Approving a new tar sands pipeline hurts U.S. credibility on clean energy

Yesterday, the State Department issued a permit for a new transboundary pipeline that will bring heavy tar sands oil to the U.S. Midwest for upgrading and refining.

The United States is preparing for the Copenhagen meeting having made a commitment to fight climate change and to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. As lead U.S. negotiator Todd Stern was quoted saying, "high-carbon goods and services will become untenable" in the wake of international efforts to address climate change.

Issuing permits for new pipelines that will carry an expansion of the heavily polluting tar sands oil into the United States should not be done pipeline by pipeline with only the impacts of that individual pipeline taken into account. The new U.S. commitment to fight global warming means that we need to look big picture at the pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from these pipelines and the heavy oil upgraders and refinery expansions that they will enable.

Putting in place a climate policy that will truly fight global warming needs to happen at all levels - from the negotiations in Copenhagen to the debate in the House and Senate and even to the level of consideration of a pipeline permit. If we allow individual projects to move forward without sufficient analysis of how they link to the goal of building a clean energy future - we undermine our own policy commitments and priorities.

It is not in our national interest to invest in pipelines and refineries that will lock us into the high levels of pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands oil production, transportation and upgrading. Instead of pipelines for tar sands oil, we need to be building the infrastructure for our clean energy economy so that in the future, we will not depend on oil - and especially not on the even dirtier tar sands oil.