Share on Google Plus Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn Share on PInterest Share on Fark! Share on Reddit Share on StumbleUpon Tell A Friend 2 (2 Shares)  
Printer Friendly Page Save As Favorite View Favorites View Stats   2 comments

OpEdNews Op Eds

Obama's Denial of Keystone Permit Was a Welcome Win Against Big Oil

By (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): ; ; ; ; ; , Add Tags Add to My Group(s)

View Ratings | Rate It Headlined to H3 1/19/12

Become a Fan
  (11 fans)
- Advertisement -

Rejecting the transcontinental oil pipeline, the president turned the conventional wisdom on its head, but the real victors were the idealistic protesters.

I wrote the first book on global warming way back in 1989, so I know for a fact that there have been very few days in the last two decades when the scientists have been smiling and big oil scowling. When the president denied the permit for Keystone XL on Wednesday, he didn't just turn the usual balance of power upside down, he turned the conventional wisdom more or less on its head -- as late as October, a National Journal poll of 300 D.C. "energy insiders" showed 91 percent predicting that the pipeline would be approved.

The victory is of course a tribute to people who set aside their natural cynicism about the possibility of change and instead went to jail in record numbers, wrote public comments in record numbers, surrounded the White House shoulder to shoulder five deep. They managed to bring reality to the forefront for once, and that reality -- the leaky pipeline, the oil destined for export, the carbon overload from the tar sands -- managed to trump, for now, the bottomless pockets of the fossil fuel industry.

What was interesting yesterday was watching the reaction of the congressional leadership, who'd forced the issue by passing legislation mandating a speedy approval process. They'd set the president an essentially impossible task, since Transcanada Pipeline hadn't even announced the route they wanted to take through Nebraska. But apparently they thought he'd blink anyway. After all, the head of the American Petroleum Institute had issued the most naked political threat imaginable: block the pipeline, he'd told the president in a speech last week, and there will be "huge political consequences." And of course he has more than enough money to back up the threat.

John Boehner et al may have thought that would work, because money always works with them. Boehner has taken more than a million dollars in donations from the fossil fuel industry; as the Washington Post reported on Sunday, he has hundreds of thousands of his own money invested in tar sands companies. He and his buds believe that's normal behavior, but everyone else in the country knows that they're simply bought off. That's why 9 percent of Americans approve of Congress at the moment -- because it's filled with cheaters. They take money from companies and then judge their interests. (Just imagine the outrage if they were, say, NFL referees).

Because money is their only currency, they actually hardly even bother to make coherent arguments for the pipeline. "Jobs" is the usual line -- but the only independent study of the pipeline found it would kill as many as it would create. Even Transcanada said that at the high point of construction it would employ but 6,000, and those jobs would only last a year or two. Other GOP stalwarts talked about gas prices yesterday -- but again, every study shows the pipeline will actually raise gas prices across the Midwest. By now everyone knows it has nothing to do with energy independence -- that the tar sands oil is destined to be shipped overseas.

- Advertisement -

There's in fact one reason to build the pipeline -- to make even more money for the richest industry on earth.

It's the same reason Congress votes each year to grant coal and gas and oil more subsidies. They get small presents from the fossil fuel lobby, and they give them big ones, paid for with our money. It stinks. But the conventional wisdom is that it will never stop; that they hold all the cards.

Having watched the conventional wisdom get upturned once this year, I'm a little less convinced by that argument. Beating Keystone doesn't stop climate change -- but it does stop Big Oil's winning streak, and that's a hopeful sign.


Bill McKibben is the author of a dozen books, including The End of Nature and Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. A former staff writer for The New Yorker, he writes regularly for Harper's, The Atlantic Monthly, and The (more...)

Share on Google Plus Submit to Twitter Add this Page to Facebook! Share on LinkedIn Pin It! Add this Page to Fark! Submit to Reddit Submit to Stumble Upon

Go To Commenting

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

Writers Guidelines

Contact Author Contact Editor View Authors' Articles
- Advertisement -

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Idle No More, Think Occupy With Deeper Roots

Global Warming's Terrifying New Math

Clinton's Environmental Failure

Obama and Climate Change: The Real Story

Keystone XL: A Choice Between Big Oil or a Sustainable Planet

Obama and the corruption of big oil


The time limit for entering new comments on this article has expired.

This limit can be removed. Our paid membership program is designed to give you many benefits, such as removing this time limit. To learn more, please click here.

Comments: Expand   Shrink   Hide  
2 people are discussing this page, with 2 comments
To view all comments:
Expand Comments
(Or you can set your preferences to show all comments, always)
Drilling The Big GOP Lie: The US Exports More Gaso... by 911TRUTH on Friday, Jan 20, 2012 at 11:30:49 AM
The largest industry on earth defeated-- oh come n... by Mike Preston on Friday, Jan 20, 2012 at 12:27:11 PM