Obama’s Rejection of Keystone XL Is Victory, But That’s Not the Whole Story

‘The black snake, Keystone XL, has been defeated and best believe we will dance to our victory!’

(Photo: tarsandsaction/flickr/cc)

President Obama’s official rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline on Friday was met with grand applause from those who opposed the project and organizers who worked tirelessly, despite long odds, to force the administration’s hand.

However, even as celebrations were enjoyed and an evening rally was scheduled outside the White House, there’s more to this story than the simple rejection of a single pipeline and the ultimate climate legacy of a president who has announced a ‘historic’ decision.

Mass Movements Work

Through years of unprecedented campaigning, ordinary people in the United States and Canada turned what could have been an unremarkable rubber stamping of yet another fossil fuel pipeline into an internationally-watched fight to stop climate change. Since 2011, communities across the United States have staged over 750 direct actions and protests across the country—from mass sit-ins at the White House to a tens-of-thousands-strong march on the National Mall. Farmers, workers, students, Indigenous peoples, and communities on the frontlines of oil refineries and extreme weather put their bodies and relationships on the line—risking arrest, talking to their neighbors, and taking to the streets.

“The black snake, Keystone XL, has been defeated and best believe we will dance to our victory!” —Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

“We stood our ground and today President Obama stood with us, the pipeline fighters,” said Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska. “Tonight landowners can finally go to sleep knowing their family is safe and sound. Our unlikely alliance showed America that hard work and scientific facts can beat Big Oil’s threat to our land and water.”

Those interested can sign an online Thank You Card to the Movement that will be delivered to every single person who has participated in an action against the Keystone XL pipeline since over the past four years. And people across the United States are holding rejection parties to relish in “one golden well-deserved moment” of celebration.

Canada’s Win, But Trudeau’s “Disappointment”

Even as they celebrated the KXL rejection, Canadian climate activists on Friday seized on President Barack Obama’s statement that freshly sworn-in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau—who publicly supported the project on the campaign trail—had “expressed his disappointment” about the U.S. State Department’s decision on the pipeline.

“President Obama just sent a message that Prime Minister Trudeau should heed—you can’t be a climate leader while supporting tar sands pipelines.” —Mike Hudema, Greenpeace Canada

Social activist Naomi Klein, for example, tweeted that Trudeau’s reaction was a “BAD way to enter the climate conversation,” because “dirty pipelines are the way of the past.”

The Keystone development came as Canadian environmentalists entered their second of four days of civil disobedience, aimed at convincing Trudeau to freeze tar sands development and commit to a justice-based transition to a clean energy economy.

They took Friday’s news as a chance to double down on their message: “Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline sets a new standard for political climate action,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, Stop it at the Source Campaigner with 350.org Canada. “Justin Trudeau needs to take note that it is time now to listen to the science, to Indigenous Peoples, and to freeze tar sands expansion.”

373

“President Obama just sent a message that Prime Minister Trudeau should heed—you can’t be a climate leader while supporting tar sands pipelines,” added (pdf) Mike Hudema, climate and energy campaigner with Greenpeace Canada. “The prime minister needs to follow the president’s lead and recognize that science demands and the public wants action on climate change and that can’t be done while expanding the tar sands.”

Economics of Tar Sands

The pipeline rejection comes amid a continuing plummet in crude oil prices, which has forced some oil giants to ditch certain projects and means dwindling enthusiasm for tar sands production, because, as “the world’s most expensive crude,” it just doesn’t make economic sense.

Bloomberg reported the rejection was just a confirmation that “there’s less appetite for expensive Canadian oil sands in an era of $45 crude.”

Yet the falling price of oil has left TransCanada “undeterred,” and as Christine Tezak, an energy market analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, told the New York Times, “How long it takes [to move tar sands crude] is just a result of oil prices. If prices go up, companies will get the oil out.”

A ‘Historic’ Decision? Yes. But Not So Fast on Obama’s Climate Leadership

Obama took the occasion of the Keystone announcement to tout his administration’s environmental track record—but should rejection of this one project be allowed to overshadow his adminstration’s numerous shortcomings when it comes to climate?

“America is leading on climate change by working with other big emitters like China to encourage and announce new commitments to reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions,” Obama said, adding that “if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground.”

However, Obama’s rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline comes only months after he approved offshore drilling in the Arctic, an affront to climate activists and a near-fatal blow to vulnerable communities and marine life that was only avoided when Royal Dutch Shell called off its exploration project in September.

Through his presidency, Obama has repeatedly been criticized for bragging that he has expanded domestic oil and gas production, and critics say his “all-of-the-above” energy strategy proves he simply does not understand the dangers posed by runaway climate change nor the urgency needed for a rapid and just transition to renewables.

