Appearing at the home of an outspoken critic of the Keystone XL pipeline, President Obama on Wednesday night told a group of high-dollar donors that the politics of the environment “are tough.”
Mr. Obama appears to be leaning toward approval of the pipeline, although he did not specifically mention it to the donors. But he acknowledged that it is difficult to sell aggressive environmental action — such as reducing pollution from power plants — to Americans who are still struggling in a difficult economy to pay bills, buy gas and save for retirement.
“You may be concerned about the temperature of the planet, but it’s probably not rising to your number-one concern,” Mr. Obama said. “And if people think, well, that’s shortsighted, that’s what happens when you’re struggling to get by.”
Mr. Obama delivered his remarks to a group that hardly needs to worry economically: Thomas F. Steyer, the hedge-fund billionaire, and his wife, Kat Taylor, along with 100 guests at their home who each paid $5,000 to $32,400. The Sea Cliff home looked out directly over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Presidential decisions often turn out to be far less significant than imagined, but every now and then what a president decides actually determines how the world turns. Such is the case with the Keystone XL pipeline, which, if built, is slated to bring some of the “dirtiest,” carbon-rich oil on the planet from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. In the near future, President Obama is expected to give its construction a definitive thumbs up or thumbs down, and the decision he makes could prove far more important than anyone imagines. It could determine the fate of the Canadian tar-sands industry and, with it, the future well-being of the planet. [continue]
Bring ‘em on. I’m a United States Marine. I’m not afraid of anyone. I’m not afraid of them,” he said. “When I’m done with them, they will know that they’ve been in a fight. I may not win, but I’m going to hurt them.
Texas landowner Michael Bishop, who won a temporary injunction against Transcanada Keystone XL Pipeline. (H/T The People’s Record)
NACOGDOCHES, TX – MONDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2012 8:00AM – Today, four people locked themselves to heavy machinery used along the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline route. They were joined by several others forming a human chain to block the movement of heavy machinery onsite, while more than 30 people walked onto the same construction site to halt work early this morning. Meanwhile, three others launched a new tree blockade at a crossing of the Angelina River, suspending themselves from 50 foot pine trees with life lines anchored to heavy machinery, effectively blocking the entirety of Keystone XL’s path. Today’s Day of Action is in solidarity with local landowners struggling to protect their water and land from TransCanada’s toxic tar sands pipeline.
I’m here to connect the dots between super storm Sandy and the record heat, drought, and fire we’ve seen this year – and this Tar Sands pipeline, which will make all of these problems much worse. And I’m here to connect the dots between climate devastation and pipeline politicians – both Obama and Romney – who are competing, as we saw in the debates, for the role of Puppet In Chief for the fossil fuel industry. Both deserve that title. Obama’s record of ‘drill baby drill’ has gone beyond the harm done by George Bush. Mitt Romney promises more of the same.
In an economically distressed pocket of southwest Detroit known by its ZIP code — 48217 — the weekend of September 7-9 was one of the worst, pollution-wise, residents like Theresa Shaw could remember. ‘I started smelling it on Thursday,’ said Shaw, who immediately suspected the Marathon Petroleum Co. refinery a half-mile from her house. ‘I kept the windows closed because I couldn’t breathe. On Friday, I thought, “What the heck are they doing?” My eyes were just burning, my throat was hurting, my stomach was hurting. I was having migraine headaches. The smell, it was like this burning tar, with that benzene and that sulfur. I wanted to scream.’
Hurricane Tarsandy is coming.
“This isn’t the first time a pipeline company hasn’t even been aware when one of its pipelines starts spewing oil. Just last month, another oil spill in Alberta went undetected for days, eventually spilling 22,000 barrels of oil. And, Enbridge’s massive tar sands oil spill in Michigan in 2010 went unnoticed, with it taking the company 17 hours to respond and shut off the flow of oil.”
Excellent coverage of several oil spills in Alberta.
