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The New York Times, the 'paper of record' comes out strong against President Obamas approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.  In a Sunday editorial "When To Say No" the Times states that: "A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem."

In the State Departments recent assessemnt of the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline, it does not consider the long term environmental impacts of releasing the vast stored cache of tar sands on climate change.  

To its credit, the State Department acknowledges that extracting, refining and burning the oil from the tar-laden sands is a dirtier process than it had previously stated, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions roughly 17 percent higher than the average crude oil used in the United States. But its dry language understates the environmental damage involved: the destruction of the forests that lie atop the sands and are themselves an important storehouse for carbon, and the streams that flow through them. And by focusing on the annual figure, it fails to consider the cumulative year-after-year effect of steadily increasing production from a deposit that is estimated to hold 170 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered with today’s technology and may hold 10 times that amount altogether.

It is these long-term consequences that Mr. Obama should focus on. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.


The State Department will release a fuller review in early summer, and at some point after that the White House will decide. That decision will say a lot about whether Mr. Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, are willing to exert global leadership on the climate change issue. Speaking of global warming in his State of the Union address, Mr. Obama pledged that “if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will.” Mr. Kerry has since spoken of the need to safeguard for coming generations a world that is not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts and other destructive forces created by a changing climate.
Keeping the vast reserves of tar sands oil in the ground is an essential component in mitigating the worst effects of climate change.

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Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 05:53 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots, Dream Menders, Canadian Kossacks, and Climate Hawks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  How did this sneak past the censors? (4+ / 0-)

    Since the NYT is just another mouthpiece for our corporatist overlords, how did this editorial even get printed?

    Is this just a red herring to throw us off the trail?  To lull us into a false-sense of security with their seeming solidarity only to throw us over the moment Obama inevitably approves the pipeline?

    Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

  •  Another reason the XL is bad for us (17+ / 0-)

    Another reason why we don't want the pipeline:

    It would carry 830,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to pipelines in the United States and then onward to refineries on the Gulf Coast. From there, most of the fuel would be sent abroad.
    Like the rest of the extraction industry, they just can't resist the temptation to produce as much as possible, as fast as possible.

    The price of oil for North America is called WTI and is $90.98 a barrel right now. The price of oil for them (abroad) is called Brent and is $109.77 a barrel. That's why the Canadian tar sands producers want to pipe it down to the Gulf — so they can sell it at a higher price! We get nothing out of this deal but higher prices. The Brent price will fall if the XL comes online, and the WTI will rise as these two equalize.

    It's a globalist wet dream. 'Free trade' at the expense of the little people. The globalists could care less about climate change, unless it's profitable.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 08:13:33 AM PDT

  •  thanks for diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Quasimodal, elwior, beach babe in fl

    you got email on related issue!

    "It is in the shelter of each other that people live." Irish Proverb

    by Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 08:27:55 AM PDT

  •  the frigging grey lady!! Woot! (11+ / 0-)

    who would have expected after their recent cut back on so much of their eco coverage

    Great way to wake up this am, beachbabe:)

    •  Grey Lady Eliminates Green (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Don midwest, elwior, jam, beach babe in fl

      The editorial is a good step but the retreat from enviro coverage is a failure of corporate and journalistic responsibility of the highest order.

      I saw Justin Gillis speak a few months ago about his long-term series on climate science and his plans for another long-term series on climate solutions in the pages of the NYTimes and wonder whether those stories will see the light of day.  Being a cynical person, I also wonder whether the NYTimes started retreating from green because they knew focusing on solutions would mean calling out some powerful corporate and political players.

      Solar is civil defense. Video of my small scale solar experiments at solarray.

      by gmoke on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 11:00:45 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I will be pleasantly surprised if he says no (7+ / 0-)

    But seeing how the president has expanded drilling on land and sea, his handling of the BP disaster, hanging out with oil execs during the protests, I'm not holding my breath.

    •  NOT holding my breath (6+ / 0-)

      until he actually decides against this pipeline, call me a

      You'd think that he would care about the future of his daughters and grandchildren to come, but his actions
      ( NOT HIS WORDS ) say otherwise. As a wealthy man & one who will be much richer when he leaves The White House, he must feel that his family will be immune to the calamitous predictions for our planet.

      Hopefully proposed demonstrations by Bill McGibbon & 360 will have some influence.

      We must be the change we wish to see in the world. - Gandhi

      by left of center on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 08:52:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I know how you feel (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elwior, beach babe in fl

        but this is a little too much

        he must feel that his family will be immune to the calamitous predictions for our planet.
        He's many things I don't admire, but he is not as callous as this. He's also not stupid.

