John Kerry Says ‘The Science Is Screaming At Us’ But Would Approving Keystone Destroy His Climate Credibility?

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered another set of powerful remarks on climate change last night. But all his poignant words will come to nought — indeed, they’ll come back to haunt him — if he makes the wrong decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

How precisely could Kerry lobby other countries to join an international climate treaty (and move away from fossil fuels) — perhaps his primary goal as Secretary — after enabling the accelerated exploitation of one of the dirtiest sources of fossil fuels in the world?

I had thought that Obama’s strong post-reelection words on climate, coupled with the choice of climate hawk Kerry as Secretary of State, might be a double signal that the administration was prepared to kill the Keystone XL pipeline. But last week, the White House started sending signals “the president is inclined to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.”

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. That can’t happen without some sort of international agreement (or multi-lateral or bilateral agreements). And such an agreement is not possible without the U.S. taking a leadership role, since we are the richest country and the biggest cumulative polluter.

Kerry certainly understands the risks posed by climate inaction. Yesterday at the National Geographic Society’s Ross Sea Conservation Reception, he said:

I have seen this fragile ecosystem change before our very eyes, whether it’s a problem of acidification, a problem of pollution and development, a problem of ice melt and potential ecosystem collapse, to the rise of the sea levels, which is happening in various parts of the world….

The entire system is interdependent, and we toy with that at our peril….

So climate change is coming back in a sense as a serious international issue because people are experiencing it firsthand. The science is screaming at us, literally, demanding that people in positions of public responsibility at least exercise the so-called “precautionary principle” to balance the equities and not knowing completely the outcomes at least understand what is happening and take steps to prevent potential disaster.

… I’m here to tell you that, proudly, President Obama has put this agenda back on the front burner where it belongs, that he has in his Inauguration Address and in his State of the Union Address and in the policies he’s working on now said we are going to try to exercise leadership because of its imperatives.

[Well, figuratively, not literally….]

But I’m not sure if Kerry has thought through the international implications of approving Keystone. The United States has already undermined its standing to cajole other countries into climate commitments by expanding oil and gas drilling as well as coal exports. But none of those were Kerry’s decision, whereas Keystone is.

Yes, the U.S. has a serious shot at hitting Obama’s Copenhagen pledge of a 17% cut in CO2 emissions from 2005 levels — if the President embraces strong emissions reductions from existing power plants. But let’s not pretend that target is either especially hard to hit or scientifically meaningful (see “Developed Nations Must Cut Emissions In Half By 2020, Says New Study“).

That is to say, the fact Kerry can go to the other big emitters and commit to meeting Obama’s pledge is a necessary minimum condition to achieve a climate agreement — but it is not sufficient. He needs some moral standing, he needs to be able to demonstrate to the world the U.S. understands that far deeper cuts are needed post-2020 and that means not sticking new spigots into huge, dirty carbon pools like the tar sands.

Kerry needs to show that his words are more than words, that he actually hears the screams from the science — and from generations yet unborn. Kerry must recommend to Obama that Keystone be killed. And Obama must agree — and no, Kerry will not gain anything if Obama were to over-rule him. Quite the reverse: That would be a vote of no-confidence in his Secretary of State on climate issues and make of Kerry a paper tiger.

Kerry starts as Secretary with clean hands on climate. But approving Keystone would be like dipping his hands into the dirtiest, stickiest tar imaginable — they could never be cleaned again.

83 Responses to John Kerry Says ‘The Science Is Screaming At Us’ But Would Approving Keystone Destroy His Climate Credibility?

  1. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Ah, that Lady McBeth moment – “Out damn spot”. Do politicians really suffer for their sins? ME

  2. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Try Macbeth, ME

  3. Jim says:

    Correct Joe, I can tell you from the overseas perspective (Netherlands) that Kerry needs to gain moral ground anyway on this issue, because the US footprint is that much higher than our’s.

    Not that we are much better when compared with most developing countries.

    We do (again) need the leadership of the US to solve the biggest challenge of our time, but Kerry won’t be taken serious unless he blocks Keystone XL and helps Obama to take big steps in efficiency and clean power.

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  5. Ask yourself this question. Will action on climate gain votes for the Democratic party? Probably not, since most so called enviros are so scared of a Republican holding any office that they will vote for any Democrat that runs… even Blue Dogs.

