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All across America, people are gathering to draw attention to the threat that the Keystone XL pipeline poses to clean air, clean water, public health, and the stability of our climate. Last night alone, thousands attended nearly 300 vigils in 49 states. This outpouring of hope and frustration came together in just a few days, in response to the release of a deeply flawed report by the State Department that underestimates the consequences of building this pipeline across the heart of the United States.

People are hopeful because the decision to reject the Keystone pipeline is in the hands of President Obama, who has stated his firm commitment to fight climate disruption. He will be advised by Secretary of State John Kerry, a long-standing champion in the effort to solve the climate crisis that is already upon us, already stirring extreme weather like Superstorm Sandy, the polar vortex, droughts, and wildfires. These leaders know that Americans have embraced clean energy and have no interest in retreating to dependence on the dirty fossil fuels of centuries past. So I'm cautiously confident that the president and secretary of state will do the right thing and stop this pipeline in its tracks.

People are frustrated, however, because the report released last Friday was largely written by a contractor that stands to profit if the pipeline is built. Not surprisingly, it gives the pipeline a passing grade, while virtually every credible expert has already given the project a big fat "Fail."

Biased as it is, though, the report sets the stage for President Obama to reject this dirty, dangerous manifestation of Big Oil's greed, by abandoning the contention in earlier drafts that KXL would have no significant impact on climate. Instead, it concludes that the pipeline would contribute the equivalent of an additional 6 million cars on the road to annual greenhouse gas emissions.

The president is on record that he will not allow Keystone XL to be built if it would "significantly exacerbate" carbon pollution. The pollution from six million cars is anything but insignificant. And a more credible independent analysis estimates that carbon pollution from the pipeline would be equivalent to more than 37 million gas-guzzling cars -- or 51 coal-fired power plants. How does that make sense at a moment when we are making progress against climate disruption by retiring dirty coal plants and building more and more wind turbines and solar panels to create the energy that is already powering Teslas, Leafs, and Smart cars?

There are plenty of reasons to reject Keystone. Here are a few reasons to reject last week's report:

  1. The report was too narrow in scope.  Federal law requires government agencies to consider the cumulative impact of proposed federal actions such as permits for pipelines that cross international boundaries. Last week, the Sierra Club and its coalition partners alerted the State Department that it had failed to consider the climate impacts of Keystone XL combined with other tar sands pipeline decisions, including the proposed Alberta Clipper pipeline expansion.
  2. The report has a serious conflict of interest. ERM -- a member organization of the American Petroleum Institute, the oil and gas industry's lobbying group -- was handpicked for the job by TransCanada, the company seeking to build the KXL pipeline. The State Department's Inspector General is currently investigating this contract for mismanagement and bias.
  3. The contention that the pollution is inevitable is false: The review assumes that tar sands expansion will happen with or without Keystone XL. But that's not what industry experts, financial analysts, and Canadian government officials are saying. And if you follow the money, it's clear that the delay already caused by the campaign opposing Keystone XL has led to both reduced foreign investment in the tar sands and reduced projections of tar sands crude production. In short, this pipeline is the linchpin for tar sands development.
  4. The tar sands cannot economically or safely be carried by rail: The review also assumes that, without a pipeline, tar sands crude would be shipped by rail. But moving tar sands by rail is both difficult and expensive, and will become even more so once new federal safety requirements come into effect. Since last July, when an oil train disaster killed 47 in Quebec, we've seen oil train accidents in Edmonton (Oct.), Alabama (Nov.), North Dakota (Dec), and New Brunswick and Pennsylvania (Jan). Just last Friday, while all eyes were on the rollout of the State Department's report, yet another crude-oil rail train derailed and spilled in Mississippi.

The next step in the Keystone XL decision is for Secretary Kerry to make a recommendation to the president about whether the pipeline is in our "national interest." We welcome Secretary Kerry to the fray. Kerry said in October that "energy policy is the solution to global climate change." He realizes that  climate-driven extreme weather is making life perilous in all 50 states, weakening our economy, and threatening our national security. If we invest in tar sands pipelines, we can expect only poisoned air and water in return. Investing in clean energy, on the other hand, creates jobs, lowers energy costs, builds energy security, and reduces carbon pollution. It's time to go "all in" on clean energy.

