Ed Schultz, host of MSNBC’s The Ed Show, has changed his mind and become the latest prominent opponent of approving the Keystone XL pipeline.
Schultz had angered Keystone opponents by taking the State Department environmental analysis at face value, arguing that the oil is going to come out of Alberta anyways, and the pipeline could be better for the climate. The report left some key context out, and over the course of the last few weeks, Schultz has had a very public — and fascinating — process of coming to grips with the arguments against the pipeline. Climate Progress’ Joe Romm was a guest as this process started.
After ticking through some new supporters of the project on Tuesday, Schultz began his show on Wednesday flagging recent conservative arguments that recommended approval of the pipeline as a way to support Ukraine and oppose Russian military movements in Crimea. As those arguments make little sense, he noted this was another flag for him to take yet another look at the rationale to approve the final leg of a pipeline that would pump over 800,000 barrels of low-grade, sandy oil from Canada to refineries in Texas.
While Schultz did note the very real threat of increased carbon pollution should the pipeline be approved, the argument that seems to have won out for him was the risk to the Ogallala aquifer:
Let me give you an absolute tonight. Something you can really hang your hat on. … The aquifer is feet deep. Not thousands of feet deep. I mean feet deep over this this territory in Nebraska. This pipeline if it’s constructed just like every other pipeline, it will leak. It’s an absolute. It will leak. … So the question is this, America. Do you want to risk — does the President of the United States want to risk damaging the aquifer, and I’m talking about irreversible damage. This isn’t something the oil companies will be able to come in and fix the aquifer. No. When that oil, if and when it does get in there, now what are we going to do? You are going to make void the farm economy in this part of the country. That’s the risk.
Schultz traveled to Nebraska and heard the concerns of locals and appears to have come away with reasoning to, despite prior support for approving the pipeline, now oppose it. “I would love to see the President of the United States go to Nebraska and talk to the folks on the ground,” Schultz said Wednesday. “And find out exactly how far down that aquifer goes. And what an oil spill would do.”
He became passionate as he finalized his change of heart. “This right here, the Keystone XL pipeline that would go over the Ogallala aquifer is one of the biggest energy risks this country will ever take. Ever. Ever! It is going to be one of the most disastrous things if it does leak because it is irreversible.”
“Mr. President, say no to this project,” Schultz said. “I turn this night on this program, I was wrong, but after researching both sides and listening to all the experts, I don’t think America needs to take this risk.”
— Ed Schultz (@edshow) March 5, 2014
“This is the land of the American people who are concerned about their future,” Schultz said, “who are concerned about carbon emissions, who are concerned about their stability.”
He again recommended that Obama go to Nebraska himself. “You won’t have all the information, Mr. President, unless you do what I did. It’s an eye opener. It’s a risk. It’s unnecessary. We don’t have to do this. There’s plenty of oil and plenty of ways to move it. Putting it over the aquifer would be a huge mistake for America. And if you say no, Mr. President, it will be a huge symbolic symbol, it will be a huge symbolic statement to the country and to the world we’re serious about this climate thing.”
And because a pipeline like this would lock the world into many decades of a high-carbon fossil fuel, it is more than a symbolic statement, it would be “the fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the planet,” according to climate scientist James Hansen.
Watch the full clip here: