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Amy Goodman
NationofChange / Op-Ed
Published: Friday 15 February 2013
The president made significant pledges to address the growing threat of climate change in his speech. But it will take more than words to save the planet from human-induced climate disruption, and a growing, diverse movement is directing its focus on the White House to demand meaningful action.

Historic Tar-Sands Action at Obama’s Door

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For the first time in its 120-year history, the Sierra Club engaged in civil disobedience, the day after President Barack Obama gave his 2013 State of the Union address. The group joined scores of others protesting the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which awaits a permitting decision from the Obama administration. The president made significant pledges to address the growing threat of climate change in his speech. But it will take more than words to save the planet from human-induced climate disruption, and a growing, diverse movement is directing its focus on the White House to demand meaningful action.

The Keystone XL pipeline is especially controversial because it will allow the exploitation of Canadian tar sands, considered the dirtiest oil source on the planet. One of the leading voices raising alarm about climate change, James Hansen, the director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, wrote of the tar sands in The New York Times last year, “If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.” New research by nonprofit Oil Change International indicates that the potential tar-sands impact will be even worse than earlier believed. Because the proposed pipeline crosses the border between the U.S. and Canada, its owner, TransCanada Corp., must receive permission from the U.S. State Department.

Among those arrested outside the White House was Julian Bond, former chair of the NAACP. Bond said, “The threat to our planet’s climate is both grave and urgent. ... I am proud today to stand before my fellow citizens and declare, ‘I am willing to go to jail to stop this wrong.’ The environmental crisis we face today demands nothing less.”

Two weeks of protests at the White House in the summer of 2011 led to the arrest of 1,252 people. Later, in November, thousands more joined to encircle 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., calling for denial of the Keystone XL permit. Days later, President Obama announced he would delay the decision until 2013, after the election. He later granted permission to build the southern leg of the pipeline, from Oklahoma through Texas. That decision sparked protests from landowners and environmentalists, including a nonviolent direct-action blockade campaign in Texas, with people chained to pipeline equipment and occupying land with tree-sits to halt construction.

Early in the permit process, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was inclined to approve the pipeline, even though the State Department’s mandatory review was incomplete. Controversy erupted when The Washington Post reported that TransCanada’s lobbyist for the pipeline in D.C., Paul Elliott, was a senior staffer on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, headed by Obama-appointee Lisa Jackson, had been critical of the pipeline. When Jackson resigned unexpectedly late last December, the New York Post reported, based on an unnamed “Jackson insider,” “She will not be the EPA head when Obama supports it [Keystone] getting built.” Jackson’s spokesperson denied the allegation.

Obama’s new secretary of state, John Kerry, weighed in on Keystone XL after his first official meeting with a foreign dignitary, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird. Kerry said: “Secretary Clinton has put in place a very open and transparent process, which I am committed to seeing through. I can guarantee you that it will be fair and transparent, accountable, and we hope that we will be able to be in a position to make an announcement in the near term.”

In his State of the Union address, Obama gave hope to those concerned with global warming, saying, “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change. ... We can choose to believe that Superstorm Sandy, and the most severe drought in decades, and the worst wildfires some states have ever seen were all just a freak coincidence. Or we can choose to believe in the overwhelming judgment of science—and act before it’s too late.”

This Presidents Day weekend will see what is expected to be the largest climate-change protest in history, called Forward on Climate. One hundred thirty-five organizations are participating, including the Sierra Club, the Indigenous Environmental Network and 350.org. The Sierra Club is one of the world’s largest and most powerful environmental organizations. Its decision to participate in civil disobedience signals a major escalation in the movement to stem climate change, reviving the words of the Sierra Club’s first president, John Muir, who wrote in 1892, “Hoping that we will be able to do something for wildness and make the mountains glad.”