Ultimately, though, this is President Obama's decision. Although he has struggled with the paradox of reducing carbon pollution while promoting a dirty "all of the above" energy policy, the president already has more than enough evidence to reject this pipeline based solely on its effect on climate disruption. But even though this debate has centered on climate, that is only part of what's at stake. When considering the "national interest," the president will also need to consider how this pipeline would affect the health and safety of American families, farmers and ranchers along the pipeline route, and fence-line refinery communities.

Finally, after weighing all the facts, the president must reject Keystone XL and send the world a clear message: Our nation is committed to clean energy and climate solutions.  

Originally posted to Michael Brune on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 09:04 AM PST.

Also republished by Climate Change SOS, Kitchen Table Kibitzing, DK GreenRoots, and Canadian Kossacks.

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Comment Preferences

  •  thank you fro this diary (19+ / 0-)

    and for sharing it on this site

    Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell. --Edward Abbey

    by greenbastard on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 09:11:39 AM PST

  •  My guess is he caves. Approves this (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    YucatanMan, madgranny, elwior

    monstrosity.  Tells The Left to go fly a kite.

    •  if he does, then he will lose a whole lot (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, greenbastard, flitedocnm

      of support for the rest of his second term. My self included!

      •  Evidence supports expectation of KXL approval (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        flitedocnm, orlbucfan, elwior

        API head knew in advance about EIS greenlighting project:

        Last week, Jack Gerard, the head of the American Petroleum Institute, told Reuters that  ”It’s our expectation it will be released next week” Apparently Gerard cited sources within the administration.

        “We’re expecting to hear the same conclusion that we’ve heard four times before: no significant impact on the environment,” Gerard said.

        Two facts are important here:

        1)   Jack Gerard is saying the pipeline won’t impact the environment.  This is about as surprising as the sun setting in the west.

        2)   Jack Gerard was apparently briefed by “sources within the Administration” on the timing and content of the report.  Before the environmental community.  Before Congress.  Before anyone else.

        We went through months of kabuki over the PO in 2009-10 when it had been bargained away w/ AHIP early in the process.  There's reason to suspect a similar process here.

        Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

        by RFK Lives on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 11:38:41 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  He would also be financing the final destruction (4+ / 0-)

        of the last vestiges of democracy in this country, and our full blown transformation into a fossil-fueled, science-denying, right wing plutocracy wholly owned by Charles and David Koch -- who, according to an estimate in a report last October by the International Forum on Globalization, Billionaires' Carbon Bomb - The Koch Brothers and the Keystone XL Pipeline (PDF) stand to profit to obscene levels that are scarcely comprehensible: $100 billion, on top of their existing wealth estimated at $65 billion.

        Given the incredibly precarious state of our democracy thanks to our RW SCOTUS (a situation that Obama professes to decry), all of those additional billions poured into untold scores of phony foundations and think tanks and media outlets and election campaigns spell nothing but doom for our democracy and our planet. If for no other reason (and there are so many), KXL should be rejected for this.

        President Obama: don't you care at all about your legacy, not to mention the future of this country, our civilization and our planet? The people who voted for you did not elect you to approve such a monstrous, disastrous and unnecessary affront to everything you professed to stand for.

        And if you think caving on KXL would help elect Dems in 2014 and 2016, you are severely deluded. This would pave the road for electoral disaster. It would be the end of the party of FDR, the end of the middle class, and the end of the American Dream.

        "We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. But we can't have both." - Justice Louis Brandeis

        by flitedocnm on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 11:45:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  OH, and one other thing... (5+ / 0-)

      …. it's what every terrorist would LIKE to have across the entire N. American continent….because... 1) the stuff in it is poisonous 2) it's explosive 3) …can we really have it ALL protected from harm….?

