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.
9:00AM: All Six people detained now arrested. Seven police vehicles on scene. Workers have lowered side-boom in disregard of Stefan's safety and OSHA regulations, Stefan still locked to machinery but lying painfully face-down on the lowered arm. Police obscuring Stefan from view and not allowing anyone within photographing distance.
9:15AM: Another individual arrested. This person was not initially detained but was prevented from accessing her vehicle since 8am. Stefan still holding strong".
1:00PM Earlier today, Stefan was extracted. To our knowledge, Stefan sustained no serious injuries and seems to be alright.
This action is similar to protests mounted over the past five months by the Tar Sands Blockade, who started their resistance in September 2012 when they set up a tree house blockade across the right of way along which TransCanada was constructing its pipeline. TranCanada skipped a section of construction to avoid the tree houses and also took members of the group to court. That action that was settled January 25, when 19 people, also acting on behalf of 6 Jan and John Does and three organizations, agreed to a permanent injunction against interfering with Keystone people, property, or progress.
Defeating Keystone -- A Victory With No Winners?
It would certainly look like a victory for environmentalists if the President denied Keystone a permit, and a low political cost would allow the political class to bask in undeserved credit -- a symbolic triumph. And, at worst, an opportunity to enjoy the illusion that something meaningful was accomplished.
But the problem of tar sands oil would be fundamentally unchanged. It would remain an underexploited asset that Canadians are eager to tap. The demand from Asian markets would continue to grow. Canada would continue to face the irrationality of importing half the oil it uses while exporting two thirds of the oil it produces. The pipeline struggle would become an all-Canada affair.
A lively and slightly hysterical imagination might envision an American war with Canada, not so much to keep tar sands oil in the ground to save the climate, but to keep the Canadians from selling it to the Chinese. More likely, the United States reverts to its traditionally torpid contemplation of planetary threat, the climate continues to warm, and soon Alberta can have a pipeline to the north, since the Arctic Ocean is open year-round.