Despite strong lobbying by oil-industry allies, the U.S. Senate tonight defeated an effort to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The Senate vote reaffirms a commitment to fight climate change. Taking leadership sometimes means saying “no”. This bill would have turned Congress into a permitting authority, overriding environmental law, and giving a green light to a pipeline project that would worsen climate change and threaten water quality. The Senate did the right thing to reject the misguided bill, and now the president should do the right thing and reject the tar sands pipeline.
Today was a good day for American leadership, showing that the big polluter agenda doesn’t stand up. There are likely to be many attempts to undermine our health and environment in the coming months, and we will need the same kind of leadership we saw tonight to protect our air, climate, lands and water.
If we are to be serious about fighting climate change, we can’t allow climate-busting projects like the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline to move forward. In this case, the decision on Keystone XL is where it belongs — with the president. After reiterating the need to allow the State Department process the time to conclude, the President recently noted:
“I have to constantly push back against the idea that Keystone is either a massive jobs bill for the U.S. or is somehow lowering gas prices. Understand what the project is, it will provide the ability for Canada to pump their oil and send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else.”
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is all risk and no reward for America. The pipeline would carry Canadian tar sands oil across America’s heartland to the Gulf coast, where much of it would be exported to foreign buyers. Once built, the pipeline would create fewer than fifty permanent jobs. It would take us backward at a time when many communities across our country are experiencing the impacts of climate change through severe weather, coastal storms and crippling droughts.
The fact that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would enable a significant increase in carbon intensive tar sands production is what makes it so undermining of American leadership to address climate change. Tar sands crude is significantly more carbon intensive than conventional crude. Just the additional emissions from the tar sands in Keystone XL — above average emissions from producing non-tar sands oil — are equal to Americans driving more than 60 billion additional miles every year. Meeting climate stabilization will be practically impossible if the tar sands resource is developed at projected rates and Keystone XL is critical to this expansion. With climate change already harming our communities and pocketbooks across America now is the time for clean energy, not expansion of dirty energy such as tar sands.
American leadership on climate comes in many forms. We saw it as 400,000 people turned out in New York City in September to march for climate action. We see it in President Obama’s climate action plan. We see it in the US-China climate agreement. And we saw it as the Senate voted to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is not in our national interest. It’s not a plan to help our country. It’s about big profits for big oil — and big pollution for the rest of us. It’s a terrible idea, and it needs to be denied.