I haven’t written you about the Keystone Pipeline for several weeks, because I haven’t known quite what to say. But many things are moving, and here’s how the situation seems to me right now:
1) TransCanada, as expected, re-applied for a permit last week from the State Department, and just as they said last November — State said they would have an answer sometime in 2013. An open question is whether or not the State Department will do a real review, and aggressively investigate the climate implications of tar sands oil, which they punted on last time.
Another open question, of course, is whether after the election the President — whomever it may be — could just give the pipeline a green light no matter what. It’s important that between now and then we strenuously and continually emphasize that building this pipeline means more tar sands oil burned, and that the climate change implications of that are unacceptable.
2) The fossil fuel lobby in Congress keeps trying to approve the pipeline without any review at all. Members of the House said they won’t approve the new transportation bill without Keystone in it; happily, the Senate conferees, have pledged not to put the pipeline back in play just to get a bill. (But we’re always a bit wary of Washington pledges).
3) We also found out that the climate-denying, union-busting, radical billionaire Koch Brothers will be among the prime beneficiaries of the pipeline. It was revealed by intrepid investigative reporting that Koch Industries has been masking their investments in the tar sands, while pumping millions into efforts to push this and other pipelines. None of us deny that some union jobs would be created by this pipeline, but it’s now clear that many more will be put under attack as Koch money pours into the coffers of the radicals seeking to destroy both unions and our climate.
We frankly don’t yet know how this all is going to play out—and it’s frustrating as hell.
Leaders in the Senate and the White House have given assurances that they won’t OK the pipeline—the administration even issued a veto threat over the transportation bill if it included Keystone. We’ll see how good those assurances are in the coming weeks, and we’ll let you know if there are politician’s offices we need you to call, email, or occupy.
Of course the Southern leg of the pipeline is already on its way to being built – something our friends in Texas are doing all they can to fight, even as you read this.
Meanwhile, science marches on. Dr. James Hansen reiterated the case against tar sands in the New York Times last week, pointing out that the deposits contain “twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history.” If we burn them on top of all the coal and oil and gas we’re already using, “concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era” – a wildly different and likely unlivable earth.
And politics marches on too. We’re coming to think that it’s at least as important to tackle the fossil fuel industry directly as they try to tackle our win on the Keystone pipeline. Last Thursday Thursday Bernie Sanders introduced a bill that would strip $113 billion in subsidies from coal, gas, and oil companies over the next decade. That’s enough money to weatherize more than half the single family and mobile homes in America. We hope you’ll help: www.350.org/subsidies
I don’t know how Keystone is going to come out—but whatever happens, the organizing we manage to do together will have a lot to do with the final result. We’ve learned an awful lot together about how to take on the bad guys. We’ll fight them pipeline by coal mine by fracking well— and surely call on you for more rapid-response actions when the need arises — but we’ve also got to go after the core of their power. That’s what we need to make the next year all about.