Center for American Progress on Keystone XL Pipeline Permit: It Is Not in the National Interest, Nor in Humanity’s Interest Monday, the Center for American Progress issued the following statement on the Keystone XL pipeline permit:

The State Department’s assessment that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will have only a limited environmental impact should not be the final word from the Obama administration on the plan to sharply increase imports of dirty tar sands oil from Canada to the United States. But it is unfortunate because it builds momentum for a final permit approval by the end of this year.

At a time when the United States should be doing everything in its power to reduce carbon dioxide pollution and speed the transition to cleaner fuels, the Keystone XL pipeline would be a step backward. Getting oil from Canada’s tar sands is a dirty business, considerably dirtier in terms of carbon pollution than producing conventional oil. That is why hundreds of protesters have been gathering at the White House in recent days, subjecting themselves to arrest on behalf of a cleaner planet. While some will argue that their actions are for naught, since with or without U.S. cooperation the Alberta tar sands will get developed, the United States should not be morally implicated in the acceleration of bringing this dirty product to market and the climate impacts it will have.

President Obama has demonstrated leadership in reducing American’s oil use by modernizing vehicle fuel economy and tailpipe standards that will reduce oil use by 2.5 million barrels daily. Americans look again to his leadership to continue along this path by rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline permit. It is not in the national interest, nor is it in humanity’s interest.

Hear!  Hear!

No, seriously, President Obama, hear!

11 Responses to Center for American Progress on Keystone XL Pipeline Permit: It Is Not in the National Interest, Nor in Humanity’s Interest

  1. Dill Weed says:

    Unfortunately, I believe Obama will approve this pipeline. I’d like to be wrong, but Obama hasn’t shown any particular relish for taking a stand.

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    I’m sorry folks but I see this as a rather weak statement given the stakes, the present situation, and all other considerations.

    It boggles my mind — and indeed is demoralizing and demotivating — that only a very few folks (so far!) can bring themselves to say clearly, “President Obama, if you want my vote and support in the coming election, you’ll have to deny — disapprove of — Keystone XL. If you approve Keystone XL, I will not vote for you or support you. Period. End of story. Got it?”

    [JR: CAP is non-partisan, so such a statement is not possible for the organization to make. This is, in fact, quite a strong statement, if you stop to think about it.]

    Even most people among the folks who are most insistent (rightly so) that Keystone XL shouldn’t be approved, are in essence saying “pretty please” to the President to not approve Keystone XL while implying or allowing the pundits and President to believe that he’ll get their votes anyhow, no matter what he does. Not me. Obama’s refusal to permit Keystone XL is a necessary condition, to me, for voting for him next time around.

    Haven’t we learned anything? Obama himself has said, again and again, that we’ll need to make him do stuff. To him, it seems that it’s the votes that matter — getting his job back. The only way — or at least the way most likely to be effective — to get Obama to say “no” is to make sure, genuinely, that he understands that if he doesn’t do so, he’ll lose our votes. I’m telling him that now.

    I hope that the key climate and environmental organizations will take the same stance. I hope that James Hansen will take the same stance and make it explicit and public. I’m hoping that Bill McKibben will take the same stance: there are too many “pleases” and pleas in the present messaging, and not enough concrete conditions and clear consequences.

    If President Obama approves Keystone XL despite what the scientists have said, what the environmental organizations have all jointly written, what the demonstrators are justifiably doing, what CAP has stated in its message (albeit too softly for my taste), and what he promised us he’d do in order to gain our votes last time around, he’ll lose my vote. Such an outcome, if it comes to pass, should also make us all deeply question our approach to Obama and our assumptions about him.

    I cast a vote for him last time. He has let me — and us — down. Keystone XL is a good, “pure” test: his decision alone. No more “pleases”. He should understand that if he fails this test, he’ll lose me.

    I hope it doesn’t come to that.


  3. Lewis Cleverdon says:

    If Obama permits Keystone, the US will be implicated legally, financially and materially in the offense, not just morally.

    Nor is it clear that US imports are irrelevant to the tar sands full exploitation – at present there is no alternative infrastructure for that volume of exports, and the pending Climate Treaty will make such infrasture uneconomic.

    The Whitehouse should be faced with the question of whether the Nuremburg Court was wrong to convict those camp guards whose defence was that “the offence was inevitable, so their part in it was irrelevant and excusable.”

    For the State Department to resort to the Nuremburg Defence over Keystone is surely a new low in the integrity of Democrat American politics.



  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    Calling Donald Brown!

    An earlier comment (above) made me think that it would be most helpful at this point to hear from Donald Brown on this subject, in this sense: Given that the Keystone XL decision is President Obama’s — he can refuse to permit it — and given (as Donald has pointed out in his work) that one country’s economic considerations, or indeed merely economic considerations themselves, cannot permit the continuation of harms of the order that climate change will most likely bring, or even of the substantial risk that those harms will occur, and (on top of all this) given that President Obama made promises to the public, in order to get into the office he presently occupies, that either explicitly stated or strongly implied that he would not approve of such a thing as Keystone XL, given all this (and more), it seems to me that it would be an immoral choice of the highest order on the President’s part if he were to approve of Keystone XL. Just as (solely) economics could not justify such a decision, “political” considerations could not really justify it either. The point here is that THIS decision is the President’s alone: the buck stops with him on this one. And economic considerations alone can’t justify the continuation of harms or even the high likelihood of the risks of those harms.

