Five Reasons Why Obama Should Reject The Keystone XL Pipeline

Photo: Ben Powless for Tar Sands Action

This Sunday, activists are organizing another round of protests at the White House to urge the President to kill the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. This marks the beginning of a new post-election campaign to pressure the Administration to abandon dirty fossil fuel projects. Below is a piece, written by three of the organizations leading the protests: Oil Change International,, and Bold Nebraska.

As the President kicks off his second term, there has been much chatter about town as to whether or not he will approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Mitt Romney made it clear that he would approve the pipeline on his first day in office—and even went so far as to say he would build it himself if he had too—while the President has emphasized the importance of climate change and renewable energy.

In an interview with AARP, the President noted that doubling fuel efficiency standards on cars would produce savings equivalent to what would be pumped through Keystone XL in 45 years. In his election night speech, he warned of the “the destructive power of a warming planet.”

Keystone XL is a means for reckless expansion of the tar sands industry, which is game over for the climate. The voters who re-elected Barack Obama expect him to create a legacy of action to stop climate change. Rejecting KXL would be a perfect first step to creating that legacy.

Given that climate change—and our country’s climate legacy—are of utmost importance to the President, we’ve identified the top five [commonsense] reasons to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline:

1) Tar sands are “game over” for the climate. Canada’s tar sands, which Keystone XL would carry, could contain double the carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in history—and green lighting the pipeline that would carry them to the global market would be disastrous for climate change.

2) The supposed benefits of the tar sands pipeline have been overhyped. While supporters once said that the pipeline would bring gas prices down, experts agree that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline could even increase domestic gas prices—and have little chance of lowering them. Jobs numbers, too, have been wildly inflated; TransCanada gave U.S. officials a job number that was 67 times higher than the number they used in Canada. While every U.S. job is important, the estimates on this project have ranged from 50 permanent jobs, to 2,500 temporary jobs, to TransCanada’s claim of 20,000 jobs. Even unions agree that clean energy jobs outweigh this potential for temporary dirty oil jobs.

3) The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline puts our country’s natural resources at risk. The pipeline route passes through Nebraska’s Ogallala Aquifer, which is the country’s largest source of freshwater. The Aquifer provides drinking water and irrigation for millions of Americans throughout the country. Even a single spill could have disastrous consequences for generations to come—and a University of Nebraska at Lincoln analysis of the pipeline finds that it could have 91 major spills in 50 years.

4) On Tuesday, Nov. 6, Americans voted against dirty energy and against Big Oil. Big Oil bet big on the election—and lost big. Big Oil-backed groups spent over $270 million on television ads in the last two months of the cycle alone, and have little to show for it. A recent Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research poll found that 64 percent of voters say they have a favorable impression of renewable energy. In a Zogby poll released today, only 12 percent of respondents said that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline was a “priority.” Meanwhile, 48 percent identified renewable energy as a priority.

5) The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline compromises our energy security. The tar sands oil that will pass through the pipeline is intended for the international market, making Keystone XL a pipeline that goes through the U.S.—not to the U.S. Furthermore, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline continues to feed our dangerous addiction to oil that compromises national security and places American troops in harm’s way.

Canada’s pro-industry energy regulator—the National Energy Board—just announced a sweeping audit of TransCanada’s Canadian operations. This is the latest in a long series of accidents, shutdowns and pipeline safety infractions that have hounded the Canadian pipeline operator TransCanada. Earlier this month, TransCanada was forced to shut its leak prone Keystone I tar sands pipeline down for four days after finding an “anomaly”—a technical term for cracks, corrosion or other defects in a pipeline which may lead to a rupture. These incidents are not unique; TransCanada has a sordid history as a pipeline operator.

31 Responses to Five Reasons Why Obama Should Reject The Keystone XL Pipeline

  1. fj says:

    The people must hold the president to the climate fire to insure that he does the right thing.

  2. esther says:

    In Texas, Keystone ‘won’t promise to employ local workers’, ‘can’t guarantee it will keep the oil in the US’, ‘nearly 1/2 the steel they’re using is NOT US made’ and when land owners will not allow an easment K seeks a court order to Condemn their land!–finance.html

  3. Joan Savage says:

    The last four points are largely nation-oriented arguments along the lines of good for US, bad for US. With that limitation, some of the points may fall apart as development of oil shale within the US looms, and owners of pipelines have new domestic customers.