    If you look at the issues where Obama has taken “principled” stands… immigration, right to marry, women’s equal treatment including pay… they are all designed to either gain or hold on to a segment of the electorate. This will not change until such time as the Democrats are convinced that lack of action on climate will cost them seats in Congress.

    The best thing to happen for near term action is to have a set of well funded Greens Party candidates go after Congressional seats on an ecological platform that seriously addresses climate change. Then, the Democrats will co-opt the issue and something will finally be done.

    The question, of course, is where the Green funding will come from. We really need someone as rich as Soros to start it off.

  6. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s a very familiar tactic in sham ‘democracies’ of the capitalist type. Have one ‘narrative’ for the patsies, particularly before elections or when the rabble are growing restless, while the words of real weight and potency are reserved for the real rulers-the rich. I’ve seen nothing to make me think that Kerry, or any other Western politician does not fit this template. Occasionally a politician escapes the vetting process, and may speak honestly and candidly, but they either sell-out when real power is offered them, or the system rejects them in a sort of bizarre immune reaction.

  7. M Tucker says:

    Do politicians suffer for their sins?

    It seems to me that if they have a strong feeling about the importance of an issue and the politician is unable to get the necessary legislation passed then they do feel deep regret. If it is a mistake the politician makes in office they spend the remainder of their time attempting to justify their action.

    Those are generalizations. I don’t know how Clinton really feels about DOMA or DADT. It seems to me both have caused suffering. I know that BushII and his band of merry men and women are happy to justify Iraq. I have no idea how Kennedy felt about the mismanagement of Vietnam he was responsible for but he probably died blissfully ignorant of his mistakes. I know the Presidents between Polk and Lincoln spent a lot of time justifying their actions and inactions. I know the Republicans we had leading up to the Great Depression were happy to blame others. If you look at Taft’s inaugural address he is happy to couch the violent restrictions on African American voters in the South in states rights. Republicans have never felt the need to defend their isolationism prior to WWII. The mistakes go on-and-on.

    Kerry can point to the President for whatever happens with Keystone. Obama will have to live with his actions and inactions and look into the eyes of his grandkids was the world becomes a harder and harder place to live in.

  8. Bill says:

    I seriously doubt that the White House views Keystone XL as any sort of watershed in our nation’s environmental policy. But there’s no doubt that the US and other nations around the globe need to drastically cut usage of fossil fuels before it’s too late and climate change reaches a tipping point.

    Unfortunately, it’s going to take quite a major crisis before our government truly starts moving on this issue. One might suppose that Hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy, or all of the raging wildfires and epic floods, would be enough to get peoples’ attention. But until the climate produces devastation on a massive and utterly heartbreaking scale, don’t expect the impetus in Washington to be very strong for halting projects like Keystone XL.

    The real problem is that most Americans, including Secretary Kerry, seem to believe that we’ve still got a reasonable cushion of time left to work out a solution. The wealthy and well-connected who dominate our government tend to have a firm and enduring faith in golden parachutes. Yet nearly every credible climate study disputes this as nothing more than wishful thinking.

    Unfortunately, things need to get extremely bad before anything significant will be done by the federal government. At that point, it will be small comfort for opponents of Keystone XL to say “we told you so.” This won’t alter the facts of life and death in the super-heated world awaiting us.

  9. We need to start setting precedents and signalling to the world our seriousness when it comes to climate change. If we are to ask China to give up its coal plants, how can we if we do not give up our tar sands?

    It’s not just that world ecology is interdependent, as Kerry rightly notes, it’s world action. Bad actions follow bad. Good actions follow good. And it is our place to be the ones to start.

    And for all those who say we will suffer. Nonsense! We suffer already for the harm we’ve caused. And we will suffer far, far less should we begin to make the hard choices now and do not decide to sink our money, capital and hard work into projects that will certainly have to be cancelled 5, 10, 15 years down the road.

    What is the profit in making bad choices now? Not one jot. The profit will come from the bounty of new energy we enable ourselves to create. From sources that are independent of harm. From energy that will never run out.