As climate experts have pointed out ahead of the United Nations-sponsored COP21 talks in Paris, beginning later this month, the U.S. is far from a leader in climate action and is one of several wealthy nations that is not meeting its potential to reduce greenhouse gases. Though it has historically been the planet’s leading polluter, the U.S. under Obama has continued to evade its financial obligations to help developing countries deal with the immediate impacts of global warming.

Then there’s the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the 12-nation agreement and “corporate power grab nightmare” that Obama has pushed for strongly even as experts warn the deal is an absolute “nightmare” when it comes to environment and, in fact, never even mentions the term “climate change.”

In The Shadow of KXL, A Troubling Network of Pipelines, Oil Trains, and Climate Denial

As Common Dreams has reported extensively, the fight over Keystone XL has not prevented the fossil fuel and pipeline industries on both sides of the U.S./Canada border from aggressively—if quietly—planning, proposing, and building a network of infrastructure projects that collectively “dwarf” KXL in their capacity.

“While the Obama White House Keystone XL decision has been touted by most environmentalists and criticized by Big Oil and its front groups, the truth is much more complex and indeed, dirty.” —Steve Horn, DeSmogBlog

From the “zombie-like” Northern Gateway pipeline that refuses to die in western Canada to the massive eastward proposal known “Energy East,” the major pipeline companies in Canada continue to show their determination in upping the nation’s ability to transport their vast reserves of dirty oil. In addition to the those larger and well-known projects, there are numerous others that continue to threaten communities and the climate across Canada.

In the U.S., a vast network consisting of thousands of miles of new pipelines has been built in recent years. As Steve Horn, a freelance investigative journalist who writes for DeSmogBlog, said on Friday: “While the Obama White House Keystone XL decision has been touted by most environmentalists and criticized by Big Oil and its front groups, the truth is much more complex and indeed, dirty. That’s because for years behind the scenes the Obama Administration has quietly been approving hundreds of miles-long pieces of pipeline owned by pipeline company goliath Enbridge.”

And Daphne Wysham, director of the Climate and Energy Program at the Center for Sustainable Economy in Washington state, added, “The Pacific Northwest is facing the carbon equivalent of five Keystone XL pipelines in the form of coal, gas, and oil via rail and pipeline.”

Meanwhile, the exponential growth of oil-by-rail has become an area of serious concern for environmentalists and community members who have done their best to squelch the false argument that we must choose between the inevitable destruction of a pipeline disaster or the wreckage of the next firey oil train derailment.

As Stephen Kretzmann, of Oil Change International, told Common Dreams in 2013, “There is no use talking about the best way to transport a product which climate science tells us shouldn’t even be being produced … It’s like debating whether or not menthol or regular cigarettes are worse for you. They both kill, and that’s the point.”


CC-BY-SAThis work is licensed by Common Dreams under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

 

Related Posts:

Advertisements

A Visualization Of The Democrats’ Positions On 5 Important Issues

— by Andrew Breiner | Oct 14, 2015, 12:59 pm

In Tuesday’s Democratic presidential debate, candidates not only avoided boring their audience, but managed to discuss policy and solutions to real-world problems so that voters will be able to make an informed choice between them. That is to say, they had a political debate. It was a far cry from the Republican debates that have been held so far, where focal points included conspiracy theories about vaccines and Donald Trump’s assertion that he doesn’t call all women pigs, just Rosie O’Donnell.

Candidates challenged each other on key issues like gun control and marijuana legalization, and clarified their own positions on reforming Wall Street and college affordability. We’ve collected the stances of Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Hillary Clinton, and Martin O’Malley on some of the most prominent topics of debate:

on-the-issues-816x1084


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

There’s only one right answer on Keystone XL: NO

— OpEd by Bernie Sanders, Candidate for U.S. President and sitting Senator from VT

Climate change is an unprecedented planetary emergency. If we don’t act aggressively now to combat it, there will be major and painful consequences in store later: rising oceans that inundate coastal areas, bigger superstorms like Hurricane Sandy, worsening droughts, out-of-control wildfires, historic floods that come year after year, rising food prices, and millions of people displaced by climate disasters. It’s not a future any of us wants to imagine.

But despite how difficult the problem is, the basics of how we should respond to it are actually not that complicated: we need to keep fossil fuels in the ground, and move to 100 percent renewable energy — and we need to act immediately.

That’s why I cannot understand why some Democratic presidential candidates have refused to take a stand against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Keystone XL would transport millions of gallons of some of the dirtiest oil on the planet — oil that scientists tell us we simply cannot burn if we want to stop the worst impacts of climate change. As former NASA scientist James Hansen has said, building Keystone XL would mean “game over” for the climate.