    The first point, the “game over” piece has always had a language problem, though many grasp it intuitively.

    “Game over” has a short time frame, like something will happen within hours, but at least some of us know what it really means. With development of Canadian tar sands, that much CO2 is enough to finish off habitable Earth, even without the overkill of other carbon sources like the Bakken shale and Green River Oil Shale in the US.

  4. DRT says:

    Joe & Climate Progress readers, Are you attending this rally on Sunday? Say Hello! Gather at the north side of the fountain, at the west end of the plaza @ 2:45. Look for the climate hawk buttons.

  5. Leif says:

    Left off the most important reason IMO. The majority of “We the People” don’t want it. (70+%) I think it is called democracy if memory serves me correct.

  6. Richard Miller says:

    We see Grover Norquist push elected officials to take a tax pledge.

    We also saw in the Frontline special that the American Enterprise Institute has 80,000 members and they were able to intimidate elected officials.

    Here is a quote from Dr. Robert Brulle’s essay entitled the “The US Environmental Movement”, which you can find at :

    “The U.S. environmental movement is perhaps the single largest social movement in the
    United States. With over 6,500 national and 20,000 local environmental organizations, along with an estimated 20-30 million members, this movement dwarfs other modern social movements such as the civil rights or peace movements. It is also the longest running social movement.”

    I think the environmental groups need to step up and play hardball with the democrats. The message should be loud and clear. We will walk in the midterm election and in the 2016 election and we will take most of our supporters who are integral to democratic support and campaigns unless the President opposes the Keystone XL pipeline, unless the President also implements a rapid plan to rapidly draw down sales from government lands of coal replacing them with wind and solar on public lands, unless the president moves to regulate the natural gas boom requiring a full accounting of greenhouse gas emissions from natural gas, and unless the president moves rapidly to push for climate legislation.

    Time is almost up, time to play hardball.

  7. Anne says:

    Maybe this is nitpicking, but, I believe that the title should read, “Five Reasons Why President Obama Should Reject the Keystone XL Pipeline” — it’s disrespectful to call him “Obama” unless using shorthand in casual conversation. (My view).

  8. Boogieman says:

    Reason #6:

    Tar sand oil is abrasive. It can cut into seals, valves, and sensors in short order.
    Hence, it’s almost guaranteed to leak at some point.

  9. Roman Pass says:

    I believe an all of the above energy policy would benefit us more. Build the pipeline. Build windmills. Build solar farms. Build nuclear plants. Build everything.

  10. Lore says:

    One big reason he won’t reject the XL Pipeline.

    1) Back room deal to putting revenue on the table to avoid the fiscal cliff.

  11. Ken Barrows says:

    Yes, it would especially benefit disaster relief workers, probably lead to wage hikes.

  12. Joe P. says:

    Sorry, I don’t understand. If the pipeline is not approved, the Canadians will simply build a pipleine to the west coast and sell that oil to the Chinese. And American refineries will just run more oil from the mid east, to satisfy the demand. As far as the climate change issue only, i don’t see any difference with or without the pipeline from Canada to the south. i’m very sympathetic, but just don’t see the difference for climate change.

  13. Dae says:

    One reason why Obama will approve it. Politics.

  14. Consider the Connection to: Environmental Communication CTC1 [FACTS & ACTION]

  15. Ralph says:

    The ‘jobs increase’ has to include the loss of high paying jobs at the two Illinois refineries where the oil now goes

  16. Norm Cunningham says:

    I’m not so sure that this discussion is heading in the right direction. The line can, and apparently will, still be built through Canada.

  17. John McCormick says:

    Richard, Karl Rove will erect monument in your honor:

    ” We will walk in the midterm election and in the 2016 election”.

    If the rethugs win the Senate in 2014, then what do we do, Richard.

    Lets get over the threat to fall on our swords and stop putting all the burden on the President.

  18. Joe Romm says:

    Apparently not, it would seem right now.

  19. Joe Romm says:

    Little chance of getting to the West Coast of Canada.

  20. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    John, if climate hawks are to implement protest in the form of blackmail, then we need an effective “or else”. Elections are our most effective crowbar. Or, do you have another suggestion? Or, is blackmail not the best strategy? We don’t seem all that good at playing poker. Desperate acts of civil disobedience will likely take more time than we have to yield results. My kids and my grandkids futures depend upon what we do now and in the next handful of years.