    How can an economy grow limitlessly from a depleting, climate harming, environment poisoning source? The answer is it cannot. The only real hope for growth is in an economy based on sources that do not harm, that do not run out. And we have them now.

    So let’s go for them all out. Let’s not miss this amazing opportunity.

  10. BlackDragon says:

    Wow, strong words from Kerry, strong and clear. He says he gets the message. He says Obama gets the message. How is it possible that they know the science – even mentioning the precautionary principle – and all of the dire implications of the science, and still be signaling the approval of Keystone? What the heck is going on here?

  11. BobbyL says:

    I think the leaders of countries like India and China would want to see a lot more than a rejection of Keystone. I think they are looking for serious reductions in line with the science. Most of all I think they would like to Americans live a less affluent lifestyle, that is, make some obvious sacrifices after living it up for decades while much of the world lived in poverty. I believe they don’t think we are willing to give anything up. Until they see real emissions reductions and less obvious affluence don’t expect Kerry to get anywhere.

  12. Bill Wilson says:

    I voted for the Pres. and still want him to succeed but no longer have much hope. I so much wanted Kerry to speak out against the war with Iraq and think he would have been President had he done the homework and seen the evil of oil and tyranny of sticking our hand into the bee hive over there The problem is too much money to be made in both cases and Pres. Obama could learn from the experience of Kerry should he come out soon and forcefully against Keystone. Each day he does not say an unequivical no to Keystone tells me he is under the same trance as war with Iraq and the trance is simply not fully willing to suffer the short term political hit for the long term good of America. Too many Democrats are thinking about the next election and how it all plays to the voters. Kerry could have the moral fiber to say we simply must align our words and actions with the scientific truth and warnings and lead the world while cooperating with China and India or be left in the dust like Iraq left so many. Money over the common good and more people today are saying return to the common good that should the Pres. and Kerry deny this there simply will be no good left in our government and Keystones will be judged as the crimes against humanity they are.

  13. Merrelyn Emery says:

    They, along with many others, also want you to pay the bill for all the damage caused by historical emissions, ME

  14. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The Guardian reported on ‘White House officials’. Who knows what games go on behind the scenes but I would bet they are many and various, ME

  15. BobbyL says:

    Very true. I think Keystone is important in the activist community but it is overshadowed by other issues on the international front. I think whether Kerry rejects Keystone or not is basically irrelevant when it comes to international negotiations to reduce emissions. Keystone matters mostly in terms of domestic politics because it has been deemed a litmus test by activists.

  16. If the transition is seen as a punishment, it will never happen. This is why we must lead.

  17. Mark E says:

    Best one yet.

  18. Couldn’t disagree more. The more we do domestically, the more we can bring to the table internationally. And we can show that saying no to Keystone was a major advance in climate policy on our part.

  19. That’s a little too cynical for my taste. That said, it would be refreshing to see a rejection of Keystone on principle.

    We’ve had other successes that don’t, necessarily, benefit the monied interests. Healthcare, auto efficiency increase, renewable development funding, EPA rules on carbon. So I think we have some precedent to be a little less cynical.

  20. Mike Roddy says:

    Nice to hear from you. I met Kerry once, and was impressed by him. If he sells out on this one, two bad things will happen: The oil companies won a big one, and we now have no idea where to turn to find a powerful politician who does not fear the oil companies.

  21. Thomas Rodd says:

    I tend to agree, BobbyL.

    There is apparently little hard evidence showing that approving/not approving Keystone would make a big difference on developing the tar sands. That’s what’s before Obama scientifically.

    I was in DC at the protest and hope it’s disapproved — but, like others, I question strategically making an apparently minor matter into a “litmus test.”

  22. Joe Romm says:

    Actually, there is no evidence it would be easy to develop the tar sands without KXL. It isn’t a minor matter, nor is it a carbon price. It is a medium matter that Kerry and Obama have 100% control over and thus it reveals their true intentions and beliefs.

  23. Mossy says:

    We MA climate activists have tried to get Kerry to issue a negative statement on the Keystone in the past, before his new position. He was reluctant then, as he did not want to offend the administration, since he had his eye on becoming Secretary of State. Now, he still has to reflect the administration, and is beholden to Obama. We need to focus on the head honcho.