        Inspiration is hard to come by. You have to take it where you find it. --- Bob Dylan.

        by figbash on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 10:02:58 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You don't have to be (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Quasimodal, elwior, blueoasis

          stupid to have enough arrogance, hubris to believe that you and yours are immune from calamities and disasters. If your ideologically invested in disaster capitalism and the inevitable invisible hand of the market you tend to look at the disasters your sociopathic ideology is causing as an opportunity to create some more wealth and power.  "The world as find it' said Axelrod. These people who 'own the place' are just another variation on 'Manifest Destiny'. Hillary cracked a joke about how if the ice melts in the arctic it will open up new fields for drilling. Perhaps their belief in the inevitable blinds them to cause and effect. Maybe they are just psycho's who don't give a shit about the future as they are wired to the corporate hive mind set that only deals with short term profits and winning the race to the top? Since when has any power mad would be rulers of the world ever let a little thing like the survival of humans stop them from scorched earth.  After all they are doing God's work.          

  •  Obama cares about climate change (5+ / 0-)

    as a tool to be used in a speech. Like everything, expect the opposite of his words.

    I didn't abandon the fight, I abandoned the Party that abandoned the fight...

    by Jazzenterprises on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 09:15:48 AM PDT

  •  Money talks (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It wouldn't hurt our cause(s) to concentrate on lining up the big money that could be on our side. It's become clear that we're going to need it.

  •  We must continue to raise the public pressure. (5+ / 0-)

    By raising the issue of Keystone we raise awareness of climate change.  I'm not overly optimistic that Obama will decide against it being built.  I am optimistic that Keystone no matter which way it is decided is serving to heighten awareness of the urgency of climate change with the public.  There is a Keystone principle emerging which is basically saying:  Keep fossil fuel in the ground.

    If we really want to straighten out all this crap we really need to think about shit - Holy Shit.

    by John Crapper on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 09:41:53 AM PDT

  •  I'm just curious as to (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, chimene, beach babe in fl

    what the legal basis would be to saying no. It can't be that the tar sands themselves are a disaster. We have no jurisdiction over that.

    The analogy to me is the situation Cape Wind saw itself in. The small Massachusetts coastal town where the offshore electrical cable was going to make landfall tried to block the project because they didn't like the wind turbines. I don't remember the details but some court said that they had to judge the project on its own merits, not those of what it was connected to.

    Where does PBO hang his hat? Is there a legal basis for stopping climate change?

    Just to preemptively stop any disparaging comments - I work in renewable energy and think that the project is a complete and utter environmental and climate disaster. I just don't know how he gets this done so that it doesn't get overturned at some judicial level.

    Thirteen men can't tell The People what is Constitutional and what isn't

    Conservative "constitutional scholar" referring to SCOTUS

    by jam on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 10:19:33 AM PDT

  •  Anyone who thinks killing this pipeline (0+ / 0-)

    Will have any effect on climate change is an idiot. It's about reducing consumption of carbon producing energing and increasing green sources of energing. It's not about one production field. Going after XL will be seen as the US treating Canada unfairly and in response will build two pipelines to the west coast and sell more to China than it would to the US. To spite the US, Canada will prove it was a dumb ass move. What Obama needs to do is end all oil subsidies, and use the EPA to implement a carbon tax and use the billions of dollars to subsidies clean sources (solar, wind, wave). While the world gets off oil, the US can get off oil from the middle east, is that so bad?

    •  well, Smartest (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      greenbastard, elwior

      all oil is not created equally. The EROEI of oil sands is 3 as opposed to regular crude which is 20. That means that they are  almost 7 times as polluting than regular oil. That is, um, non-trivial.

      Thirteen men can't tell The People what is Constitutional and what isn't

      Conservative "constitutional scholar" referring to SCOTUS

      by jam on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 11:35:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  No, it's 17% worse than conventional crude (0+ / 0-)

        You are flat out wrong and don't understand EROEI. Which is the VALUE of the Energy Produced and the VALUE of the Energy Used to produce it. Do you see pollution in there? The emissions and the dirtiness "math" can be worked out but the EROEI number in itself says nothing about pollution, it's about economics. It's not a direct correlation.

        EROEI Fact: Recognizing energy = cost, producing Tar Sands oil is not as energy efficient as drilling for oil, but more energy efficient than oil shale.
        Traditional oil development is estimated today to have an EROEI of about 15. The EROEI on Tar Sands is about 5. But even then, this is not to say it's 3 times worse as a polluter, it's just three times less economically feasible than drilling. It just means it's cheap to drill (when you can find it) and more expenesive to do Tar Sands. So don't try to tell us EROEI is about polluting, IT IS NOT!
        According to environmental impact statement."The State Department assessment does acknowledge that excavation of the Canadian tar sands oil would result in 17% more climate change emissions than the average barrel of heavy crude oil." So according to that it's not even one times worse , it's less than 1/5th worse. You say 7 times worse of a polluter, I say 1/5th and I have facts on my side.