  •  my suggestion (7+ / 0-)

      What we need is specifics.  Part of that was provided over the weekend via an article via OPEDNews -

    1.   None of those who wrote this were actually in the business of Climate Science

    2.   There will be 1.3 to 27.4 million metric tons of CO2 added to the atmosphere if the proposed pipeline is built and operated over its expected 50-year life cycle, as compared to if it is not.

       The point being is that information such as this is important to stopping the current administration from approving this project.    (the longer the delay the greater the cost?).  
  •  I wish I could feel so optimistic (7+ / 0-)

    Should? Could? Yes. Will they? No so sure.

    Seems to me, if they were going to kill it they would have already.  Every day that they sit on their hands makes things worse. I smell bargaining chip, that they will trade Keystone approval as part of the freakin grand bargain.

    What the hell is there to understand? This crap is liquid coal. It is environmentally disastrous to mine it, to ship it, to burn it. Period. Period.  

    Somebody should dump a truckload of the crap on Pennsylvania Avenue and show these idiots what we are dealing with.

    Or, better yet, K Street and let the lobbyists wallow in it.  (Maybe not, wallowing in filth is what they do.)

    I hope I am wrong. But rhetoric and past performance are not signs of future performance.

    Come on John. Come on Barack. Just say no! Now! You know you should.

    Peace on Earth was all it said.

    by BobBlueMass on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 09:47:49 AM PST

  •  Ed Shultz (7+ / 0-)

    said he was all for it the other night...

    Caught me off guard.

  •  Please Don't Shoot The Messenger But ... (4+ / 0-)

    ... I'm seeing more than one sign that President Obama could turn out to be a big disappointment again and go ahead and approve the Keystone Pipeline.

    And the biggest indication of that to me is what I'm seeing as a new spin that suddenly seems to be springing up all over the news and internet even from some progressive sources. And the new spin as articulated by none other than Ed Schultz last night on MSNBC is that producing the Tar Sands oil is inevitable and as a matter of safety concerns it would be much safer to transport it in a pipeline than on railroads traveling through population centers,  And I'm not kidding. I haven't just seen that coming from Schultz its been a big theme I've seen on the news channels and around the internet just this morning.

    Also naturally the conservative/Republican/Tea Party extremists in congress are threatening to hold the debt ceiling hostage again and they are proposing two different possible ransoms. One would be the repeal of the "risk corridors" in the ACA which is DOA for two reasons. One it would sabotage the ACA and two the CBO has just estimated doing would add $8 billion to the deficit.

    But the other ransom is a one year extension for approval of the Keystone Pipeline. And that appears to me to be a very tempting excuse for President Obama to go ahead and approve it and then blame it on the Republicans.

    Now I could very well be wrong about this and I hope I am. But I have to admit these appear to be very bad signs to me.

    Collect Different Days

    by Homers24 on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 10:42:25 AM PST

  •  To understand why Obama (5+ / 0-)

    is entirely likely to approve the pipeline, read this excellent article by Tim Dickinson in the latest issue of Rolling Stone -

    How the U.S. Exports Global Warming

    Big Oil is already at work lobbying for an overturn of the '70s legislation requiring our refineries to keep the bulk of production in-country, as the Canadian crap is bound for export and will tie up a lot of capacity. The fracked glut of sweet crude from Texas elsewhere in the midwest has been keeping them busy. And it's easy to refine.

    If Canada wants to kick global warming into overdrive with its filthy bitumen, it ought to build its own pipelines and refineries in its own country. Deal is, too many US players have a piece of the tar sands pie.

    •  Preparations for refining tar sands oil started (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Joieau, 6412093, elwior

      well over a decade ago when the multinational oil companies started investing in mining the stuff.

      Half the refineries in the US spent tens of billions upgrading to process the stuff. This heavy long-chain oil weighs 20% more than ordinary oil and more refined product can be obtained from it with upgraded refineries.

      The excess fracked oil was not expected until high prices and successful wells came into production in the middle of the last decade. This has thrown a wrench into the situation.