    Yes, Kerry’s a nice guy, and he can speak well on this subject. I met him twice. He came to our StepItUp rally at the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA, in the middle of a hurricane, with 100 people, and said, “I will never forget this day in Concord.” To me, this represented commitment …but then again, he’s a politician, first and foremost.

  24. Tom says:

    Regarding figuratively vs literally. It is not a case of hyperbole, it is a case of understanding what “science” means. Science is our objective understanding of the physical world. Insofar as we understand the screaming winds of Sandy were climate change fueled, Kerry is dead on.

    As for Keystone XL – the administration would like to have its cake and eat it too. However, the tar sands represent 50% of our remaining carbon budget – it is like buying an expensive resort timeshare when you don’t have the money for rent – we literally can’t afford it!

  25. BobbyL says:

    It’s going to take a lot of political courage for Kerry and Obama to reject Keystone. Not only are the oil companies for it but the Canadian government supports it, organized labor in the US supports it, and 70% of Americans support it according to a recent poll. They are politicians. As we are discovering, finding ways to fight global warming for politicians is not easy. I certainly hope they reject it but would be surprised if they do all things considered.

  26. Mike Roddy says:

    Yes, the system will reject those who stray, in a simple immune reaction. But then, microorganisms are not the main problem. We are dealing with something far more sinister.

    Politicians eventually give in to the succubi, who are relentless, slimy, and abundant creatures. Lead succubus: Rush Limbaugh.

  27. Raul M. says:

    As it is nature that will throw the punches to our lifestyles, so dependent on nice weather we Americans. There is the future of living longer and longer periods of time within the grips of wiolent weather. Sort of like the gov. and commerce will tell us what shoe size we wear and then we get to wear those shoes when we go into the rageing winds and pelting rain to correct the damages of the last storm. Why that will be a dramitic future, one where we may well learn to eat tree bark as the tender vegies may be of the legends of past granduor of the elders.

  28. Sasparilla says:

    Well I think the credibility is the administration’s, not something Sec Kerry owns himself…and the administration doesn’t have a whole lot of pure climate change credibility at this point, at all.

    If this was Sec Kerry’s decision that would be one thing, but it is in name only – whatever decision comes down (& we’re pretty sure what it’s going to be) it will Nobel Peace Prize winning (for his climate change talk) President Obama’s decision, unfortunately…and he is the one the blame for this decision should rest on, IMHO…

  29. Sasparilla says:

    I think you’re right on target BobbyL, great comments all.

  30. Sasparilla says:

    With the truly pathetic showing on the last election I don’t think the Green party can do it in time.

    But consider this, if given some serious money you could set up a public threat (like Norquist for the republicans on taxes etc.) and promise a well funded primary challenger for any Democrat that votes against climat change legislation or green energy legislation. The trick is you have to deliver on the threat for a couple of election cycles and knock most of the offenders.

    Even then we couldn’t get anywhere with the GOP under that same kind of threat for voting for climate change or green energy legislation (courtesy of the brothers Koch), but it would be doable for Dems with the money and setup.

  31. Brooks Bridges says:

    BobbyL in a later comment: “It’s going to take a lot of political courage for Kerry and Obama to reject Keystone.”

    And that’s PRECISELY why it IS important that they reject it.

    What else is on the horizon that the administration can do unilaterally to take a real first step to back up all the new wonderful climate action rhetoric?

    To paraphrase: If not now, When? If not this, What?

  32. BlackDragon says:

    Well, the Prez is now talking about AGW and all the great things he will do, but there is still one other big subject, one very big taboo subject, which may be driving his thinking on Keystone more than AGW: Peak Oil.

    I remember 20 or 30 years ago whenever the tar sands came up as a possible significant oil resource, the usual response was mostly just dismissive laughter – oh, we’d never be that desperate, or that stupid. The tar sands will be too expensive, too destructive… And here we are, sucking down that bottom barrel sludge just as hard as we can.

    What happened? Peak oil of course. (Light crude peaked around 05-07. Great Recession in 08. Not coincidence.)

    Maybe Obama is thinking – OK, if I kill Keystone, and then gas prices go way up, whoa, big blowback. Can’t deal.

    I think there is an excellent chance PO is going to come roaring back sometime in the next 4 years, and Obama knows this. Gas prices will be going up, possibly hugely up, during his second term, and if he hasn’t approved Keystone when that is happening, he will be taking more flak than his programming can deal with.