        BTW, Canada thinks all your fracking is bad for the environment and the drilling in the gulf too. When are you going to stop that because Canada wants you to? Let me know, till then, you don't have much of a right to tell another country to shut it's fossil fuel industry down. Understand how that works? If you want to block XL, maybe Canada should stop selling you any oil and get it all to China. Sign a 100 year deal that commits not a drop to the US, even in times of war. Do you want to play this game?
        As I said in another post the better strategy is to tax the fossil fuel industry to reduce consumption and use the revenue to subsidize green energy. Some of you people are stuck on looking at that pipeline. It's a capitalist economy (world wide) and it's a waste of time to stop that pipeline. By all means, work towards reducing consumption in a number of ways, I'm with you.

        This site, "shut down the tar sands" recommends leaving low ERORI energy in the ground (especially for now), so I bet their numbers are better than your terrible understanding of EROEI.

        •  yeah, um, no.... (0+ / 0-)

          You have a common misconception of EROEI - mistaking "energy cost" for "energy dollars." I've read some of the seminal papers by Hall - they were originally about fish migration and energy gathering activities and energy expenditure activities. He uses the expression "energy cost" in an ecological sense of "how much energy must fish spend to migrate upstream?"

          (note: Hall uses EROI but I prefer EROEI. Some researchers are using EROI to mean it in the sense that you take it - classical financial Return on Investment.)

          In the 1970’s ecologist Charles Hall coined the term “Energy Return on Investment” (EROI), with originally a focus on migrating fish (e.g., Hall [1]). In the 1980s, Hall, working with Cutler Cleveland, Robert Kaufmann and others, extended the concept to seeking oil and other fuels. The concept had been around in the anthropological (e.g., Lee [2]), economic (e.g., Georgescu Roegan [3]), and ecological (e.g., Odum [4]) literature for some time, although it was expressed as “net energy.” The difference is that EROI is the unit-less ratio of energy returned from an energy-gathering activity to the energy it takes to provide that energy, and net energy is the difference left over after the costs have been subtracted from the gains. Net energy can be useful but also misleading: it may be very large for a very large but poor quality resource (i.e., oil shales) that allow a large net from huge resources subject to slightly less huge costs. Alternately when used with EROI it can help assess a resource from both perspectives.
          So, in fact, the EROEI is about energy. Cost and pollution are both highly correlated, but the ratio is energy. It is, in fact, just as much about pollution as it is about cost.

          From YOUR reference:

          A lower EROEI has a direct relationship to the amount of carbon dioxide released by the fuel as it impacts global warming. You have to add in all of the carbon dioxide released by the production process to gauge the total impact a fuel source has on global warming.
          The "17% worse" number is well to wheels - not comparable to EROEI. EROEI is, essentially, well to pump. Once the oil is refined and sitting in the tank ready to be used, it's all the same - fungible. It's the extraction process that is that much worse. So, in one sense, you were correct, I was exaggerating the life cycle impact. The extraction is significantly worse than regular crude. 5 to 15, 3 to 20 somewhere in there lies the truth.

          As far as the rest of your rant is concerned - straw man, all of it. I've not stated any beliefs that would put those facts in evidence, so I'll ignore it.

          Thirteen men can't tell The People what is Constitutional and what isn't

          Conservative "constitutional scholar" referring to SCOTUS

          by jam on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 07:59:45 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Fact is (0+ / 0-)

            Your insatiable addiction is going to put several States under Water and Canada, all of it, more habitable. Since much of  the extra pollution is all about the steam production, and that can be produced from dirty of clean sources... Oh never mind, it's not worth it. It will go to the US or China, Alberta does not care. But my hunch is Obama will say it does not matter where we get our oil, it matters how much we consume and so XL goes ahead.

            There is a great effort to kill the pipeline and I think there is a great effort to make that oil look dirtier than it is. You are doing a FOX on it.

            •  ok, so you would like to move the goal posts, fine (0+ / 0-)

              I can't tell where you live. You refer to Americans as both "you" and "we" in the same paragraph. In any event, painting all of us with the same brush is ... whatever, you don't give a shit about the environment. You just want to scream at the wind with vague generalities.

              By the way, you show that you don't really understand energy anyway since the vast majority of oil use - about 90% - has nothing to do with "steam".

