Confirmation Of Climate Hawk Kerry As Secretary Of State May Doom Dirty Keystone XL Pipeline

The Senate confirmed John Kerry as a Secretary of State by a vote of 94 to 3. I believe this is a turning point in the fight to stop the Keystone XL pipeline.

Once again, I do not think that a man who had dedicated his Senate career to fighting catastrophic climate change would start his term as Secretary approving the expansion of one of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuels in the world.

Keystone is a gateway to a huge pool of carbon-intensive fuel most of which must be left in the ground — along with most of the world’s coal and unconventional oil and gas — if humanity is to avoid multiple devastating impacts that may be beyond adaptation.

How precisely could Kerry lobby other countries to join an international climate treaty — perhaps his primary goal as Secretary — after enabling the accelerated exploitation of the tar sands? Yes, you can say that the United States already has no standing to cajole other countries into climate commitments when we’ve expanded oil and gas drilling as well as coal exports. But none of those were Kerry’s decision, whereas Keystone is.

Kerry starts as Secretary of State with a clean slate. But approving Keystone would be like dipping that slate into the dirtiest, stickiest tar imaginable — it could never be cleaned again. Certainly the three Senators from Big Oil who voted against him — Ted Cruz (R-TX), John Cornyn (R-TX), and James Inhofe (R-OK) — must think he isn’t going to be the friend to Texas Tea.

Here is what Kerry said on the subject of climate change in his confirmation hearing:

The solution to climate change is energy policy. And, the opportunities of energy policy so vastly outweigh the downsides that you’re expressing concerns about … You want to do business and do it well in America, you have to get into the energy race … I would respectfully say to you that climate change is not something to be feared in response to—the steps to respond to—it’s to be feared if we don’t … I will be a passionate advocate on this not based on ideology but based on facts and science, and I hope to sit with all of you and convince you that this $6 trillion market is worth millions of American jobs and we better go after it.

I simply don’t think this climate hawk will recommend that Keystone be approved.

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43 Responses to Confirmation Of Climate Hawk Kerry As Secretary Of State May Doom Dirty Keystone XL Pipeline

  1. fj says:

    Not only is efficiency and clean energy a huge market and if it is a six trillion dollar market as Kerry describes we will be wasting many trillions of dollars more if we do not go after it, since it is inevitable that we will have to go after it when it goes mainstream in the near future.

  2. Beth Kelley says:

    From your lips Joe! I pray.

  3. John McCormick says:

    All together now!!!

    “Mr. President, task your new Secretary of State to negotiate a bi-lateral agreement with China.”

    Now, wasn’t that so hard?

  4. Carol says:

    Stephen Colbert on Climate Change:
    The Word – The New Abnormal – The Colbert Report – 2013-28-01 …

    ► 6:17► 6:17—the-new-abnormal

  5. John McCormick says:

    What an opportune time!!!

    Vice President Gore sold Current TV to Al Jazeera for a $100 million profit.

    Now, Mr. Vice President, given that Senator (now soon Secretary) Kerry will command the State Department, how are you going to invest your new fortune?

    We need answers if you intend to maintain your role in the global climate change struggle.

    From the wire service:

    “Al Gore defended his sale of Current TV to Al Jazeera during an appearance on Tuesday’s “Today.”

    Gore was on to discuss his new book, “The Future,” but Matt Lauer went a bit off-topic and talked about the roughly $500 million sale of the low-rated network to the Qatari channel. Current TV will soon be dissolved to make way for Al Jazeera America, the network’s most aggressive attempt yet to crack the US market.

    Lauer noted that Gore had pulled in a reported $100 million from the sale, and wondered why he had pulled the plug.

    “I thought it was something that you had an ideological interest in, so why did it become just an investment in the end?” he asked.

    “Well, it didn’t,” Gore said. “I’m really proud of it. We found it difficult to compete in this age of conglomerates, and I’m very pleased that A Jazeera has established itself as a really respected newsgathering network.”

    Lauer noted what many Current staffers had reportedly complained about: that Gore, a fierce advocate for tackling climate change, had sold his company to a network funded in large part with oil money.

    I certainly understand that criticism,” Gore said. “I disagree with it, because I think Al Jazeera has obviously long since established itself as a really distinguished and effective newsgathering organization — and by the way, its climate coverage has been far more extensive and of high quality than any of the networks here.”

