Kerry Says ‘The Science Is Screaming At All Of Us And Demands Action’. Will He Forsake The Climate For 35 Jobs?

Secretary of State John Kerry delivered a strong Earth Day message on climate change, calling it a “clear and present danger.”

He also repeated the line from his powerful March remarks on climate change that “the science is screaming” at us to act. But that raises the question — are Kerry and his boss really listening?

The White House started sending signals last month “the president is inclined to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.” And, for what it’s worth, David Gordon, State’s director of policy planning when Condoleezza Rice was Secretary, just told a Canadian newspaper “I would say the chances are about four-to-one” Obama approves the tar sands pipeline.

Perhaps so, but then how empty would Kerry’s Earth Day message be:

This year’s Earth Day theme, the Faces of Climate Change, puts a special focus on the very real impact climate change has on people everywhere, and demonstrates just how clearly connected we all are. What one country does impacts the livelihoods of people elsewhere — and what we all do to address climate change now will largely determine the kind of planet we leave for our children and generations to come. As was clear in President Obama’s second inaugural address and in his State of the Union message, the United States is committed to meeting this challenge head on…. Dealing responsibly with the clear and present danger of climate change was a focus of my recent trip to China, and it is a challenge I will be engaging to meet everywhere I travel….

The science is screaming at all of us and demands action. From the far reaches of Antarctica’s Ross Sea to tropical wetlands in Southeast Asia, we have a responsibility to safeguard and sustainably manage our planet’s natural resources, and the United States remains firm in its commitment to addressing global environmental challenges.

One can’t, of course, “sustainably manage” the tar sands.

A must-see 2012 video explains how tar sands development threatens the carbon-rich boreal forests and their vital ecosystems. A 2012 study found that existing industry plans for exploiting the tar sands will destroy over 29,500 hectares (65%) of local carbon-rich peatland (aka bogs, moors, mires, and swamp forests) — which in turn will release the equivalent of up 173 million metric tons of CO2.


The bottom line is that 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.

Is Kerry going to accelerate the ruination of the whole world’s climate in return for not bloody much. To paraphrase Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons:

It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world … but for 35 permanent jobs!

The Center for American Progress has filed its own comments on the Keystone XL Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement explaining why the pipeline is not “in the national interest”:

Dear Secretary Kerry:

We urge you to reject the resubmitted permit for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. It is not in the national interest of the United States because the pipeline would facilitate a dramatic increase in the production of high carbon polluting tar sands oil, but will only create very few U.S. jobs. And much of the oil transported to the Gulf Coast will be exported to other nations. The United States must not facilitate the expansion of a huge source of carbon pollution that would exacerbate climate change. The Keystone XL pipeline is all risk and no reward.

The draft Supplement Environmental Impact Statement SEIS includes the following information that reinforces that the pipeline is not in the national interest:

  • Production of tar sands oil emits more carbon pollution than conventional oil, which is confirmed by independent analysis by both the Congressional Research Service and Environmental Protection Agency;
  • Much of the oil transported via Keystone XL to refineries in the Gulf Coast will be refined into fuel and exported to other nations, thereby adding little to U.S. energy security.
  • Only 35 permanent jobs would result from the pipeline.

The primary assumption in the draft SEIS is that oil companies will produce the same amount of tar sands oil in Alberta regardless of whether Keystone is built because this oil could ship by railroad if need be. An investigation into this claim by Reuters found that “oil-by-train may not be a substitute for Keystone pipeline.” It determined that the SEIS assertion that rail will move 200,000 barrels of tar sands oil per day to the Gulf Coast in 2013 ignores the Energy Information Administration’s determination that rail moved no more than 30,000 barrels per day during any time in the past year. The SEIS assumption that rail can replace the pipeline, and would generate the same level of production as with the pipeline is wrong. In other words, the dramatic increase in tar sands oil production and carbon pollution is not possible without the Keystone pipeline.

Thank you for your efforts to make action on climate change a top foreign policy priority, particularly with China — the world’s largest emitter. The new U.S.-China joint statement on climate change enhances the likelihood of significant carbon pollution reductions by both nations. Your tireless efforts in the Senate to achieve domestic pollution reductions were remarkable. Denial of the Keystone XL pipeline permit would be entirely consistent with these decades of leadership on climate change.

Attached to this letter are more detailed comments on the Keystone XL pipeline draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement for the record. Given the SEIS’s faulty assumption that building the pipeline would make no difference in carbon pollution levels, we believe that denial of the permit is entirely appropriate. Thank you.

Sincerely,Daniel J. WeissSenior Fellow and Director of Climate Strategy

The full version with more detailed comments is here.