  33. Dave S. Nottear says:

    If we were serious, Obama would place economic sanctions on Canada if they develop their oil sands.

    Kerry and Obama know US and world conventional oil production have peaked and are going to decline.

    Obama will approve the pipeline because we do not have any “substitutes” (economist-speak for fairy dust) that can replace oil in our infrastructure.

    And we do not have the capital to do a “world war II effort” to change infrastructure. The global financial system is still in emergency status (e.g. asset mark-to-fantasy) and Europe is looking like the middle-east more and more each day.

    This is bigger than Obama, or the USA, etc.

    History makes us, we do not make history.

  34. atcook27 says:

    Dude, you’re on fire!

    Barack Obama – The 44th Corporate Facilitator of the USA.

    The masses have been manipulated to an extent very few are aware of for the last century.

  35. atcook27 says:

    For me the battle will only be won when Obama acknowledges that this issue is so important that economic growth will need to be sacrificed. You know, like when they abolished slavery.

  36. atcook27 says:

    Next time I watch the Zapruder film the words, “or the system rejects them in a sort of bizarre immune reaction” will come to mind.

  37. Camburn says:

    The pipeline will be approved before August 2013.

  38. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Surely we and history make each other. And the USA has been printing money for a lot of matters that I consider far less important than climate chaos, ME

  39. To some extent I think they float trial balloons to see what level of reaction they get back. So you see trial balloon that he might reject followed by one that he is leaning towards saying yes.

    My reading of the tea leaves is that they have been pushing the car fuel economy message pretty hard recently hoping to see if they can get away with just that as “enough”.

  40. I totally disagree that KXL is “minor”.

    It is a 30 year commitment that locks in 5 billion tonnes of CO2 from one of the dirtiest sources of oil in the world.

    If saying “yes” to that no big deal then we are screwed. The battle right now is to prevent “locking in” dangerous climate change with exactly this kind of commitment.

    Obama’s kids will be his age and tar sands will still be gushing out of the KXL promise he made.

    If it is OK to say “yes” to that, then what is off limits?

    Remember that Obama doesn’t need to say yes to KXL to get either the short term jobs or the oil. All you get with KXL is a 30-year commitment instead of a more flexible option that doesn’t tie the hands of future generations.

  41. I would like to see one piece of evidence that Indians and Chinese want Americans to live less affluent lives. I totally don’t buy it.

    My take is that they want the exact same thing. I’d say the lifestyle is more beacon than horror.

    What they do want is a stable climate that will require USA to do more than they are doing.

  42. Joe, I totally agree with your assessment on this. KXL is a huge symbol either way. There is nothing minor about it.

    If Kerry and Obama give the thumbs up to a 30-year climate commitment to 5 billion tonnes of tar sands CO2…the message will be loud and clear. If KXL is OK, what isn’t?

    We don’t even need KXL according to the State Department report.

    The pipeline decisions is a huge commitment and symbol either way.

  43. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Robert, in this world, at this late hour, after decades of disappointments and betrayals, you cannot be to cynical. Simply impossible.

  44. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes, the ubiquitous use of anonymous sources by a group as thoroughly untrustworthy as the MSM is a scandal. I routinely disbelieve any anonymous ‘Western diplomat’ or ‘activist’ because I know, with a high degree of certainty, that in the overwhelming majority of cases either the source or the presstitute is certain to be lying or distorting.

  45. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I agree. Everybody has to start by cleaning their own stables. The USA’s are particularly Augean, yet tens of millions live in relative poverty and distress. Get the rich to do the heavy lifting, I say.

  46. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And what’s next? What new environmental abomination will be waved through after Keystone? If the forces of evil get this one, they will be back..for more and more and more, until they are stopped. That is the nature of insatiability.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    First and foremost he is a man- a very, very, rich man, and the class consciousness and solidarity of the US ruling elite must never be under-estimated.

  48. Russell Frege says:

    This is a great statement by Kerry. I don’t really care though. I’m done expending energy on worrying about what politicians do or say. Keystone XL will probably be approved. This is just the begining of our struggle, and the moral righteousness of the abolitionists and suffragettes is on our side. They faced a government hostile to their cause and were undaunted. We have to do the same. Blockade fossil fuels. Always. Everywhere. Until we win. And we will win.

