Nobel Laureates Plead With Obama to Reject Keystone Pipeline

As they did in 2011, 10 Nobel Peace Prize winners have sent another letter to President Obama urging him to reject the Keystone tar sands pipeline. They also address it to Secretary of State Kerry this time. 

The latest data shows that even if the pipeline is approved it won’t be enough to meet Canada’s expansion plans. Because of the glut, prices will remain low, undermining future investments.

"Keystone will help alleviate the lack of pipeline infrastructure but only temporarily," David Bouckhout of TD Securities told Bloomberg. "Growth of supply on both sides of the border, Bakken and Canadian supply, will outpace what Keystone’s capacity will provide in likely two to three years."

Companies including Exxon lost a combined $2.45 billion in revenue last year because of low prices and investment in tar sands fell 10%, reports Bloomberg.

If Keystone is not approved by the US, tar sands oil suppliers will be stuck without a way to expand at all. That’s why they are hedging their bets with more pipeline options.

To make matters worse, tar sands oil, which emits 2-3 times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional oil, is also a huge source of flaring, adding to emissions. Flaring has significantly increased over the past several years along with more drilling and there is little if any government oversight.

Building the Keystone pipeline would be the equivalent of 51 new coal plants.

People that live in Northern Alberta, formerly farm and cattle country that’s now pockmarked with drilling sites, are leaving homes owned for generations. They are leaving to get away from the fumes and smells, and many suffer from bleeding noses, headaches and swollen glands.

Recently, Canadian Nobel Laureate Dr. Mark Jaccard, testified to the House subcommittee on Energy and Power against the pipeline. 

Rejecting it will slow development of Alberta oil sands, he said,  and better position the US to transition to a low-carbon economy. The oil sands, along with other polluting fossil fuels, are not a viable fuel source if a 2 degree C temperature increase is to be avoided.

Here is the letter:

President Barack Obama
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

June 17, 2013

Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,

We are writing to urge you to once and for all reject the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline.

Like millions of others, we were buoyed by words in the President’s second inaugural address: "We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that failure to do so would betray our children and future generations."  Mr. President and Secretary Kerry, this is an opportunity to begin to fulfill that promise. While there is no one policy or action that will avoid dangerous climate change, saying ‘no’ to the Keystone XL pipeline is a critical step in the right direction. Now is the time for unwavering leadership.

Climate change threatens all of us, but it is the world’s most vulnerable who are already paying for developed countries’ failure to act with their lives and livelihoods. This will only become more tragic as impacts become worse and conflicts are exacerbated as precious natural resources, like water and food, become more and more scarce.  Inaction will cost hundreds of millions of lives – and the death toll will only continue to rise.

Since we first wrote you, in September of 2011, the risks of tar sands oil and the threats of dangerous climate change have only become clearer. Tragic extreme weather events, including hurricanes, drought and forest fires in your own country, have devastated hundreds of millions of people around the globe. Recent tar sands oil spills in Kalamazoo, MI and Mayflower, AR, have served as a harsh reminder that shipping the world’s dirtiest oil will never likely be safe enough for human health and the environment.

Alberta’s oil sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas pollution and emissions are projected to double over the next seven years. The International Energy Agency, among many other respected bodies, has found that in order to prevent catastrophic global warming of over two degrees centigrade we must leave two thirds of fossil fuels in the ground. In contrast, the expansion of the Alberta oil sands, as projected, is consistent with the pathway to global warming of six degrees centigrade.  The Keystone XL pipeline is critical to this rate of tar sands growth, as without it the industry is unlikely to be able to fulfill its plans of tripling oil sands production.

We recognize the extreme pressure being put on you by industry and the governments of Canada and Alberta, and note this pressure represents the interest of the largest, wealthiest corporation-and not the average Canadian. We applaud the Government of British Columbia for standing up to this pressure and calling for the rejection of another tar sands pipeline, the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. On the other hand, acting against broad public opinion, the Canadian Government has abandoned its commitments both under the United Nations Kyoto Protocol and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. The Canadian Government has also taken extreme measures domestically to gut environmental legislation and muzzle scientists in order to fast track tar sands pipeline development.

We also recognize the pressure from forces in your own country. The Keystone XL pipeline will not benefit or improve the lives of Americans, but nevertheless we understand that the politics of action on climate are not easy.  We believe you are the kind of leaders who can stand up to those interests when necessary, to do what is right for the world and for future generations.

You have both been clear that it is time for the United States to step up and do its fair share to fight the climate crises. We acknowledge the work and investment that is happening in North America to increase energy efficiency and clean energy, but unless we dramatically accelerate such efforts and move more quickly away from the use of fossil fuels – our other efforts will be rendered practically irrelevant.

Our shared climate cannot afford the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline.

As leaders who have spoken out strongly on these issues, we urge you, once again, to be on the right side of history and send a clear message that you are serious about moving beyond dirty oil.

Yours sincerely,

Mairead Maguire – (1976) – Ireland
Betty Williams – (1976) – Ireland
Archbishop Desmond Tutu – (1984) – South Africa
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel – (1980) – Argentina
Rigoberta Menchú Tum – (1992) – Guatemala
José Ramos Horta – (1996) – East Timor
Jody Williams – (1997) – USA
Shirin Ebadi – (2003)
Tawakkol Karman – (2011) – Yemen
Leymah Gbowee – (2011) – Liberia

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