    I’d enjoy hearing from Donald Brown on this subject. It seems to me that, under the circumstances of this particular issue (including that the choice is the President’s), a choice on the part of the President to permit Keystone XL would be (it could be strongly argued) a wrongful choice — an unethical choice — at the individual level. In other words, that it would not merely be a good or bad choice economically, or a good or bad choice “politically”, or a “bad judgment” in amoral terms, but that such a decision would be an immoral choice personally, i.e., on the part of the President as human being. (Of course, this doesn’t mean that the President would understand the choice to be an immoral one and make it anyhow; he could do so out of negligence or ignorance regarding the moral aspects of the choice.)

    Anyhow, if Donald is around, it would be interesting to hear from him.

    Be Well,


  5. Jeff Huggins says:

    Joe, I may be getting things mixed up, but I think there’s a very good argument that says that it’s BECAUSE CAP is non-partisan that it could and would be free to make such a statement, i.e., to state (from CAP’s standpoint) that if people want real progress, as CAP does, then the best approach (from its standpoint) would be to tell Obama and the Dems that our votes will be tied to (conditioned upon) Obama’s disapproval of the pipeline. In other words, IF CAP were a partisan Dem-only organization, it would be unwise or perhaps even “un-allowed” for CAP to take such a stance. But GIVEN that CAP IS non-partisan, it would actually be free to take such a stance. Why not? Non-partisan groups can and do take those types of stances (on specific issues and what’s necessary to make progress on them) all the time.

    I’m not trying to speak FOR CAP, of course. But unless I’m mixed up on this, I don’t think there’s anything about being a non-partisan organization that says that CAP could not take a stance that, in its view, in the interest of real progress, concerned voters should tell Obama that if he doesn’t disapprove of Keystone XL, they won’t vote for him. Indeed, isn’t the “proof” of my point this: CAP, as non-partisan organization, could take a stance that any and all politicians, of either party or a third party, whether presently in office or out of office, that would approve of Keystone XL should not be supported with a vote? That any such politician would not deserve a vote in the upcoming election. That’s certainly non-partisan, unless I’m misunderstanding the word.

    That said, IF there is specific wording in CAP’s Articles of Incorporation or Bylaws that would prevent it from taking a stance that “If any politician of any party does X, CAP believes that he/she shouldn’t be supported”, please let me know. If there is such wording, I’ll stand corrected.

    Thanks Joe. (I do appreciate the great work that you folks do, but I don’t think the organizations are being strong enough in their messaging to Obama on this issue of immense, immense, importance.)



  6. Joan Savage says:

    The CAP statement is most timely and I appreciate it.

    International carbon footprint and pollution is not well addressed The State Department’s impact statement.
    State was not obligated to address the environmental consequences of the EXPORT of the bitumen products out of the refinery ports of Houston or Port Arthur, TX.
    Appendix V includes “Comments on the tar sands road to China” which outlines the options for export of tar sands “dilbit” – diluted bitumen.

    China, Taiwan, and Japan could say no to buying tar sands dilbit via either the Keystone XL or proposed pipelines that are mapped to extend to British Columbia. Or not.

    Once again the US has a chance to make a leadership move. To borrow from Nancy Reagan about other dirty drugs, “Just say No.”

  7. Michael Tucker says:

    It has been my understanding that shale oil is even filthier than tar sand. Why is no one talking about all the oil coming from the Bakken shale? …So much oil that rail expansions are planned. Anyone heard about the interest in the oil locked in California’s Monterey Shale?

    Then what about Secretary Chu’s recent statement:
    [Canadian tar sand] “is much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil.” Like Nigeria.

    It is difficult for me to buy into the whole “game over” conviction when so much else is not being discussed. I personally think it has been “game over” for several years now and XL and Bakken and Nigeria and fracking and the possible exploitation of the Monterey Shale is simply the relentless march of business as usual. What are we going to do about the relentless demand for oil?

  8. Wes rolley says:

    I agree with Jeff.

    the only way to get Obama to pay any. Attention is through the ballot. hat is where we are all boxed in now, If we accept that the only alternatives are Obama or a lunatic fringe Republican, then, we all lose far too much. However, if the 40K readers of CP were to a register Green, then he would begin to get The message.

  9. Peter Sergienko says:

    According to information on the web, CAP is a 501(c)(3) organization as are most or even all of the traditional major environmental NGOs. As such, these organizations cannot endorse or oppose candidates for public office. If they do, they lose their tax-exempt status.

    You need a different type of organization to apply electoral pressure. A PAC is probably the best vehicle.

  10. Joan Savage says:

    NPR has been running a clip today on the Keystone XL protests.
    NPR seems to think that the amount of oil from the pipeline is not significant.
    This is in contrast to other estimates that the Alberta tar sands and Saudi Arabia are the two largest reserves of oil.
    The NPR clip has broadcast more than once; however I apologize for not finding a web link.

  11. Jeff Huggins says:


    Thanks for your comment. Here’s a question for you, seeking some clarity:

    These two types of statements are very, very different:

    1. “Vote for Specific Candidate X (or Don’t Vote for Specific Candidate Y) (or Vote Democrat, or Vote Republican)”

    2. “It is our view that Keystone XL should not be approved, and that any officeholder or candidate that supports it does not deserve your voting support.”

    Again, those two statements are different, not merely because they are worded differently but because they do and mean different things, substantively. I can understand, if this is what you mean, that 501(c)(3)’s cannot endorse or oppose specific candidates or parties for public office in the sense of what Statement 1 does. But are you sure — quite sure — that being a 501(c)(3) precludes taking a stance like that in Statement 2?? Somehow I doubt it — but I admit that I’m not a lawyer or a tax expert. Could you please give me a sense of how sure you are that stances of the type in Statement 2 (which are not the same as those in Statement 1) are not allowed, in the case of 501(c)(3)’s? Thanks.

    I’d also appreciate hearing directly from CAP, keeping in mind this difference. It’s an important issue. Thanks.

    Be Well,