              Transportation - 50%
              Heating oil - 27%
              Lubricants, plastics, chemicals - 12%
              Electricity - 11%

              Thirteen men can't tell The People what is Constitutional and what isn't

              Conservative "constitutional scholar" referring to SCOTUS

              by jam on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 10:33:38 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Steam (0+ / 0-)

                We were talking about Tar Sands, the production of steam has everything to do with oil production there. I guess you don't know how oil is produced from the deposits. Should you be commenting on this stuff? If I keep saying the EPA should put a carbon tax on it, how can you say I don't care about the environment?

        •  more (0+ / 0-)

          Here is a description of a report where they are back calculating EROI using energy intensity to convert dollars to energy units.

          The 2007 SUNY ESF study also estimated the EROI of imported oil to the U.S. This is done differently from a conventional EROI analysis and is different for each importing entity. For the U.S. the EROI of imported oil (crude and refined) is measured not simply as the energy required to bring the oil to the surface as input, or that to transport it to the recipient, but rather as the energy cost of goods and services that must be used to generate the items of trade necessary to generate the foreign exchange (dollars) used to purchase the petroleum, that is to trade for that oil in energy for energy units [19]. Such a calculation also requires the use of energy intensities to convert dollars to energy units. Therefore the authors are again forced to assume that a cost in dollars reflects the cost in energy. This is especially relevant to the subject of imported fuel since the EROI can change dramatically as the relation between the price of oil and the goods and services exported over seas go up and down.

          Thirteen men can't tell The People what is Constitutional and what isn't

          Conservative "constitutional scholar" referring to SCOTUS

          by jam on Tue Mar 12, 2013 at 08:16:16 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Is this a deal you would except? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elwior, the fan man

    I believe a recent court decision makes it possible for the EPA to tax industries that pump carbon into the air. It's possible Obama could simply order the EPA to do that. Would you agree to a deal that raises funds to be used to subsidize green energy, in return the XL is approved? Let's say in five years it results in 15% less oil consumption and a further 15% replacement of fossil fuels with green. And it would get better over time, is that not a better outcome than stopping a single pipeline?

  •  Since Kerry (0+ / 0-)

    came out and said it's going through seem to me it's a done deal. Madness and greed prevails and disasters, death and misery are just another business opportunity for the masters of the universe. Their hubris and arrogance is breathtaking.

    •  I don't recall John Kerry saying that. (4+ / 0-)

      And I've been paying very close attention.

      "We the People of the United States...." -U.S. Constitution

      by elwior on Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 12:12:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's because (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        it turns out he never did say that. My bad, I apologize for the misinformation. I guess I just formed my own conclusions to what he was saying. I just went back and read the real words he spoke. It's the state departments review that colored my perception that Kerry is going advise the administration to  
        approve it

        upstream - the international oil and gas newspaper

        Many environmentalists oppose the project because, from wells to wheels, oil sands are more carbon-intensive than average crudes refined in the United States.

        They had been cheered by recent strong speeches by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry on the need to take action on climate.

        But one of Keystone's top critics said Friday's review was little different from a U.S. assessment in 2011.

        "We're hearing the same rehashed arguments from the State Department about why a great threat to the climate is not a threat at all," said Bill McKibben, the founder of, an environmental group.

        "Mother Nature filed her comments last year - the hottest year in American history; the top climate scientists in the U.S. have already chimed in. The rest of us have 45 days to make our voices heard, and we will," said McKibben, who has led protests at the White House.

        perhaps this is what colored my perception that Kerry's State dept. would advise the WH to approve Keystone
        The Washington Wire  Feb. 8 2013

        The fate of the Keystone XL pipeline was one of the main items on the agenda when new U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosted his Canadian counterpart in Washington on Friday. While Mr. Kerry declined to discuss the merits of the project, which would ship Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta to the U.S. Gulf Coast, he said the State Department would “hopefully” have its environmental review of the project done in the “near term.”

        He praised the “energy relationship” with Canada that includes the desire for “a secure, clean-energy future” in North America. “We have a legitimate process that’s under way, and I intend to honor that,” Mr. Kerry said.

        Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Canada’s “No. 1 priority” is job creation and economic growth, and he called Keystone “a huge priority.”

        He praised the “energy relationship” with Canada that includes the desire for “a secure, clean-energy future” in North America. “We have a legitimate process that’s under way, and I intend to honor that,” Mr. Kerry said.

        Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said Canada’s “No. 1 priority” is job creation and economic growth, and he called Keystone “a huge priority.”

        But Mr. Baird’s subdued expression didn’t suggest he had received direct assurances from Mr. Kerry that Washington was ready to make Canada’s priority a reality.

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