Let’s Count the Ways Keystone Approval Helps Us: Memo From Houston

By Michael Northrup, via Huffington Post (emphasis added)

Another thing about the Keystone XL pipeline: It will result in only 35 permanent jobs. – Ed.

So, why do we want President Barack Obama and Secretary John Kerry to approve construction of the Keystone pipeline from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico?

• Because it will allow Canada to double and then triple production of tar sands and send it to thirsty Asian consumers.

• Because it will encourage Wall Street to increase investment in tar sands mining; they’re worried now that increased amounts of tar sands can’t get out of Canada without more pipeline capacity. All the other new pipeline routes are currently being blocked by citizen campaigns in Canada and the U.S.

Because, if we wait too much longer, Americans will realize this has nothing to do with U.S. energy security. In reality, only a small portion will be used in the United States. Oil companies can get a higher price for these fuels in Asia.

• Because it will allow Canada to say once and for all that it is no longer possible for their country to commit to a national greenhouse gas reduction target.

• Because it will create a strong incentive for Canada to continue obstructing international climate negotiations. Canada definitely doesn’t want to look like a laggard if others are moving forward. Far better to continue slowing the international process as it has been doing the last eight years.

• Because it will embolden Canadian oil industry and government representatives to continue interfering with American clean energy policymaking that offers incentives for cleaner fuels and vehicles.

• Because it will provide additional momentum to Canadian efforts to lobby Europeans against passing a clean fuels directive. If the Americans don’t take a stand, it will be harder for the Europeans to stick their necks out.

• Because it will embolden Canada’s current government to continue cracking down on Canadian civic interests and companies, who are opposed to tar sands development.

• Because it will strengthen Canada’s determined march to becoming a major petro state.

• Because once it is unstoppable, people will stop worrying about runoff into the North Canadian Athabascan watershed, or the increase in cancers in indigenous peoples living downstream; these are a small price to pay for billions in tar sands revenues.

• Because the economic benefits will overwhelm the costs of inevitable pipeline spills of nearly impossible-to-clean-up tar sands bitumen across more than 1,000 miles of American territory.

• Because it will create social license for deforesting an area the size of Florida and turning it into the globe’s largest open pit strip mine.

• Because it will provide 3,900 temporary jobs for oil pipeline construction while undercutting electric vehicle and alternative fuels markets being developed south of the border; god forbid those industries take off before we can get the tar sands deposits out.

• Because it will take the wind out of the sails of America’s first real citizen climate movement (that demonstration on the mall was worrisome), and reduce pressure on President Obama to be bold on climate change and clean energy during his final term in office.

• Because it will dampen enthusiasm among a large number of Obama voters, supporters, and donors, who are alarmed about climate change and who have let it be known that they don’t want this pipeline built; this will further disempower pro-environment democrats contemplating clean energy and climate policy.

• Because it will put a damper on clean energy investment in general.

• Because Americans will complain less that increased imports of tar sands will increase the average amount of greenhouse gas emissions from a barrel of oil if they are all driving with tar sands in their gas tanks.

• Because it will encourage and give a green light to other countries who want to exploit their own deposits of more greenhouse intensive fossil fuels.

• Because it will support the globe’s dependency on gasoline for its automobile fleets.

• Because it will make oil companies richer and more powerful.

• Because it will make it more difficult to resist the current oil based economic system.

• Because, once approved, we can lower the volume on the massive campaign of criticism being directed at President Obama by the oil industry.

• And once we’ve finished this campaign, we can start pounding the president about Arctic drilling.

That’s why!

Michael Northrop is the Program Director of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, but the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. This piece is reprinted with permission.

6 Responses to Let’s Count the Ways Keystone Approval Helps Us: Memo From Houston

  1. fj says:


    America must take a stand.

  2. Brooks Bridges says:

    A comprehensive, ingeniously crafted response to all those saying KXL doesn’t really matter.

    Thank you Michael Northrup!

  3. Sue says:

    Hey! You forgot the part about destroying the First People’s land and water so the fossil fuel people will not have to worry about dealing with them anymore!

  4. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It all hinges on the meaning of ‘us’.

  5. CW says:

    This is an important angle on this debate. Right now, the conservative Canadian government is seemingly proceeding under the assumption that the environment is a non-issue politically*. But this pipeline and the EU trade agreement currently under negotiation are threatening that stance. Many in Canada are arguing that the government’s perceived low levels of environmental responsibility are hindering its ability to accomplish its objectives internationally. Even the Canadian oil companies are calling for a carbon tax (for appearances, they would likely later ask for other concessions to neutralize the effect on them). If the Keystone pipeline is not approved, that might make the Canadian government change its behavior a bit, possibly even a lot. If approved, the EU might be less bold, and the Canadian government will argue that the environment-economy balance it has struck is adequate. So by blocking the pipeline, Obama would not only ‘green’ the policies of his country, but likely force the greening of those of his northern neighbor (pop ~35M, GDP ~$1.8T, GHGs ~2% of world).

    * This is because Canada uses a version of the British electoral system where a party can gain a majority of the seats (52.3%) with only a plurality of the popular vote (39.6%). So despite a majority of Canadians who want more (centrist Liberals) to a lot more (left-leaning New Democrats, Greens and Bloq Quebecois) done about the environment and climate, the current government’s reign is unaffected. They only have to do a bare minimum domestically to not look entirely irresponsible. Over their 7 years in power, admittedly years that have spanned a global recession, they’ve discovered that that bare minimum is quite minimal.

  6. Dick Smith says:

    Memo to Houston from the Mall: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.