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Why I Got Arrested at the White House to Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Eco Watch / News Report
Published: Sunday 17 February 2013
The pipeline is a conduit to the past. Rather than deepening our addiction to fossil fuels, it’s time we did what presidents reaching back to Richard Nixon have called on us to do and reduce our dangerous dependence on oil.
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Today, Natural Resources Defense Council and Waterkeeper Alliance will join 350.orgSierra Club and many other partners in holding the Forward on Climate Rally in Washington, D.C. This will be the largest climate rally in American history, with tens of thousands of people expected. From rejecting the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to limiting carbon pollution from our nation’s dirty power plants, President Barack Obama’s legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis.

It is striking how tar sands and the Keystone XL pipeline have brought people together around concern for our water and climate. In Canada, communities such as the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Beaver Lake Cree are fighting to protect their health, waters and lands from the leaking dams of toxic waste and the destruction of strip-mining for tar sands. In British Columbia, more than 100 First Nations have taken a strong stand against tar sands pipelines crossing their land and waters. In Nebraska, ranchers such as Randy Thompson—who was arrested with me at a White House protest this week—are saying no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Water and climate walk hand in hand with threats as big as the dirty energy path of tar sands. A dirty energy future means trading our water for tar sands, and that is not a choice any of us want to make.

It takes two tons of tar sands—strip-mined or drilled from the forest floor—to produce a single barrel of tar sands bitumen, a low-grade, high-sulfur crude oil that must be extensively refined to be turned into fuel. Producing bitumen generates three times the carbon pollution of producing conventional North American crude oil. And the additional refining required to turn this crude into fuel only makes matters worse. Tar sands producers have already destroyed an area the size of Chicago creating an industrial wasteland of toxic sludge dams in the heart of Canada’s boreal forest, one of the last truly wild places on Earth and the traditional territory of Aboriginal communities who have lived on these lands for thousands of years. If it continues, the total sacrifice area will be as large as the state of Florida.

Its proponents argue that we must build Keystone XL because the tar sands will be developed anyway. This is not true, and even industry insiders in Canada understand that the expansion of tar sands production is not inevitable and actually closely tied to whether or not the Keystone XL project is built. All currently proposed alternatives to move tar sands to a deepwater port for export face problems. Both of the proposed tar sands pipelines to the Canadian west coast are stalled. The Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline is highly unpopular and faces legal opposition from sovereign Aboriginal communities. A senior petroleum advisor recently said: “I personally don’t think Northern Gateway will go through anytime soon or if it ever will.” If Canadians oppose tar sands pipelines running through their backyards, there is no reason Americans should take on this risk. Efforts to move tar sands to the Gulf Coast through Keystone XL and to the U.S. East Coast for export are being met by similarly strong levels of public opposition.

The oil industry claims the pipeline will create tens of thousands of jobsIt won’t. The pipeline would create, roughly 6,500 construction jobs, very few of which would be local hires, according to the U.S. State Department. A Cornell University study concludes that the pipeline would actually kill more jobs than it would create, by reducing investment in the clean energy economy that already employs 2.7 million Americans. What this all comes down to is a startling willingness to take risks with our health and our children’s future in order to help the oil industry rather than the American people. In this case, we are being asked to take the risks of oil spills and climate change. More risks for fewer jobs. That doesn’t sound like a sound way forward for the American economy to me. And many in business agree—as long as they are not in the oil industry.

The pipeline would cut through the heart of the Great Plains, land of more than 250,000 ranches and farms, putting our croplands and food producers at risk of oil spills across the American heartland. The route crosses the precious Ogallala Aquifer, where millions of Americans get their drinking water. Further, Keystone XL would cross more than 1,500 waterways, from the Yellowstone River in Montana to Pine Island Bayou in Texas, threatening them with the kind of accident that dumped almost 1 million gallons of tar sands oil in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River in 2010, in a spill that has been the most expensive onshore pipeline disaster in U.S. history. And we can’t rely on the safety record of a company such as TransCanada, whose first Keystone pipeline to the Midwest experienced over a dozen leaks and spills just in its first year of operation in the U.S.

The pipeline would terminate at Texas refineries and ports along the Gulf of Mexico. From there tar sands crude could be exported anywhere in the world. Indeed, that’s part of the business plan for some of the companies that have promised to buy the oil, turning tar sands into diesel for export. Military experts advise that the Keystone XL pipeline would perpetuate our deadly oil dependence and will not make us more secure.

The pipeline is a conduit to the past. Rather than deepening our addiction to fossil fuels, it’s time we did what presidents reaching back to Richard Nixon have called on us to do and reduce our dangerous dependence on oil.