      Refineries designed to work with heavy oils cannot work efficiently with the light oils. The light oil has to be mixed in with heavy oil and there's now too much of it. Refineries are not going to change their configuration to accommodate the fracked oil until they get a payback for the billions they've already invested in refining the heavy oil.

      The Gulf refineries have been processing heavy oils for many decades now. This oil came from Venezuela, Mexico and Saudi Arabia. America still absolutely needs 7 million barrels of foreign oil a day to function. Most of this will be heavy oils. Venezuela crude from the Orinoco formation is very similar to the Canadian, and there is twice as much of it. But, China has started to invest billions. The US would have difficulty in trying to get in there.

      •  As Dickinson mentions, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        flitedocnm, elwior

        there's an issue with mixing (under the law as it stands) because Canada's crap remains Canadian, and it's bound for export. It doesn't automatically become American just because it flows over the Ogalala to get refined on the Gulf coast...

        •  Once it is refined there is no prohibition (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Claudius Bombarnac

          against export, no matter what the source.

          Interestingly, US exports typically are regarded as a GOOD THING, even at this site.

          And one would think that might be double plus the situation in this case, insofar as exports would (possibly) raise the price domestically, thus dampening demand (which is the only way to get off fossil fuels - trying to rejigger the supply chain is never going to do the trick).

        •  I don't understand your point. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elwior, Claudius Bombarnac

          KXL is a United States import pipeline from a foreign country.

          Tar sands syncrude to be delivered by the KXL pipeline will be used by gulf refineries to replace conventionally produced  heavy sour crude received from non-Canadian foreign counties that was prior feedstock for such gulf refineries.

          The vast majority of the refinery products produced by the gulf refineries are consumed in the United States and are not exported.

          The purposes of the KXL pipeline, its southern extension and the Houston lateral are all for the import of foreign tar sands syncrude import for purposes of heavy sour crude feedstock at United State refineries and NOT for marine trans-shipment and U.S. export at Port Arthur, TX.

          Environmental organization claims, including by the Sierra Club, that KXL is an export pipeline are all environmental organization anti-KXL advocacy malpractice.   The reason it is anti-KXL malpractice is that such a posture undermines the importance of the Presidential national interest determination.  

          KXL is designed to make the United States more dependent than it presently is now on foreign hydrocarbon liquid fuels with higher greenhouse gas emission intensities.   It is this U.S. foreign oil dependency that has to be confronted directly by anti-KXL advocates....yes, Canada is not a part of the United States and tar sands imports still drive up the balance of trade deficit.  

          By saying that KXL is an export pipeline, such a claim (which isn't true) assumes that there is a lesser United States interest in the decision...not a greater United States interest.   So making the claim that KXL is an export pipeline has the effect of making it easier for President Obama to approve KXL....thus making the 'KXL export' claim anti-KXL-advocacy malpractice.

        •  Canada's oil is not nationalized. (0+ / 0-)

          Canadian's as a whole get only jobs and services just like American's do from the Gulf deep water wells. Albertan's get royalties just like Alaskan's do for the oil produced in their province/state. Albertan's got more from liquor and gambling taxes. Every person in Alaska gets $900 from the Alaska Permanent Fund.

          The oil is bought and paid for the moment it enters the pipeline or rail car. TransCanada or Warren Buffett's BNSF simply contract to move the stuff.

          The huge multinationals like Shell have major holdings in both upstream and downstream production. They own the oil and want to ship it to their refineries on the coast.

          Athabasca Oil Sands Project – Shell Albian Sands

          Shell Albian Sands is the mining operation portion of the Athabasca Oil Sands Project and consists of the Muskeg River and Jackpine mines. Production from these mining and extraction operations accounts for 17 per cent of Canada’s total oil production.

          Motiva Port Arthur Refinery

          Motiva Enterprises has expanded its Port Arthur Refinery (PAR) in Texas by 325,000 barrels per day (bbl/d), taking total capacity to 600,000 bbl/d. Following its expansion, the PAR is now the largest refinery in the USA. Shell owns 50% of Motiva; the remaining 50% is owned by Saudi Aramco.