  49. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Yes, all governments do it. That makes all N. American citizens all the more responsible to show their preference and voting intentions. It’s supposed to be govt by the people so go for it folks, ME

  50. It really will take a lot of political courage to stop the pipeline. Though Labor is divided, many parts of labor are for the pipeline. So Obama and Kerry will disappoint an important Democratic constituency in any case.

    Climate hawks are making it a litmus test because of trying to force a “crossing the Rubicon” moment – crossing into an irreversible commitment to action on climate. But the public may not be ready to be pushed across that river just yet. Most people are worried about climate but not quite convinced that it is an emergency requiring all out commitment. We have not had a flaming Cuyahoga River moment; some big symbol obvious to everyone – symbols obvious to just the climate hawks don’t count politically. Even the friendly part of the public has a lot of natural inertia and needs a flaming river or a Sputnik to be moved.

    So if not now, well, people are still on the river bank, and can still be pushed toward crossing tomorrow. If not this, then don’t let your head explode into uselessness. Instead take up the next issue – a carbon tax or something. And keep up the patient education of the public. Even though such education is pushing against a lot of natural inertia, it is still advancing. And none of us can advance it by giving in to some raging, catatonic anger.

  51. Joan Savage says:

    “…we are going to try to exercise leadership because of its imperatives.”
    — Kerry paraphrasing Obama

    “Do or not do. There is no try.”
    — Yoda, fictional character in Star Wars

  52. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Because of the mechanization of modern agriculture, and the switchover to artificial fertilizers, pesticides, and insecticides, and because of the American demand for strawberries, avacadoes, and table grapes in January, fossil fuels have become the hidden ingredient in virtually everything we eat. It is only a slight embellishment to state that “we eat oil”! I predict we’ll eat KXL as well, despite the illogical reality that the US (namely the Koch Bros. and their gulf refineries) will be KXL VARS – not KXL consumers.

  53. Jim says:

    Pearl Harbour, version 2013 ?

  54. Joan Savage says:

    I’m curious about what parts of labor are for the KXL. Refinery?

    Far more new jobs have emerged in the clean energy sector alone than the most exaggerated job claims for KXL.

    I wouldn’t mind if work-hungry pipe fitters were hired to retro-fit buildings for more energy efficiency, but at this point that might (cough, cough) be only a pipe dream.

  55. Dave S. Nottear says:

    I don’t know. I think we mostly stumble through history Life-of-Brian style (mostly unintended consequences) and then the victors tell a narrative later that matches their view of what happened.

    We like to think we have free-will and all that, but neurological studies suggest that too is mostly our “after-the-fact” interpretation of what happened. We can’t even get eye-witness testimony right.

    Resource depletion starts biting Very hard this semester (decade) and with our fragile global economy and climate change…

    Inflection point in human culture dead-ahead?

    Nature at work – Fines Double in Work Zones

  56. BillD says:

    The thing is, the purpose of this pipeline is to transport oil to the Gulf where it will be refined and shipped to foreign countries. The number of jobs has been grossly exagerated by supporters. My understanding is that it is expected to increase the price of gasoline in the Midwest US by making it easier to ship crude to the Gulf. One issue is whether the pipeline will still be used after we get a tax on carbon. And will the tax include the carbon cost of mining and refining, as well as the CO2 released during burning. My concern is the the first two costs will be ignored as a price for passing the carbon tax.

  57. Mike Roddy says:

    I’m with you, Russell. That also means calling out politicians who snuggle up to the fossil fuel industry.

  58. fj says:

    Devils’s Excrement completely describes the demonic confluence of horrors moving forward with this stuff . . .

    And a likely source of many dark jokes to come, as the president has indicated that he would be just pleased to Pass the Excrement.

  59. Joan, this is a little late in response to you, but the Keystone XL Pipeline was supported by the Executive Committee of the AFL-CIO. That is about as high up in labor as you can get.

  60. fj says:

    Newby Elizabeth Warren ?

  61. Joan Savage says:


    That’s very interesting. It leads to a related question of how many of the new clean energy jobs are union.

