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No Time for Pipeline

“Future generations call us to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline,” writes Nathaniel Batchelder.

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Oklahoma City residents Nancy Zorn and Stefan Warner are among several members of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance arrested for nonviolently protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Opposition to the pipeline and development of the Canadian tar sands is based on a long-range view of tar sands development and its threat to sustainability on earth.

A major concern is the huge contribution tar sands oil is projected to make to global warming and climate change. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that the primary cause of atmospheric warming is the rising level of greenhouse gases, including CO2 methane and others. NASA’s leading climate scientist, Dr.

James Hansen, has called the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.” Global warming negatively impacts worldwide food production and natural systems that support life.

Climate scientists tell us humanity must reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level of over 390 parts per million to below 350 ppm. Every species, every habitat — all of Earth’s life systems — are threatened by global warming and climate change. Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows signs of dying. Polar ice caps and mountain glaciers are melting. Violent or extreme weather is reported regularly.

Storms and rising seas flood coastlines where billions live.

The Canadian tar sands region to be deforested and mined is the size of Florida. The tar sands product is a toxic substance that must be mixed into a volatile slurry to be piped through Oklahoma and other states on its way to Texas. Leaks and spills from the pipeline will threaten water sources all along its U.S. route. TransCanada’s existing tar sands pipelines leaked 14 times in a single year. In 2010, another spill dumped 1 million gallons of crude oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The recent spill in Arkansas is yet another wake-up call.

Unions supporting Keystone are eager for jobs. But the pipeline crew is largely Canadian, and in any case, pipeline construction is temporary. By contrast, clean energy jobs will be permanent, cannot be exported and slow the warming of the atmosphere.

The implications of global warming got attention with the 1989 publication of Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature. He explained the heat-trapping nature of CO2 and other “greenhouse” gases. He reported the average car generates its own weight in CO2 every year. Burning coal for electricity is another major source adding CO2 to the atmosphere.

President Obama’s “all of the above” strategy supporting all energy sources honors increased fossil fuel production equally with development of solar and wind power. This must be replaced with a “clean energy now” strategy favoring development of solar and wind energy in replacing the burning of CO2-producing fossil fuels.

Future generations call us to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline.

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