The planet is heating up fast – a scientific study published last week reveals global surface temperatures are the hottest they’ve been in 4,000 years, with the rate of warming over the past century greater than any temperature trend over the past 11,000 years.
And as the Earth heats up, so does the national debate surrounding the Keystone XL oil pipeline.
President Barack Obama is expected to make a decision within the next few months on whether or not to allow the 875-mile northern leg of TransCanada’s pipeline – running from Alberta, Canada into Montana and down through Nebraska – to be built. Keystone XL requires the President’s executive approval because it crosses the U.S – Canadian border.
Pres. Obama, who initially delayed a final decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election, will make his decision based on recommendations from the U.S. State Department.
The state department released its Environmental Impact Statement on the $3.3 billion dollar pipeline project two weeks ago. The report contends the pipeline would have no significant environmental impact and states that approval or disapproval of the project “is unlikely to have a significant impact on the rate of rate of development in the oil sands.”
If approved by Pres. Obama, Keystone XL would transport 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The state department’s Environmental Impact Statement follows in the wake of the largest climate rally in history, when over 40,000 people gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C. to demand that Pres. Obama stay true to his words about responding to the threat of climate change by first using his executive authority to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The rally was organized by the climate non-profit group 350.org in partnership with the Sierra Club, the Hip Hop Caucus and more than 160 other partnering organizations.
Lexington, Mass., resident and Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein attended the Feb.17 Forward on Climate rally. In a pre-rally press event, she described herself as a proponent of real climate solutions, not simply an “all of the above” energy approach favored by Pres. Obama.
“The climate does not like all of the above. The climate does not like fossil fuels, whether you counterbalance it with renewable energy or not. Fossil fuels are deadly for the climate, so it’s very important that we not create new forms of fossil fuel energy,” Stein said in remarks to The Beacon.
U.S. Representative Richard E. Neal (D-Mass.) holds a different view: “I strongly support Pres. Obama’s ‘all-of-the-above’ energy strategy that seeks to develop every source of energy in the United States. His policies have helped increase our energy security by reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil.
“In fact, domestic oil and natural gas production has reached its highest levels since 2003. And tens of thousands of jobs have been created in the process.”
The congressman did not explicitly state his stance on the Keystone XL pipeline, saying instead, “I agree with Secretary [of State John] Kerry that we must respect the process being conducted by the professional at the State Department before making a final judgment.”
However, Rep. Neal did bring up the pro-pipeline point that approving Keystone XL would help promote U.S. relations with Canada.
“As a college student, I participated in the first Earth Day,” he said. “I have been endorsed by groups like the Sierra Club because of my work in Congress to preserve and protect our environment.
“And in recent years, I have seen tornadoes, hurricanes and floods damage communities across Massachusetts. Climate change is an issue I take very seriously. But I am equally concerned about maintaining a good relationship with Canada, a loyal ally and our largest trading partner.
“It simply would not be in the best interests of the United States if Canadian oil is sold to China. So I agree with Sec. Kerry that we should let the professionals do their job. It is too important of a decision to be made hastily.”
Sec. Kerry has yet to make his recommendation regarding Keystone XL to Pres. Obama, but one candidate hoping to fill Sec.Kerry’s vacant Senate seat in Massachusetts appears to be among those not in favor of the pipeline.
While Ed Markey’s senate campaign could not be reached for comment on the issue, the campaign website does state, “Ed’s also taken on the Republicans’ ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ campaign by opposing the Keystone XL pipeline and helped prevent drilling in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.”
The Keystone XL pipeline decision is solely in the hands of Pres. Obama, and the stakes could not be higher.
As Dr. Stein explained at the Forward on Climate rally, “We’re teetering on the brink right now…Between the heat waves and the storms, the droughts, the rising price of food, let alone the accelerating rise of oceans, we are in very serious trouble with less than one degree Centigrade [of warming], and we’re looking at already at least four to six degrees this century. So we’re basically kissing it goodbye, right now.
“I think it’s a really good time to reevaluate our strategy here…The least evil is still going to kill us. There may be a difference between Democrats and Republicans, but it’s not enough to save our lives, to save our jobs and to save our planet.