What’s more, the president has both the authority and the responsibility to limit the amount of industrial carbon pollution emitted from power plants—which accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s carbon pollution—under the Clean Air Act. Taking this action will set the right course for reducing carbon pollution domestically and send the right signals that the U.S. is ready to lead globally. NRDC has laid out a common-sense plan that will cut carbon pollution by 26 percent by 2020, provide jobs to thousands of Americans, and save families up to $700 a year in electricity bills. This low-cost, big-benefit plan tailors state-wide carbon targets to each state’s energy mix, lets power companies choose the most cost-effective means to reach the target, and drives investment in energy efficiency so consumers can light, heat, and cool their homes and run their businesses with less electricity. These standards will bring Americans as much as $60 billion in public health and environmental benefits in 2020, at a reasonable cost to the utility industry of $4 billion a year to clean up smokestacks and promote energy efficiency —about 1 percent of utility revenues. That’s a great return on investment for our future.

So join us Sunday in Washington at the Forward on Climate rally to say no to dirty fuels, no to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, yes to carbon limits on dirty power plants, and yes to climate leadership. We deserve better than a dirty energy boondoggle.

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ABOUT Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a litany of successful legal actions. Kennedy was named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River. The group’s achievement helped spawn more than 190 Waterkeeper organizations across the globe.

I look at the Keystone

I look at the Keystone Pipeline, Fracking, vast GMO (soybean, corn, and... eventually alfalfah), CAFO (large poultry, pig, beef -- shit farming operations) as an ALL and ALL attack on the United States and the AmerICAN people. We know that ALL these factors are BAD for the environment, consumption, live stock and basically the whole food/water supply system. So is it just Crony greedy capitalists or is it something more insidious with underlying motivation that is working at making the United States unsafe, a failure?
The new trend in INVESTMENTS & ownership across the high global financial networks is Water. The four basic elements: FIRE (energy), AIR, EARTH, Water are systematically being threatened and OWNED by a small percentage of the population - WHY? Shouts of de-regulation are continually heard ...tied to the word Jobs or Economic Growth. It's a perception that's pervasive that that protecting our enviroment is LESS important or doesn't go hand in hand with proper and ethical stewardship of the land and those living on it.

If we know power corrupts, why are we continually putting in corruptable people in powerful places or people in corruptable positions of power without limits and protection for the 'Common Good' for all life. We accept Lobbyists and Congressional bribery as a token of the 'Job'. We accept minor fines in the face of REAL Jail time and Business Closures for Too Big to Fail.

Did we loose WWII to the elite American Nazi's livng here? and are they still plotting our demise? Some with vast acreage in South America to run to when the US has it's major environmental catastrophe.

When will the LIGHT shine on us again to do the RIGHT thing the FIRST time and for ALL TIME? How do we FIX our Government to work for the 99% that want to live, love and pursue happiness in creating AMERICA -- the land of the > FREE <.

jackwenayscott's picture

Good article, Mr. Kennedy,

Good article, Mr. Kennedy, and there's another protest against "things the way they are", my little pictures of model Solar Cars found on Facebook by searching Jack Scott. Those of us too old and disabled to be in D.C. have been rooting for you, hoping the President will pay attention to our emails and pleas for the life of planet Earth! Anyone can buy a few little Solar Panels on the internet and begin your own community protest agains L.A. oil-coal authority by putting together a little solar project that works! L.A.-TV hates 'em! ......(heh, heh)

Mr. Kennedy, Please continue

Mr. Kennedy, Please continue your efforts on behalf of our earth and its future as a planet in our universe.

Please run for office.

Please run for office.

Kennedy is spot on with all

Kennedy is spot on with all counts. A point that's not receiving adequate news coverage is that two recent reports by credible Australian and U.S. researchers, show that renewables are now economically competitive with fossil fuel for power generation! Why is this not banner new headlines?

The implications of this could hardly be greater. The shift of investment capital from fossil plants to renewables would be tremendous -and the workforce needed for the new technologies would receive training that would take them -and America, into a new age of prosperity.

My brother is at the march

My brother is at the march today along with millions of others who want to see us fully invested in energy efficiency and renewable energy BEFORE we expand our use of fossil fuels any farther. Thanks, bro, I'm with you in spirit. And now I need to go and get back to work on building my Passive House that will demonstrate you can stay warm in winter even in cold cloudy Michigan without heating your home with fossil fuels, including utility grid electricity.

According to Greg Palast the

According to Greg Palast the reason the Koch brothers & friends want to pump the tar sands to the US Gulf coast for refining is that they already own refineries specifically designed to handle heavy crude, which is what the tar sands turn into after treatment with a cocktail of chemicals.

Right now those refineries are being used to refine Venezuelan heavy crude, and it would cost a mint to retrofit the refineries to handle lighter Texas crude.

And here's the kicker - the refined venezuelan oil is now being sold throughout the Caribbean, and doubtless that's where the refined tar sands would be sold. Not one drop is destined for the US market. There would be NO benefit to anyone in the US .. except the Koch brothers and their investors.


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The Koch Brothers, Hugo Chavez and the XL Pipeline

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