Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Yes We Can… Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Remember what it felt like in 2008 when we elected our President? Remember the triumph of “hope” and “change” and the feeling that our country was back on the right track? I remember that feeling, before the disillusionment with Obama set in. And I suspect for most of us, Obama’s Presidency has been a mere shadow of the hopeful vision he promised. For some of us, his presidency has felt like a betrayal.

I count myself in that second category. While I care deeply about all progressive issues, I am most passionate about climate change. Even as evidence for climate change continues to grow through widespread droughts, floods, and destabilizing food shortages abroad, our country still has nothing even close to a comprehensive climate and clean energy policy. Obama promised to change that; in his own words, he proclaimed that this would be the time when “the rising seas began to recede and our planet began to heal.” But after the politics got complicated by health care, Obama decided to sit out the fight for clean energy and let national climate legislation die.

Well, Obama now has a chance to make up for his inaction on national energy policy, a chance to prove that he is still the president we elected. A company called Transcanada has proposed to build a massive pipeline that would take oil from the “Tar Sands” in Alberta, Canada all the way to refineries in Houston. Because the pipeline crosses the US-Canada international boundary, President Obama must personally approve the project; Congress is not involved in the decision. And with the demise of climate legislation, rejecting the pipeline may by the single-largest action Obama can take to address climate change in his presidency.

The proposed pipeline, dubbed the Keystone XL, would triple the amount of oil produced from the “Tar Sands,” a huge region of thick, oily sand that is the second largest stored sink of carbon in the world. The Tar Sands hold roughly 200 parts per million of carbon; if we burn this oil, leading NASA climate scientist James Hansen says that it will be “game over” for catastrophic climate change. We simply can’t afford to take this risk with our future.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has galvanized the environmental movement, and this August an incredible 1,253 people were arrested in front of the White House to push Obama to stop the pipeline. Since the two weeks of civil disobedience in August, waves of protests have followed the president all across the country, with students leading the way.

Now, it is our turn. Today, President Obama is coming to St. Louis for a 2012 campaign fundraiser dinner. Green Action is organizing students and other members of the WashU community to show President Obama that there is massive opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. Since most of us can’t make it to Washington to see the President, we plan to be out in full force here in St. Louis.

Many of us have been disappointed by Obama, but he still has the power to be the hopeful president we elected. If enough of us demonstrate against this proposed pipeline, I have faith that he will listen. After Obama rejects the pipeline, I’ll be more than willing to work for his 2012 election campaign. Until then, I’ll be working to stop the Keystone XL pipeline and the dirty energy future it would bring to our country.

For more information on Green Action’s Tar Sands protest, see greenactionwashu.wordpress.com/. For more information on the Tar Sands and the national movement it has generated, see www.tarsandsaction.org/.

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