  •  The train that derailed in Mississippi was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flitedocnm, Roadbed Guy, elwior

    carrying refined products to markets - not crude. There are hundreds of these each and every day. It is how most of the heating oil, gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, LNG, fertilizers and chemical/plastic feed-stocks (methanol) get to where they are required in order to keep the country running.

    The problem with the previous well known explosions was due to oil tanker cars carrying highly volatile Bakken oil. This oil contains a lot of flammable gas and should not have been shipped in cars designed to carry normal crude.

    Dilbit is not as flammable as ordinary West Texas Intermediate which has been transported all around the country by pipe, rail, truck, ship  and barge for over one hundred years.

    The following is in error:

    yet another crude-oil rail train derailed
  •  New study: (4+ / 0-)

    "Human health risk assessment FLAWED."

    The abstract of a study from Canada was posted in the "Early Edition" section of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Jan. 29. A snip:

    Accounting for evaporative emissions (e.g., from tailings pond disposal) provides a more realistic representation of PAH [polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons] distribution in the AOSR [Athabasca oil sands region]. Such indirect emissions to air were found to be a greater contributor of PAHs to the AOSR atmosphere relative to reported direct emissions to air. The indirect pathway transporting uncontrolled releases of PAHs to aquatic systems via the atmosphere may be as significant a contributor of PAHs to aquatic systems as other supply pathways.
    Think Progress has an excellent report on the study today. A snip:
    The study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), persistent chemicals that are released during tar sands mining and processing and that have been associated with cancer in humans. Researchers compared the official records of PAH levels from the Athabasca Tar Sands Region to measurements from other scientific studies, and found that actual PAH emissions may be two to three times higher than recorded in environmental reviews.

    Frank Wania, co-author of the study, told the Globe and Mail. “All we are saying is that the basis for the human health risk assessment is flawed.”


    Thanks for posting your excellent essay here, Mr. Brune, and especially for keeping up the good fight!

    "Let each unique song be sung and the spell of differentiation be broken" - Winter Rabbit

    by cotterperson on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 10:57:12 AM PST

  •  spill issue is being distorted. primary safety (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    issue is the effects of the pipeline on global warming.

    the petro industry doesn't give a shit about safety except as a PR issue and they largely escaped what should have been a crippling hit in the gulf.

    they want the pipeline for $ and it's clear that savings won't won't get passed on. the spill issue is one way for oil industry to sell the pipeline because it compares pipeline vs other methods, and transport safety relative to population centers is bullshit.

    in terms of spillage i just don't see the safety issue as that important except the effects of a large pipeline spill on our water, etc.

    This is a list of 76 universities for Rush Limbaugh that endorse global warming denial, racism, sexism, and GOP lies by broadcasting sports on over 170 Limbaugh radio stations.

    by certainot on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 11:04:52 AM PST

  •  The basis and calculation presented by (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    6412093, elwior

    Oil Change International and relied upon by Michael Brune is not presented in the Oil Change International report.

    The basis of the OCI report relies on a reference in Endnote #4, and the link given as the underlying report basis is erroneous.   In addition, OCI never in their report lays out their calculations of how they arrived at the figures provided.

    Finally and most importantly, all of the presentation in the OCI report fails to address proper accounting of the emission consequences of the KXL decision by failing to account for the fact that the KXL pipeline is associated with offsetting greenhouse gas emission reduction from previous non-Canada-imported conventionally produced heavy sour crude that will be replaced and which has to be addressed in any even handed emission determination.  

    In other words, in proper GHG emission consequence bookkeeping.....

    GHG emissions consequences from KXL decision is equal to ...

    the emissions to be generated from future KXL operations  minus the present emissions associated with present use of gulf coast conventionally produced foreign heavy sour crude.

    The truth of the greenhouse gas net emission increase consequences of future KXL operations lies in properly determining this delta change.....which OCI never achieves in their report.

    The only honest and effective way of holding President Obama accountable for his statements as to the KXL pipeline is to fairly and honestly state what the net greenhouse gas emission increase consequence and effect would be from a prospective future decision approving the pipeline.  

