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The Senate voted 62-37-1 Friday night on a non-binding amendment to the budget bill in support of the Keystone XL pipeline. All the opposing votes on the amendment introduced by Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota came from Democrats and the two Senate independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. The 17 Democrats who voted "yea" are generally the Senate's most conservative, many of them from states with large deposits of fossil fuels. Here is the roll call.

The non-binding amendment favoring construction of the pipeline is purely symbolic. Keystone XL—the initials stand for "extra large" because it would be 36 inches in diameter instead of the more standard 30 inches—would be built by TransCanada and transport tar-sands oil—diluted bitumen—from Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast refineries. The amendment does not urge President Obama to approve it. But the show of support adds pressure on the administration to give the $8 billion project the thumbs-up. Most indications are that it will be approved despite fierce objections from environmental and indigenous activists. Hundreds of people, including prominent Kossacks, have been arrested in protests.

tar sands
A presidential permit is required before the project can proceed because the pipeline crosses the international boundary between Canada and the United States. A required supplemental environmental impact statement has come under fire from critics for downplaying the pipeline's effects, which environmental advocates says which enable expansion of the highly destructive exploitation of the tar sands, and because the State Department okayed consultants with strong ties to TransCanada to write the SEIS and concealed that fact when the document was released. After a 45-day public comment period on the SEIS ends April 22, and the State Department replies to them, a new 90-day period of public comment begins for consideration of the presidential permit.

Tar-sands oil is much dirtier than conventional oil. Its extraction typically includes hacking down boreal forests, followed by strip-mining and injecting solvents and steam into the ground. The process is far more damaging than drilling for conventional petroleum, and it boosts the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted to produce a barrel of oil.

Said Peter Lehner, executive director of the Natural Resources Defense Council:

The Senators supporting this amendment made the wrong choice by bowing to Big Oil. Their symbolic vote doesn’t change the law or the truth about this dangerous project.  

The President will still make the ultimate decision about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline after the current public process is completed evaluating whether it’s in the national interest. And it’s time to stop grandstanding and to get the facts: the tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward to the American people.

But there's a reward for others. David Turnbull, campaigns director for Oil Change International, stated after the vote:
“Every single effort from Congress to influence the Keystone XL pipeline decision has been backed by millions in dirty energy money, and today’s was no different. The vote today was nothing more than a $31 million dollar sideshow whose sole purpose was to kiss the rings of the Senate’s Big Oil benefactors.”
In fact, according to OCI's analysis based on data from its DirtyEnergyMoney tool, the 10 original co-sponsors of the amendment collected an average of $807,517 from the fossil-fuel industry, 254 percent more than the average non-sponsoring senator for a total of $8 million dollars from the industry. Those sponsors besides Hoeven: Democrats Max Baucus of Montana; Joe Manchin III of West Virginia; Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana; and Mark Begich of Alaska; plus Republicans John Cornyn of Texas; Pat Roberts of Kansas; John Barrasso of Wyoming; and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

All told, the OCI found that those senators who voted for the amendment have in their careers received an average of $499,648 from fossil-fuel interests, three-and-a-half times as much as those voting against, who received $143,372 on average.

Meanwhile, rubbing salt into the wound, an amendment by Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California that called for conducting more studies on Keystone while its application remains pending, was defeated on a 33-66 vote, this time with all Republicans opposed and 20 Democrats joining them. One question that the amendment would have sought to answer was how much of the tar-sands oil flowing through the pipeline would be exported overseas.


Blast from the Past. At Daily Kos on this date in 2003Some fraying on the edges:

Warm welcomes. Or maybe not
 This is a sobering piece for all those "war reporters" who have breathlessly reported on the gleeful welcome US toops received in southern Iraq.
They were unforgettable images: Residents of this southern Iraqi town openly welcoming coalition forces. They danced in the streets as a picture of Saddam Hussein was torn down.

That was yesterday.

Traveling unescorted into Safwan today, I got a far different picture. Rather than affection and appreciation, I saw a lot of hostility toward the coalition forces, the United States and President Bush.
[...]
[They asked:] Why are you here in this country? Are you trying to take over? Are you going to take our country forever? Are the Israelis coming next? Are you here to steal our oil? When are you going to get out?

And these are the people th[at] REALLY hate Saddam. So much for flowers and waving US flags. This isn't the liberation of Kuwait City. This is an invasion. We are the invaders. Rarely do people welcome invaders with open arms.

Tweet of the Day:

jobs. jobs. jobs. RT @drgrist: Solar Will Be Second-Biggest Source of U.S. Power Added in 2013 http://t.co/... (After gas.)
@NatashaChart via TweetDeck


High Impact Posts. Top Comments. Overnight News Digest.

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