A decision on Keystone XL could come at any moment, and that’s why it’s so important you make your voice heard through our campaign today.

It’s no big surprise that in recent years, most major Republican politicians have chosen to deny that climate change even exists. Republicans in Congress have collectively received millions of dollars in campaign contributions from fossil fuel interests who directly profit from stonewalling action on climate, at the expense of the climate and of humanity. Politicians who deny climate change is real, despite an overwhelming scientific consensus, are as morally bankrupt as those who helped Big Tobacco conceal the truth about the health effects of smoking, evading responsibility for years.

But in some ways, it’s even more disappointing to see Democratic politicians, who understand that climate change is real and profess to care about action on climate, equivocate on an issue as clear-cut as Keystone XL.

A study released by the scientific journal Nature just a few months ago found that if we want to keep global warming below the internationally agreed-upon safe upper limit of two degrees Celsius, we need to reduce all production of the Canadian tar sands — the kind of oil that Keystone XL would transport — to “negligible” levels. In other words, there is simply no scenario where we can address climate change in a real way and also allow this pipeline to go forward.

Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline is not the only thing we must do to address climate change. Ultimately, we need to leave all fossil fuels in the ground and move to a 100 percent renewable energy economy.

That’s why I also oppose oil drilling in the Arctic, support the fossil fuel divestment movement, and have sponsored legislation in Congress to bring solar energy to ten million rooftops in America. As a result of these positions, and my long record in support of the environment, I was recently honored to receive the endorsement of Friends of the Earth.

To win the important environmental victories we so urgently need, it will take a coordinated grassroots movement fighting to take our country and our climate back from the fossil fuel industry billionaires. It was a grassroots movement — of Nebraska ranchers, Native American communities, and climate change activists — that managed to hold off Keystone XL for years, despite the conventional wisdom that the pipeline was a done deal. I’m proud to have stood with those activists in their fight from the very beginning.

Cooking The Books

Two Seemingly Tiny Rule Changes By House GOP Will Rig The Game For The Rich

The new Republican Congress is wasting no time on high-profile political maneuvers to prove their right-wing agenda. Yesterday, the House GOP, bucking some of its own, took its 54th vote to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by voting to redefine full-time as a 40-hour work week (the move would leave up to 500,000 without insurance and increase deficits by $53 billion over ten years). Today, it passed legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline instead of working to create clean energy jobs and protect public health. And next week, it is expected to use the need to fund the Department of Homeland Security as a chance to please their far-right anti-immigrant base by defunding the president’s recent common-sense executive actions on immigration.

House Republicans, however, did something else this week that may be getting less attention, but is no less important: They passed the new rules package for the 114th Congress. And two of these little-known but significant rules speak volumes about the broader Republican agenda to favor the wealthy and corporations at the expense of everyone else.

A budgeting method that means a return to failed trickle-down economics

An important part of the lawmaking process is the evaluation of the potential law’s fiscal impact — how much it is projected to change federal spending and revenues. In the first rule change, the House GOP now directs Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeepers to use a new system called “dynamic scoring” when evaluating some proposed legislation: a move that will make it easier to cut taxes.

While the details are quite technical, what Republicans are attempting to do amounts to fuzzy math. Take this example: Republicans propose a tax cut. Scorekeepers have to evaluate how much it will cost. The new rule requires them to predict how the tax cut will affect the overall economy in the future–something that requires a lot of speculation, and could give the impression of reducing how much a tax cut would cost. Now say Democrats propose an investment in education or infrastructure. The rule does not allow scorekeepers to apply the same potentially beneficial predictive speculation to appropriations bills, where these investments are generally made.

This is in effect cooking the books in favor of tax cuts and trickle-down economics. We’ve seen very well how that went under President George W. Bush, whose massive tax cuts in 2001-2003 irresponsibly skewed the tax system in favor of the wealthy and subsequently forced dramatic cuts in important safety net programs. And more recently, Kansas has made the point again. With the promise of a “shot of adrenaline” for the state economy, the state passed massive tax cuts favoring the wealthy; instead, it has gotten a gaping hole in the budget and an under-performing state economy.

A move to hold Social Security hostage

With the second rule change, the House GOP have added a restriction to Social Security that could jeopardize the trust fund and help Republicans in their efforts to cut benefits.

There’s a routine transfer that happens between the Social Security retirement trust fund, which is financially secure, and the Social Security disability program, which has been under more strain in recent years due to demographic shifts such as aging baby boomers. It’s happened 11 times. The new rule passed by House Republicans prevents this transfer, unless it also includes new revenues or benefit cuts. The disability program is expected to run short of money in 2016, which means that beneficiaries will face up to 20 percent cuts in their payments without a transfer between the trust funds. In effect, the rule holds Social Security hostage so that conservatives can extract more concessions in a potential entitlement reform.

