If President Obama approves an expansion of the Keystone pipeline to carry oil from Alberta's tar sands to refineries in Texas, it will completely undermine efforts to halt climate change.
James Hansen, the world's leading climatologist says it will be "essentially game over" for the planet's climate.
The huge pipeline pits big oil against everyone else, including all the people that live along or near the pipeline: farmers, ranchers, and indigenous leaders. Read our recent coverage including Republican attempts to fast-track the pipeline.
Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org, explains the dire situation in his article, If Brazil Has to Guard Its Rainforest, Why Does Canada/U.S. Get to Burn Its Tar Sands?
Here's an excerpt:
The planet has already exceeded the safe limit of CO2 in the atmosphere - 350 parts per million. With a rapid transition to cleaner fuels and renewable energy, we may be able to draw down the current level - 390 ppm - by the end of the century, thereby avoiding the worst consequences of global warming.
But if Canada is allowed to push ahead with development of the oil in Alberta's tar sands - adding a new source of dirty fuel to the conventional oil and coal that already threaten the atmosphere - the game is over.
Alberta's tar sands cover an area larger than the United Kingdom, and, if burned, it will add an estimated 200 ppm of CO2 to the atomosphere, making a return to 350 ppm impossible.
Despite that, Alberta's oil minister, Ron Liepert, told the Financial Times that the pronvince is going "full speed ahead" in an effort to double tar sands production by the end of the century, a move that would put the country on par with Saudi Arabia as a top oil producer.
Currently Canada can't offload that much oil. Without access to the US economy, Canada will be forced to rely on much more difficult and costly exports to China and other growing oil markets.
But if the Obama administration approves the huge Keystone pipeline, Canada won't need any other market.
If the Administration approves the pipeline, it will be to boost US jobs and to decrease reliance on oil from the Middle East.
But McKibben compares the situation to the rainforests in Brazil. If Brazil said it planned to cut down every tree in the Amazon, the US and every developed country in the world would rush in to convince it otherwise, leaning on the old cliche that the Amazon is the lungs of the planet.
Yet the same countries seem willing to stand by and watch as Canada (and the US) smoke what might be the planet's last cigarette.
Direct Action Planned for August
McKibben sent an email to people that signed up at Climatedirectaction.org last week, calling for people to join him in direct action against expansion of Canada's tar sands from mid-August through Labor Day weekend.
He says: Indigenous leaders, scientists, and environmentalists on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border this month asked citizens to come to Washington for what may turn into the biggest civil disobedience action in the history of the climate debate.
Day after day we'll assemble outside the White House in peaceful ranks, modeled on anti-apartheid protests in the 1980s in Washington, which resulted in daily peaceful arrests.
Why the White House? Because this pipeline must be approved by the president, who has to issue a ‘certificate of national interest.' Congress can't interfere one way or another - a president who has been hamstrung by science-denying politicians will, for once, be able to make an important call on his own. We think he'll do the right thing ....
But never underestimate the pressure he'll be under, for there are hundreds of billions of dollars worth of oil in those tar sands. So we need to show our resolve.
Just last week, Lisa Jackson, the director of the EPA, put it this way: Obama is "doing what he can with the public will he's been given... They're not marching on Washington the way they did on Earth Day in the 70s." Earlier in the month, Dan Pfeiffer, the president's communications director, put it like this: "We WANT you to push us - we absolutely do."
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