada to build a pipeline that scientists say would set off a massive carbon bomb.
Second only to China, America produces more carbon emissions than any other country (though the UAE produces more per capita.) And the American dream of having more cars than any one family needs, eating an endless supply of food shipped across the world, and wearing the fanciest clothes stitched together by poor people living in substandard conditions has encouraged many developing countries to pursue a similar model. None of this can happen without oil and most of us are completely hooked.
This relentless addiction to oil has given multi-billion dollar corporations the perfect excuse to pursue increasingly-risky (and profitable) programs to supply the demand that has pushed carbon levels in our atmosphere well beyond the 350 parts per million that scientists agree is safe for earth. This addiction is also behind the devastating famine in East Africa, rising temperatures in the Middle East, and floods in Pakistan that displaced millions of people.
But if President Obama approves the Keystone XL Pipeline, we will beg to have today’s comparatively comfortable weather patterns returned to us.
World-renowned climatologist Jim Hanson explains that if Alberta’s 300 billion barrels of tar sands oil are released into the earth’s atmosphere, we are effectively signing our own death sentence. Since we share an atmosphere, President Obama has the power in his hands, right now, to decide whether we in the Middle East (and others in Europe, Africa, Antarctica, South America, and Australia) have a future. That’s a lot of pressure to put on one man.
The weight of the world
It would be an easy call if special interest groups and the right wing weren’t holding a political gun to the President’s head. Politically, Democrats risk seeming weak on domestic security if they don’t approve this pipeline, but we’ve seen in the Middle East that environmental pressures will eventually create even more serious security risks.
Consider the economic insecurity associated with stronger hurricanes (Irene is heading for the East Coast as we go to press), more drought in Texas, an equally dry Mexico and subsequent influx of desperate immigrants. And what of the country’s nuclear power plants, two of which were shut down after yesterday’s earthquake in Virginia that was felt as far north as Toronto, Canada? Do we want another Fukushima disaster on our hands?
Oil industry people will worry about the loss of income that would result from an energy independent America, a valid concern, except China will be happy to step in and buy up all of our oil. That’s not enough to convince leaders in the Middle East to pressure Obama to make the right decision. But climate change should.
Jordan and Yemen are running out of water. Israel will rely almost exclusively on desalination in the next two years, and the UAE and other Gulf countries already do. These are just a few of the problems we have to confront as a warming planet wreaks havoc on our climate. Each year, we set new records for high temperatures in a region that is already almost unbearable during summer. Do we really want TransAmerica Pipeline, other rich oil barrens, and the American right to decide an even more miserable future for us?
1.15 Billion tons of CO2
The Guardian reports that the Australian Government released a study called the Critical Decade Report which showed that humanity has a chance of surviving if we can keep this century’s carbon emissions below 1 trillion tons. Just 20% into the decade, and we have already released 300 billion tons or 30% beyond what is sustainable (and continue to produce more oil-hungry humans at an exponential pace). In 50 years, the Keystone XL Pipeline alone is expected to release a further 1.15 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, so that Americans don’t have to pay reasonably high prices at the gas pump, eat less food, or focus their collective attention on developing renewable energy alternatives.
Bill McKibben from 350.org, who we have interviewed on Green Prophet, is behind one of the largest civil disobedience efforts to take hold of America in far too long. He and other career scientists have been arrested for blocking a road to the White House to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.
One has to think: what would cause hundreds of America’s most reserved and studious citizens to risk having a criminal record? Probably only something incredibly serious. We ought to take note, and we ought to give them our support.
More on 350.org and the fight to curtail carbon emissions:
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