  21. jim mooore says:

    I think that Obama is going to approve of the pipeline. The question to the environmental community is what kind of sugar coating can we get in order to swallow this bitter pill?
    A carbon tax?
    Tax credits for wind and solar for 10 years?
    tough new regulations on coal ash?
    Turn the powder river basin coal basin into a never used “strategic coal reserve”?

  22. Joe P. says:

    So your theory is that by preventing the xl pipeline, the Canadian govt will not produce this oil, and it will somehow be left in the ground? Ha. There already is a pipeline to Vancouver that can be expanded. There are also options to the east. At most, this might slightly delay or defer some volumes – but if we think in terms of decades not just a few years, eventually, the oil will get out. The Canadians could ultimately build full refining capability if they had to. The resource is too vast and too economic. i just don’t see the endgame here.

  23. Joe Romm says:

    There are no Canadian options to the West in the foreseeable future. If accelerating the destruction of a livable climate is immoral — and it most certainly is – than I don’t think this is a very tough decision.

  24. John McCormick says:

    Dennis, prior to the 2010 mid-term elections, House republicans gathered money and smart staff to mine from census data, election data and polling data a strategy to identify weak incumbents, both rethug and Democrats. Using that analysis, they recruited half-wits and weasels and poured money into their primary and general election campaigns. Net result, rethugs took over the House.

    You ask if I have any suggestions. I do.

    Go directly to House leadership, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Rep. Ed Markey and demand that they work with LCV and progressives to identify the FLAT EARTH FIFTY and do to them what the rethugs did in 2010. Then pour our hearts into turning the House around.

    Heavy lifting? Yes. For you and the average American’ a stretch of reality. But, you have a computer and Congressional representatives in your state…perhaps one or some are truly progressive.

    We can wail and moan about how bad things are but rarely commit ourselves to changing the source of our angst. Rethugs have no right to govern our great country. End of story. Get to work and improve, in your own words “our effective crowbar”.

  25. shivas says:

    One of the key reasons put forward for Keystone XL is America’s energy independence. First off, what does Canada’s oil have to do with US energy independence, and secondly why does the pipeline need to run to the Gulf when there are plenty of refineries in that area? Well, the answer to the first part is “Nothing”, Canada is America’s largest trading partner, but imported oil is still imported oil. Secondly, the reason for such a long pipeline is that the oil is going to be loaded onto Supertankers in the Gulf and put on the world market. So not only does the tar sands oil do nothing for US energy independence it will ultimately cost the US tax payer in the form of subsidies, land giveaways, and future cleanup costs. This is a scam worthy of Bernie Madoff.

  26. John McCormick says:

    So, Dennis, I just offered a suggestion. Any feedback????

  27. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Sorry John, I’ve been away. Thanks for the reply. I completely agree that the Democrats need to take back the House, as well as hold the Senate. My congressional district is represented by one of those “FLAT EARTH FIFTY”. He was just reelected by a large margin over a good progressive Democrat in this largely Republican district.

    I’d like to get fifty pickups in 2014, but we can’t really count on that. The Republicans control a majority of the state legislatures, and with the new census, have done such a job of gerrymandering that a Democratic House may not be possible for a while, especially in the midterms. I’ve read that 77 million eligible voters didn’t bother to vote in 2012. Midterms are always worse. It’s of little comfort that the majority of non-voters prefer Democrats.

    I feel there are things that must get done before the 2014 midterms. Nixing KXL, a carbon tax, and renewable energy subsidies to name three. As it looks now, we are likely to lose on all three counts, thus the feelings of desperation.

  28. Reed Dils says:

    As bad as the Keystone pipeline is, Canada could end up sending the oil to the West Coast which has even a greater potential for environmental destruction. Canada has a reputation for being environmentally progressive. They should be shamed into rethinking these oil/tar sands projects.

  29. ldelde says:

    THANK YOU!!! The media/press and GOP have been disrespecting this Office for four years.

  30. Joe Romm says:

    Don’t think that they could easily send it to the West Coast.

  31. Richard Miller says:

    The point is that I think it is highly like that the Democrats would step up to the plate if they were sufficiently pressured and it is highly unlikely that continued incrementalism will lead to anything other than irreversible catastrophic climate destabilization.