  62. Paul Magnus says:

    If Obama forces his hand Kerry should resign.

  63. Paul Magnus says:

    Obama better double his security if he says no.

  64. Absolutely. The rich have had a good run. Now it’s time for them to do their part to make things better and to extend prosperity to those in need.

  65. Paul Magnus says:

    So will we… Idle no more… must see vid…

    First Nations join with groups in the US. Will physical stop pipelines. Will use the courts. Stakes are high.

    First Nations say they will fight oilsands, pipeline – Canada – CBC News
    An alliance of First Nations leaders from the U.S. and Canada say they are gearing up to fight the Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines both in the courts and through unspecified direct action.

  66. @ Bobby L

    It will take courage.

    I think State and Obama feel that not approving tar sands would be a bad move politically. And, in this, I think they are wrong.

    It was popular to go to war with Iraq, but it ended up being a terrible move for politicians who supported it. People respect politicians with the morality and integrity to stand on principle. And in this case, the long-term consequences of choosing Keystone are far worse than going to war in Iraq.

    It ties the US to a very dirty energy source. It results in greater and greater world carbon emissions over time. And it shows that our most powerful environmental proponents don’t have the guts to stand up to oil special interests if the wind isn’t at their backs.

    This sends a signal across the world. It affirms ‘drill baby, drill’ and casts a mark of doubt on alternative energy development. It certainly isn’t the end of the fight, but it would be a substantial set-back.

    And, in this issue, we really, really need to be pushing forward and setting precedent. Defeating Keystone would be a major positive precedent. It would invigorate the proponents for clean energy and establish an example for the rest of the world in fending off oil, gas and coal special interests.

    It would be a very important step.

  67. paulina says:

    It’s not minor. Over the coming 40 years, the climate pollution associated with it (the KXL pipeline) would be the equivalent of, or greater than, Canada’s (or California’s) entire carbon budget for that time period, if by carbon budget we mean the cumulative emissions for that time period associated with an 80% chance of staying below 2C, in this century, divvied up on a current per capita basis.

    The Alberta Clipper *expansion* is not minor, either (about half of KXL). Comments to the State Dept. on the Notice of SEIS Intent for the expansion amendment to the Presidential Permit for the *Alberta Clipper* pipeline due by April 29. Maybe cc John Kerry.

  68. Thomas Rodd says:

    Joe, I have posted four requests here inntwonweeks for links to any fact-based refutation of the draft EIS conclusion that building or not building the keystone pipeline won’t make much difference on tar sands development. No responses. Do you have one? Without some refutation of this sort the EIS analysis is what Obama has. People who can’t do much to challenge the substance often turn to the process, which may have happened so far in this instance.

  69. Dave S. Nottear says:

    About “printing money”… I think the ROI on that looks like it is coming to an ugly end very soon and their is no Lender-Of-Last-Resort this time.

    See what has happened with our money supply (courtesy of Mish Shedlock: starting half-way down):

    “Fraudulent Guarantees…

    (Money supply charts)

    One Giant Ponzi Scheme

    Clearly far more money has been lent than exists. How can it possibly be paid back? …”

    Where has all the Capital gone, long time passing?… Young bankers picked them everyone… when will we ever learn?

  70. Dave S. Nottear says:


    We built our own Industrial Monkey Trap.

    And we keep sticking our arm in deeper and deeper, refusing to let go of all our oily bananas.

    (we forgot how to live without the machines – just like roman pottery after their fall, will be our next form of agriculture???)

  71. Dave S. Nottear says:


    Which is the greater threat?

    a. Iran’s nuclear stuff
    b. Canada’s oil pits
    c. shale-anythings last-gasps
    d. methane hydrates

    Where should we place sanctions?

  72. Solar Jim says:

    The selfish short-term motives of union leadership, such as the AFL-CIO endorsement of tar sand KXL (against the nation’s true interest) or the IBEW endorsement of Georgia atomic fission reactors (mired in scandal) is a reason for their diminished stature. They have no vision except, it unfortunately seems, short term greed.

    Perhaps that’s American to them, but not in this former IBEW member’s playbook.

  73. Solar Jim says:

    Your statement is ridiculous. The only true “sacrifice” was immorality. This poison meme of economic sacrifice is exactly wrong.