    “Isn’t there a bit of hypocrisy in that?” Lauer pressed.

    “I get the criticism,” Gore repeated. “I just disagree with it … its climate coverage has been outstanding.”

  6. Ken Barrows says:

    If Kerry follows through as you say, he should run for President in 2016!

  7. Sasparilla says:

    While the decision won’t be Kerry’s in the end, he could lend a good perspective to the President on what the choice means and why it should be canceled – maybe he can guide the president to the right decision here (we know which choice Axelrod will be trying to guide him to).

    I hope your hunch is right Joe, I’m so weary of being let down on climate change by this administration in particular (because of its promises and opportunities lost).

  8. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Agreement on what John? Climate change or trade? ME

  9. Henry says:

    I still don’t trust Kerry (or Obama) on this issue despite his obvious environmental credentials.
    I read an article on the Huffpost a while back that said;
    “OTTAWA – Some lobbyists for a controversial pipeline project stretching from the Alberta oilsands to the Gulf of Mexico need no introduction to confidantes of U.S. President Barack Obama.

    TransCanada Corp. (TSX: TRP) has recruited heavyweights from the presidential campaigns of Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry to lobby for the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline.

    The effort is part of the Calgary company’s full-court press behind closed doors to get Keystone XL approved.”

  10. Sasparilla says:

    I know exactly what you’re saying Henry. The fact Kerry had direct investments in two tar sands companies still bugs me. The amount of money at stake for TransCanada is immense & Canada’s conservative govt will be pushing as hard as it can. I could see very easily where it’s approved for all the wrong reasons (like the other two tar sands pipelines the President approved in 2009). I hope Joe is right.

    Time will tell (wish it was sooner this waiting is going to drive me nuts).

  11. John McCormick says:

    ME, is there a choice?

  12. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    China has been deliberately blackballed from Obama’s TPP trade pact. That’s the real attitude. They’ve been told that they might be allowed to join, if they follow orders. Nice, and bound to impress.

  13. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Time and crime will tell. We all know the answer, but are still living in a Hope Fiend’s cloud of willful unknowing. Too much reality is hard on the spirit.

  14. Superman1 says:

    As long as the demand for fossil fuel remains, the elimination of any one transportation link is irrelevant. The suppliers will find a way to get it to the consumer. They’ll bring it by another route, and the fossil fuel addicts will pay more.

  15. onyerlefty says:

    Joe, Keystone XL is a done deal. There is simply too much money riding on this for oil companies and state economies. New wells are being dug daily into Bakken shale and it wouldn’t be happening if there were not some kind of implicit deal.

    What will happen is some face-saving, largely ineffectual “compromise” designed to pacify environmentalists – unless environmentalists demand more. A silver lining could be a deal on a carbon tax, but we’re going to have to fight for it.

    Charging the batteries in my megaphone.

  16. John McCormick says:

    Yes Mulga, much Chinese suspicion of TTP intent.

    An interesting read on that topic:

    China’s Free Trade Agreement Strategies

    And, from that paper:
    “In an article published in People’s Daily, an official newspaper of the Communist Party, journalist Ding Gang states that ‘‘the United States does not want to be squeezed out of the Asia—Pacific region by China . . . TPP is superficially an economic agreement, but contains an obvious political purpose to constrain China’s rise.’’13”

  17. MarkfromLexington says:

    Senator Inhofe was one of the three no votes. The other two were Cornyn and Cruz from Texas.

  18. Anne says:

    I’m inclined to agree with “onyerlefty” (comment 9) on this one. Even with Kerry as Sec. of State, there is too much momentum, too much money and power behind Keystone XL to kill it now. He’ll either recuse himself (given his personal investments) or make a recommendation against, knowing full well his advice will be overridden by POTUS. The Keystone pipeline will likely be built, one way or another. As tragic as that is. More and more, I’m convinced that our resources need to be directed towards coping (“adapting”), as best we can, with dangerous weather and climate conditions. Defeatist? Perhaps. Realistic? I’m inclined to think so.

  19. Leif says:

    There is no adapting to continent wide droughts in the heart lands of Agriculture. To acidified Oceans. Floods of biblical magnitude. Once flowing rivers parched and dry. Adapting is a straw-man, plain and simple. At least for 99% of the useless eaters like you and I. Got a few billion $$$ you might weather the storm. Still unlikely IMO.