New analysis of oil industry contributions to members of Congress has revealed the level of the oil lobby’s financial firepower that Barack Obama can expect to face in the November elections if he refuses to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
Obama has until 21 February to make a decision on whether to approve the pipeline, under a compromise tax measure approved late last year. America’s top oil lobbyist warned last week that the president would face “huge political consequences” if he did not sign off on the project to pump tar sands crude across the American heartland to refineries on the Texas coast.
The Canadian government is also on the offensive, with an attack this week on “jet-setting celebrities” opposed to tar sands pipelines. At the same time, TransCanada executives have embarked on a letter-writing campaign.
Now Maplight, an independent research group in Berkeley, California, that tracks the influence of money in politics, has conducted an analysis of oil industry contributions to members of Congress supporting the pipeline.
The study, which [was] published on Wednesday, studied industry contributions to members of the House of Representatives which passed a bill last July that would have forced Obama to speed up approval of the Keystone project.
Today, more than 12,000 people from across the United States and Canada gathered at the White House to call on President Obama to stop the TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. After a rally in Lafayette Square addressed by elected officials, youth climate activists, environmental leaders, climate scientist James Hansen, religious leaders, Nobel Peace Laureate Jody Williams, Naomi Klein, and local opponents of the pipeline from South Dakota, Texas, and Nebraska, the boisterous crowd formed a human chain that completely encircled the White House. The protest, organized by Tar Sands Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, 350.org, and others, appeared to exceed turnout expectations, with the human chain running several people deep in most areas. President Obama acknowledged last week that he will make the final decision on the controversial pipeline — a decision expected before year’s end.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would ship oil from Northwest Canada south through Mid-America to the Texas Gulf Coast has drawn sharp opposition from environmentalists worried about Canadian forests, greenhouse gases, and potential leaks.
But one line of attack is more about economics and geopolitics than land and water. And it strikes at pipeline proponents’ central argument that Keystone XL would buttress U.S. energy security. Opponents contend instead that the pipeline’s petroleum could largely bypass the American markets and be shipped to Asia.
“This is all about taking the oil that’s coming into the Midwest and moving it down to the Gulf Coast, where they have access to China and other markets,” the National Wildlife Federation’s Jeremy Symons told Congress this summer.
Spurred by the provocative analysis of a prominent energy economist, Philip Verleger, the argument joins the already contentious debate over the Keystone XL pipeline. The 1,700-mile, $7 billion project has stalled awaiting approval of the U.S. State Department, which must approve any pipeline built across the U.S. border.
The State Department released its final environmental impact assessment of the Keystone XL pipeline Friday, and it’s just as bad as some feared—perhaps worse. The report concludes, as did two prior versions, that there would be “no significant impact“ on natural resources near the pipeline route, while also downplaying the potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions.
It’s important to note that the State Department assessment relies upon assumptions that the Keystone XL pipeline will operate with a fairly high degree of efficiency and safety—more than the rest of the industry. If that somehow happens, the company alone will be responsible for that high standard, because federal regulators are currently incapable of adequately inspecting pipelines that carry tar sands.
The Department of Transportation’s Cynthia Quarterman recently admitted to Congress that the DOT’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration had not evaluated the risks of tar sands pipelines and she did not know if current safety regulations could address them.
Beyond spills, there’s also the issue of greenhouse gas emissions, which the Environmental Protection Agency estimates to be over 80 percent higher for tar sands than normal crude oils. While the State Deparment report acknowledges that “current projections suggest that the amount of energy required to extract all crude oils is projected to increase over time,” it also says the greenhouse gas emissions from the tar sands might stay flat or even decrease over time.
This analysis relies on industry claims that it will develop refining methods that emit fewer greenhouse gases. Numerous analyses have predicted much higher greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands development. NASA climate scientist James Hansen has written that “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix, it is essentially game over” for reversing climate change.
Again, even the EPA predicts higher-than-normal greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands refining, and it’s important to note that the EPA openly criticized the last environmental impact statement from the State Department, which isn’t much different than the final version.
Despite claims that a final decision is yet to be made, today’s environmental impact assessment virtually guarantees the State Department will approve the project by the end of the year. But environmental activists are not discouraged—and are placing their bets on President Barack Obama.