  74. Sasparilla says:

    If Kerry resigned in protest, that would be stunning. We’d lose a Sec of State but gain a hero, a powerless one, but a hero nonetheless.

  75. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Thanks Paul. They must be crying for their beautiful land, ME

  76. Dave S. Nottear says:

    Yes, Thank you Paul

    The government suits offer the usual bribes and Trinkets: “jobs …” ” a share of the booty.”

    And they talk past the Natives to spin the media/press while trying to redefine the issue.

    “This is about responsible development…”

    Meanwhile, the First Nations are not fooled.

    “some native leaders say he has no credibility.”

    “We’re going to stop these pipelines one way or another,

    “We’re the ones that’s going to save whatever we have left of this Earth,” he said.

    “We, as a nation, have to wake up,” he said. “We have to wake up to the crazy decisions that this government’s making to change the world in a negative way.”

    This sounds like a real protest – one worth joining (leave the kids at home, no picnics here).

  77. The right-wing vision is to turn the U.S. into “Petro-State America.” “Energy independence” is the front.

    Unless we can figure out a way to stop it, this country is going to be fracked coast to coast; the Pacific Northwest will be black with coal dust from coal trains transporting it for shipment to China; the Canadian Crud will be flowing through our pipes; Arctic drilling, offshore drilling, and drilling on public land will be ubiquitous; and our cities will be as smoggy as Beijing.

    There will be fewer and fewer jobs, and the only growth industry, besides health care, will be non-union work in fossil-fuel extraction. And of course the wealth from all these fossil fuel sales will accumulate not with the people, but with the elite.

    This is the vision for America’s future. We need all hands on deck.

  78. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    At first glance I thought you said ‘..culling out..’.

  79. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    The way things are going in China, with wind and solar spreading, plans to limit coal after 2015, and carbon prices to be tested in the next few years, a lot of that coal might end up staying in the ground.

  80. I was thinking of the Plumbers & Pipefitters here locally. They have had an offer to move them temporarily from Iowa to the pipeline for temporary, but apparently high-paying, jobs working on the pipeline. They are also good supporters of our central committee, of which I am an officer. I generally support labor issues, and I have been an officer in a teacher’s union. I see eye-to-eye with the other unions on almost every issue. However, I cannot support that pipeline, and I and others have debated them publicly. In our local platform we ended up opposing the pipeline. The vote was not particularly close, and there were other union votes against the pipeline. However, the experience left me with at least some appreciation of the pressures on Obama. If the president stops the pipeline, there will be a massive protest from the other side, and we should defend any such presidential decision as strongly as possible. But if he does end up allowing the pipeline to be built, I think the climate hawk community, rather than take some intemperate, bridge-burning action, should dust itself off, find another place to make a stand, and continue to make allies on an issue by issue basis wherever possible.

  81. Dave S. Nottear says:

    “with wind and solar spreading…”

    Spreading what – false hopes? What fraction of China’s energy will come from renewables?

    “a lot of that coal might end up staying in the ground.”

    Or… not:

    ” … almost 1,200 coal-fired power plants are in the planning stages and over three-quarters of them are to be built in China and India, ”

    China and India in particular, can no longer produce enough coal for their needs and must import coal. In 2010, world coal trade increased by 13.4 percent …

    (Institute for Energy Reseach, November 29, 2012)


    “plans to limit coal after 2015 ”

    Plans that either come to naught
    or half a page of scribbled lines…

    Hanging on in Quiet Desperation is the Industrial Hostages Way

    Time has come, the song is over

  82. BlackDragon says:

    My first sip of coffee timed perfectly with my first good laugh of the day! Nice one!

  83. atcook27 says:

    That’s exactly my point Jim. A lot of people lost a lot of money due to the abolishment of slavery. But they did it anyway because it was overwhelmingly the right thing to do. If you honestly think that there is going to be an orderly economic transition to a sustainable economy free of fossil fuels then you are way more optimistic than I am. Go and watch “Lincoln” the movie. There are huge analogies to whats happening today with GW. For the most part old Abe and his lobbyists used bribery rather than appealing to the better nature of any potential supporter. Get onto Youtube and see what Paul Guilding has to say about the Great Disruption.