Activists Fight Huge Tar Sands Pipeline Proposal

by Doug Burke, Oak Park

Game over” for the climate?

Over two thousand activists pledged to get arrested in civil disobedience at the White House in an effort to get President Obama to reject plans to build a huge network of pipelines that would bring oil from the Alberta tar sands in Canada to world markets. It is up to the President alone to approve or disapprove of the proposal.  The decision must come in December. The arrests began on August 20th and continued through September 3rd , after a two-day pause for Hurricane Irene.

The Alberta tar sands is the largest and dirtiest industrial development in the history of mankind. If the pipeline proposal is approved, it will grow hugely.  Prominent NASA climate scientist James Hansen, a vocal proponent of climate change action has long warned about the greenhouse gas effects of tar-sands development, was one of those arrested while protesting outside the White House.  Hansen commented that if the government approves the project, it's "game over" for curbing climate change.

The New York Times editorialized that the tar sands expansion should be rejected

The tar sands development means destroying huge areas of boreal forest, polluting vast quantities of water, and burning lots of natural gas in order to get a kind of dirty bitumen out of the ground.  Then the stuff has to be transported to refineries, where it creates more pollution than ordinary oil.  And then comes actually using the stuff, emitting still more greenhouse gases. The proposal is catastrophic. Recently, the New York Times editorialized that it should be rejected. This is perhaps the biggest sign yet of establishment opposition to the pipeline.

On August 26, the State Department issued its final report that said the pipeline would have “minimal” effect on the environment.   Michael Brune of the Sierra Club responded: “The U.S. State Department’s final report on the Keystone XL today is an insult to anyone who expects government to work for the interests of the American people.”

You can learn more about the tar sands and the opposition movement at Tar Sands Action.  You can view a video on the Tar Sands Action by Josh Fox, (director of the movie Gasland),  which gives a good idea of what the tar sands project looks like.