" If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."
The game, in other words, is not about pipelines, it's about tar sands oil. And even though cancellation of the Keystone pipeline would not be a game-changer, such cancellation would be a powerful symbol that leaves open the possibility of changing the game. And it would be a signal that there is at least some political will to change the game.
The Canadian government under Stephen Harper has been pushing hard for the Keystone pipeline, lobbying the Obama administration and responding to unsympathetic media reports in the U.S. At the same time, Canadian resistance to pipelines in both the east and west has grown increasingly intense, especially among the more than 630 First Nations governments of Canada's native people whose land would be directly affected.
Media Coverage Omits More Than It Says
When Sec. Kerry promises a "fair and transparent" review of Keystone and media from ABC News to the Washington Post to Huffington Post report the story with the same wire service account from AP, there's not a lot of reporting going on. Sec. Kerry's comments are value free and allow for a possible approval, especially in the context of Kerry's "great respect" for the needs of Canada's energy industry.
What AP and those who carried the report left out included Sec. Kerry's significant oil industry holdings which create an obvious conflict of interest, although as someone who was the richest U.S. Senator till recently (net worth about $240 million, compared to Jay Rockefeller's $98 million), his oil holdings may not represent that great a conflict. And Sec. Kerry was "a steadfast proponent of taking action on climate during his tenure as a senator," according to Reuters.
The widely distributed AP report all but dismisses "climate change," using the phrase only in the context of suggesting that the pipeline would be "a source of much-needed jobs," which it's not, and "a step toward North American energy independence," which it's not.
Sec. Kerry's remarks fit a context in which the State Dept. carries out its evaluation and approves the pipeline, giving cover for Pres. Obama to approve it, too, since the evaluation was "fair and transparent," or will be reliably reported that way. But Sec. Kerry also mentioned "accountability" in passing, without saying (or being asked) just what that could possibly mean. If James Hansen is right, and the climate is destroyed by tar sands oil, how will anyone in the future be able to hold a long-dead multi-millionaire accountable for his lost seriousness?
Alternatively, with the boom of "light sweet oil" coming out of Texas and North Dakota, oil that is much preferable to the "heavy sour crude" from Alberta, the president may have a practical way of sidestepping Keystone approval as no longer very useful to the United States (if it ever really was).
Disruptions Continue Along Keystone Southern Leg
The active protest and political theatre front in recent months has been along the TransCanada Keystone Gulf Coat section in Texas and Oklahoma, where early in the morning of February 11 in Schoolton, OK, an Oklahoman youth pastor, Stefan Warner, who chained himself to construction machinery high above a local waterway, the North Canadian River.
"I grew up in a town where the North Canadian River runs right through, and we can't let the North Canadian become another Kalamazoo," Warner said, referring to the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Another giant pipeline company, Enbridge Energy, had one of its pipelines rupture there in July 2010, dumping about 900,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude oil into the river, where the clean-up is now in its third year.
Warner acted with other members of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, a new group that recently organized to resist the Keystone pipeline. The Great Plains website reported the end of the action this way:
8:00AM: Direct Support for Stefan has been arrested without warning and placed in police car. Six other people on site being detained currently.