© 2011 Amy Goodman
Distributed by King Features Syndicate



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ABOUT Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is the host of "Democracy Now!," a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America. She is the author of "Breaking the Sound Barrier," recently released in paperback and now a New York Times best-seller.

bcbossarte's picture

Talked with a Canadian down

Talked with a Canadian down vacationing who works for the pipeline. Said the pipeline got the 'go ahead ' early January . China has bought one of the big tar sands processing companies in Canada. You think Obama isn't going to officially go with it. He is a puppet, the elitists want it all and will do what ever is necessary. To many people in the decision process are going to make a lot of money when this is done. Our built up military supports whatever is asked and our militarized local police feed into it on the local level.
The 99.9% need to decide when enough is enough and reclaim America. All those who have committed treason in office need to go to jail.

I have been following the

I have been following the debate about the pipeline for a long time. I have several questions that have not been answered by the coverage. If the US kills the pipeline, won't it be built anyway - just routed thru Western Canada or somewhere else? If so, what good does our rejection do. The pollution is more in the extraction process rather than the transporation. So if we reject it, have we done much for the environment. Instead, can't the U.S. exert it's influence by striking a bargain that says we'll allow the pipeline if they follow clean energy practices - and back it up with the threat to turn off the pipeline if they fail to live up to their end of the bargain? Wouldn't that be better for the environment in the long run - regardless of political borders? And wouldn't that give us a lot of leverage against them once the pipeline is built? I'd like to see a discussion of these points on Amy's program.

Susan123, there are many

Susan123,
there are many issues associated with the Keystone pipelines, and your questions are certainly valid. I would recommend you read the overview at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keystone_Pipeline

Note that the original Keystone pipeline is already delivering Canadian tar sands crude oil to refineries in Oklahoma and Illinois. The issues now are (1) a second pipeline known as Keystone XL, which would take a different route from Canada and connect to Keystone in Nebraska, and (2) an extension of the Keystone from Oklahoma to the coast of Texas.

The combined effects of XL and the extension are (1) more tar sand oil refined in the U.S., and (2) more U.S.-refined tar sand oil shipped out of Houston by tankers, a lot of it to other countries. It is this last point that makes the issue so maddening. Having done so little for so long to reduce dependence on oil, the USA is more dependent on it than ever. And having done nothing to curtail the siphoning of our wealth by international corporations and the mega-rich who run and largely own them, the average American is oblivious to the fact that they will be selling the Texas-refined oil to the highest bidder.

All the while they reap the profits, more greenhouse gas will be pumped into the atmosphere, and we will pay the consequences.

Again - we need to require an

Again - we need to require an "emergency response escrow fund" of $20 Billion paid up front by the Kochs. - yes - BILLION. Based on the costs our government fronted for BP - and that repayment doesn't appear to have included interest. Beyond that - Obama and the DOJ NEED TO START PROSECUTING THE CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR OF THESE 'BUSINESS PEOPLE." - Let's include in the legislation that any executive caught (as the BP executives were) in collusion that leads to a spill, GO TO PRISON. IT IS ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE THAT THOSE WHO ARE TRYING TO SAVE THE CLIMATE - AND BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN DAMAGES FOR STORMS LIKE SANDY - SHOULD BE ARRESTED WHEN THE EXECUTIVES AT BP - WHO WERE PROVEN TO BE COLLUDING TO COVER UP PROBLEMS THAT LED TO PEOPLE DYING - WENT SCOTT FREE!!! THEY WERE LET OFF WITH BP PAYING "PENALTIES" - that they will probably write off their taxes. This was a CRIME folks. People DIED - and EXECUTIVES OF THESE COMPANIES NEED TO BE AS LIABLE FOR PRISON AS THE BERNIE MADOFF'S OF THIS WORLD. FRAUD IS FRAUD. MURDER IS MURDER. - Oh - and pehaps FEMA ought to send the bill for Sandy to the Kochs...

Got an email yesterday

Got an email yesterday regarding 3 young adults who had in an act of protest temporarily "locked" themselves up in a section of the keystone pipeline. Before they were arrested they noticed that there were numerous pinholes right at the weld of that section of pipe which begs the question how many more of those similar sections have gotten buried already. BTW, that one was buried, as is. also.

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