  20. catman306 says:

    “I’m convinced that our resources need to be directed towards coping (“adapting”), as best we can, with dangerous weather and climate conditions.”

    Except that the weather next year and the years after will continually become more and more extreme until there are no more humans to record the events. So adapting is no solution whatsoever.

  21. David Smith says:

    So what are your thoughts on eliminating demand in a timely way?

  22. Anne says:

    I agree, which is why I put “adapting” in quotes. Adaptation occurs very slowly in species and ecosystems, and climate change is abrupt and unforgiving. After awhile, “adaptation” becomes a euphemism for “suffering” and for those even less fortunate, death. Extreme weather has already racked up many casualties. And, so far, we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. So to speak.

  23. Guy Fawkes says:

    You guys are dreaming if you think Kerry will stop the pipeline. Obama is one of those third way Democrats, his speeches mean nothing because in the end he is nothing more than a different brand of Bush.

  24. M Tucker says:

    Kerry will look at the issue and comment to himself, “Well we are already getting that nasty mess from the ALLREADY EXISTING older Keystone pipeline.” It is piling up in Cushing. The older Seaway pipeline was improved to try to remedy some of the backlog and get that stuff to the Gulf refineries. Then Kerry will comment to himself, “Well Obama already approved the southern leg of Keystone that will move even more of that crap from Cushing to Gulf exporters.” Then Kerry will become overwhelmed with Egypt, and Syria, and Libya, and Mali, and N Korea, and China, and Israel, and Palestine, and Iran, and Pakistan, and India, and all the other world flash points DoS must deal with and he will leave the final decision on Keystone phase IV with Obama where it always has been.

    We must keep in mind that most of the world leaders are not too concerned about global warming or even pollution in general. We must keep in mind that the world’s nations are consuming ever more fossil fuels each year. I don’t see Kerry making big waves to eliminate a pipeline that means so much to Canada. If anyone is going to make those waves it will be Obama.

    Kerry’s comments, like Obama’s, seem to emphasize the kind of energy policy that builds a $6 trillion market. The kind of policy that slowly transfers dependence from fossil fuel to renewables, kind of like what we have now in the US as long as Congress continues with the loan guaranties and subsidies. Not the kind of policy that directly limits CO2. Where was Kerry’s passion when Waxman-Markey landed in the Senate? What passionate speech did he deliver when that bill died? Where was his outrage? What we have is the “all of the above” policy Obama has always, always, promoted.

    Phase I From Alberta through Steel City NB then east to refineries in IL. Open in 2010.

    Phase II From Steel City to Cushing OK. Open in 2011.

    Phase III From Cushing to supply the exporters in Port Arthur TX. Approved by Obama while on the campaign trail. This is the one that is being protested in Texas but it looks like a deal might have been reached.

    Phase IV a new line on a more direct route from Alberta to Steel City. This is the one that Obama said he would make a decision on…to be continued.

  25. Superman1 says:


    I don’t see a voluntary way to do it. It’s like the drug problem. Eliminate one cartel, and another appears to take its place. As long as the demand persists, the suppliers will find a way.

  26. Superman1 says:

    He would only do it if he believed he had strong electorate support. The only strong electorate support is for unlimited cheap fossil fuels.

  27. Superman1 says:

    He tried it eight years ago against the most incompetent resident of that exalted office. If he couldn’t win then, what would happen if he ran against someone competent?

  28. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    John, Australia signed a so-called ‘Free Trade’ agreement with the USA, under John Howard, that was so one-sided, so unilaterally beneficial to the USA, that it was more of a ‘transfer of sovereignty’ treaty. But the elites, who see US global dominance as the guarantee of unmerited privilege and wealth around the world, loved it. The TPP is even more one-sided, and our current regime is resisting ( a first for supplicant Australian politicians, who would usually crawl across broken glass to etc), but, no doubt, the next PM, Abbott, will be more than willing.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Either Huffpost is wildly incorrect, or you are dead men walking, when it comes to Keystone.

  30. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Exactly!! We have as much chance of ‘adapting’ to the ecological destruction of the planet as the dinosaurs did to the coup de grace of the meteor impact.

  31. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I’ve seen some Queenslanders crying (the laconic Aussie seems to be growing quite lachrymose these days)in recent days, as their houses and businesses are inundated for the second, third or more times in the last dozen or so years. They are having difficulty ‘adapting’ already. Friends on the NSW North Coast have just had their seventh flood in nine years.

