With 595 Arrested, Pipeline Protests Heat Up

It is now day 11 of the protests in Washington, DC, against the Keystone XL pipeline, and according to Tar Sands Action, 595 people have been arrested so far for their participation.

Environmental author and activist Bill McKibben has called the demonstration “the largest civil disobedience action in the environmental movement in a generation,” and notes that it is not only the “usual suspects” who are participating.

“Just in the last two days, everyone from the president's chief climate scientist to an 84-year-old grandmother was arrested on his front doorstep,” McKibben said in a response to Tar Sands Action, referring to the Monday arrest of NASA scientist and climate change spokesman Dr. James Hansen.

While it would seem that the simultaneous protests and the recent weather changes would raise the question of the possibility of climate change, Daphne Wysham, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies said in a news release for the Institute for Public Accuracy that both the media and the government have failed to consider this possibility.

“Climate change has begun,” Wysham said. “And yet our press is not discussing extreme weather events – droughts, fires, flooding – in the context of climate change, so the populace is ill-informed. And our politicians are not connecting the dots between our continued reliance on carbon-intensive fuels – like tar sands – and the crazy weather that threatens us all. Both need to change.”

Yesterday, Obama's press secretary, Jake Carney, was questioned by the White House press corps about the president's stance on the current tar sands protest. Carney said, “I haven't talked to him about it.” (Read the entire transcript here.)

Carney pointed to the State Department's recent finalization of an environmental review, which concludes that the proposed Keystone XL pipeline would pose little risk to the environment.

If built, the 1,700-mile pipeline would carry tar sands oil, some of the world's dirtiest oil, from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, “global warming pollution from tar sands production is as much as three times as high as conventional oil production per barrel.”

“It's either a 'yes' or a 'no' for the climate-killing Keystone XL oil pipeline-and Obama gets to make the call,” McKibben said.