    OCI's report and emission characterization method fails completely to address the net greenhouse gas emission increase determination from the KXL go-ahead decision  and therefor the report is not likely to be very convincing to President Obama and to EPA officials advising him on KXL emission impacts.

    clearly does not do a defensible and convincing job of net greenhouse gas emission consequences of the KXL pipeline decision.

    •  correction (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      6412093, elwior

      The OCI report clearly does not do a defensible and convincing job of net greenhouse gas emission determination and consequences of the KXL pipeline decision because it does not address the actual reality of the future decision....the proper quantification of the net greenhouse gas emission increase caused by the decision.

      •  The Sierra Club should also publish, rely on and (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elwior, 6412093

        take responsibility for its own scientific findings for its own campaigns rather than relying on another environmental organization's findings and determinations -- because that is what Sierra Club members expect as acts of John Muir-style conservation leadership, science and excellence in the prosecution of Sierra Club conservation programming.

  •  Would a Pipeline to Churchill, Manitoba Be Better? (3+ / 0-)

    In your arguments, you are assuming that somehow, someway - Alberta's bitumen sands oil can be prevented from reaching markets. How do you come to that conclusion?

    Take cocaine or any other of a number of illegal drugs in the U.S.  Not only has the American government attempted to interdict these drugs at the street, national, and international levels, it has also enlisted the aid of foreign governments to diminish production.  And yet, you can buy cocaine nearly anywhere in the U.S.

    Unlike cocaine, bitumen oil is a legal product - although many might question this status.  Is there a market for this oil?  Whether one believe that peak petroleum has passed, is near, or may be a decade out - there is worldwide demand for petroleum - especially with the growing demand in China and India.

    Is there a commitment to production?  The Alberta Conservative Party will have served longer in provincial government than any other party this year - barring a collapse. And its primary rival, the Wildrose Party, is even further to the right.  At the federal level, Harper's Conservatives are strongly in support of increased production - as is the new Liberal leader, Justin Trudeau.

    Saskatchewan is now governed by the Saskatchewan Party, a center-right coalition of former Conservatives and Liberals that has a 5-to-1 governing margin over the New Democrats. The government of Saskatchewan actively promotes oil & gas development and the corollary pipeline infrastructures needed.

    So that leaves Manitoba. Manitoba reelected a New Democratic government in 2011. Although the vote percentage was 46% to 44% in favor of the New Dems, over the Conservatives, the New Dems currently hold a 37-to-19 seat advantage.  For now that will, most likely, preclude any pipeline agreement with Alberta and Saskatchewan.

    But, the next election is scheduled for 2015.  The New Dems have been trailing the Tories in the polls since 2012.  Since the summer of 2013, polls have averages 46% to 28% favoring the Tories - nearly a 20-point difference.  In addition, the New Dems will have been in power for 16 years by 2015.  In multi-party political environments, that is a long, long time.

    Manitoba has been running a significant budget deficit. Oil pipeline revenues could address it easily. If there are no pipeline options for Alberta come early 2016, the likelihood of a pipeline to Churchill is considerable - with transshipment of oil through Hudson Bay and the Arctic.

    And that would be a far, far great threat than Keystone.
    A sobering read:

  •  Why are we dealing with the State Dept.? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Last time I looked, we have the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Dept. of the Interior. What's their assessment of this poisonous pipeline?

    Through thoughts, words and actions, we live the truth we know. -- L. Spencer

    by orlbucfan on Tue Feb 04, 2014 at 12:25:41 PM PST

    •  Presidential permit authority for trans-border (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      elwior, 6412093

      crossings is vested in the Department of State.

      EPA gets to comment during the public comment period at the Department of State which ends on March 7....just like any other member of the public.

      EPA filed critical comments on greenhouse gas emissions issues in the last go-around on the prior supplemental environmental impact statement that was previously issued.

      The SEIS part of this is part of the National Environmental Policy Act that if binding on federal agency major decisions.

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