  32. wili says:

    At least we should stop investing $$$ in mal-adapting:

    >stop funding rebuilding in coastal areas that are sure to be re-inundated at any moment, and, in the not-too-distant future, permanently.

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

  34. GeoDon says:

    Come on folks. This this is Climate PROGRESS, not Throw in the Towel. Get out and advocate, however you think is the most effective. It’s one thing to say that you think that Kerry is going to be listening to the political winds, but it’s another to make those winds blow.
    — Optimism is a political act. Those who benefit from the status quo are perfectly happy for us to think nothing is going to get any better. In fact, these days, cynicism is obedience. -— Alex Steffen

  35. Geinem says:

    I agree GeoDon,we must show OUTRAGE if Obama dosen’t follow through with his inaugural promise to the letter.

  36. David Lewis says:

    If Keystone XL is blocked, US activists are likely to find out that Canada can and will move its oil over its own territory to its own seaports. see: Northern Gateway pipeline. also: Kinder Morgan pipeline. There is also a proposal to move 5 mbpd of oil by rail across existing rights of way from Alberta to Valdez, Alaska.

    The US expanded its oil production in 2012 “the most since the first commercial well was drilled in 1859”, according to Bloomberg, i.e. by 766,000 barrels per day. Most of this is unconventional oil. If the case against tar sand oil is that it “along with most of the world’s coal and unconventional oil and gas” must be left in the ground, it is hypocritical for the US to block Canadian unconventional oil while developing its own as rapidly as it can.

    Its hard to see how this case that Obama and Kerry must stop Keystone XL or its “game over” for the climate can make any sense to them other than “the movement” wants a symbolic but empty victory.

  37. David Lewis says:

    Some say Obama now has climate at the top of his agenda. Eg: NYTimes article “Speech Gives Climate Goals Center Stage

    The story about Obama deciding to end Gaddafi’s regime is that the options the military presented at first made no sense to him, but because he wanted to take action, he rejected what was on offer and told them all to come back with options that would accomplish what he wanted.

    If Obama is looking for something meaningful to do on climate, this Keystone XL campaign, because it just forces Canada to find another way to move its oil to market rather than keeping the carbon in it out of the atmosphere, will be rejected by Obama. The “movement” should push for something meaningful, such as using EPA power to require all unconventional oil sold in the US to compensate for its extra CO2 emission somehow, either by producers paying a carbon price, by producers eliminating some of the CO2 emisssions that result as the oil is produced, or by producers removing a compensating amount of CO2 from the atmosphere or from the oceans.

    The Supreme Court agreed long ago that Congress has already granted EPA the power to regulate CO2, opponents of cap and trade knew if Congress did not come up with a way to use market forces to limit CO2 EPA could move in with regulations, and the threat that pressure to eliminate the EPA entirely could become unstoppable if it regulated CO2 seems less now than before the election.

  38. Joe Romm says:

    Or not. Most folks I talk to say that pipeline isn’t going to be approved any time soon. But that doesn’t change the immorality of the whole thing.

  39. Daniel Coffey says:

    Canada might be very interested in gaining the revenue from tar-sand derived oil, complaining as they are about their inability to get full price for lack of access to world markets. The Keystone pipeline is a way to reach those world markets and maximize value to Canada. For that reason it may be very difficult for the US to say “no.”

  40. Daniel Coffey says:

    The best way to make sure that oil remains in the tar sands and in the ground is to create cheaper alternatives in the form of electrified transportation provided by large-scale solar and wind.

    The early struggle for supremacy of oil as a fuel is an interesting story, one which could have gone differently if the original lamp oil market had not produced the free low molecular weight byproducts which end up in gasoline. Once Henry Ford created a tool to use otherwise low value gasoline, the story takes a different turn that brings us where we are today.

    Once the uses of petroleum as fuel are displaced by electricity on a large scale, them things will look very different. Let’s hope we last that long.

  41. Daniel Coffey says:

    For another take on the “oil revenue” question, take a look at Canadian comedian and social commentator Rick Mercer at the Rick Mercer Show

  42. sal esman says:

    Fine rail cars are less green cost more and are more likly to spill, kill, and pollute, but if that is what greens want that’s what they will get. It’s already happening.

  43. Francois T says:


    Go ahead, deniers and cretins of all stripes! Wanna talk jobs and economy now…bitchez??