BOTTOM LINE: While this week has had a number of high-profile legislative pushes, little-known rule changes have had big effects in revealing the backward priorities of the new GOP Congress. Dynamic scoring for tax cuts will make trickle-down policies that favor the wealthy easier than before. And a restriction on a routine Social Security transfer could mean more benefits cuts for working families.

Got a Facebook account?  “Like” CAP Action on Facebook.  Use Twitter?  “Follow” CAP Action on Twitter!


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Oklahoma Will Charge Customers Who Install Their Own Solar Panels

The American Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) is promoting legislation with goals ranging from penalizing individual homeowners and weakening state clean energy regulations, to blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from fulfilling its currently legislated functions.  ALEC sponsored at least 77 energy bills in 34 states last year.  Those measures were aimed at opposing renewable energy standards, pushing through the Keystone XL pipeline project, and barring any oversight of fracking (hydraulic fracturing).  One such “ALEC” bill has recently come to fruition in Oklahoma, where they’ll now be charging homeowners who have Solar Panels or Wind Turbine generators to use the grid when they have excess generation.  (Those who don’t generate, will NOT be charged grid usage fees, just those who do generate … will.)  In other words, homeowners in Oklahoma with solar panels have to pay the Utilities to let their solar generation support the Utility’s peaking needs.  

I have a solar panel array on my rooftop.  Sometimes I manage to generate more than I use, but that doesn’t happen 24 hours a day.  Nevada Energy utilizes my less expensive generation to help supply its generation needs.  Thus, it’s a symbiotic relationship.  Why should I have to pay to provide them with generation they’ll turn around and sell for more than it cost me to generate it?  

If Nevada is so stupid as to pass the same ill-advised legislation, I’ll invest in batteries and go completely off the grid!  Nevada Energy will just have to figure out where it’s going to get the money to build more expensive generation capabilities to meet its customer’s peaking needs when enough of us have had enough and start dropping off the grid altogether. — Vickie Rock, editor

_____________

— by Kiley Kroh 

solar

CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R-OK).

On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard.

“We knew nothing about it and all of a sudden it’s attached to some other bill,” Ctaci Gary, owner of Sun City Oklahoma, told ThinkProgress. “It just appeared out of nowhere.”

Because the surcharge amount has not been determined, Gary is cautious about predicting the impact it will have on her business. She has already received multiple calls from people asking questions about the bill and wanting to have solar systems installed before the new fee takes effect. “We’re going to use it as a marketing tool,” Gary said. “People deserve to have an opportunity [to install their own solar panels] and not be charged.”

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” said Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, Oklahoma, in a statement. “Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”

The bill was staunchly opposed by renewable energy advocates, environmental groups and the conservative group TUSK, but had the support of Oklahoma’s major utilities. “Representatives of Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma said the surcharge is needed to recover some of the infrastructure costs to send excess electricity safely from distributed generation back to the grid,” the Oklahoman reported.

“We’re not anti-solar or anti-wind or trying to slow this down, we’re just trying to keep it fair,” Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. spokeswoman Kathleen O’Shea told the Oklahoman. “We’ve been studying this trend. We know it’s coming, and we want to get ahead of it.”

But distributed energy sources also provide a clear value to utility companies. Solar generates during peak hours, when a utility has to provide electricity to more people than at other times during the day and energy costs are at their highest. Solar panels actually feed excess energy back to the grid, helping to alleviate the pressure during peak demand. In addition, because less electricity is being transmitted to customers through transmission lines, it saves utilities on the wear and tear to the lines and cost of replacing them with new ones.

As the use of solar power skyrockets across the U.S., fights have sprung up in several states over how much customers should be compensated for excess power produced by their solar panels and sold back to the grid — a policy known as net metering. Net metering laws have come under fire from the secretive American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a group backed by fossil fuel corporations, utility companies, and the ultra-conservative Koch brothers. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia currently have net metering policies in place and ALEC has set its sights on repealing them,referring to homeowners with their own solar panels as “freeriders on the system.” ALEC presented Gov. Fallin the Thomas Jefferson Freedom award last year for her “record of advancing the fundamental Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty as a nationally recognized leader.”

Oklahoma “could be the first complete defeat for solar advocates in their fight against utility efforts to recover costs lost to DG [distributed generation] use,”writes Utility Dive. Net metering survived attacks in Colorado  and Kansas  and Vermont recently increased its policy in a bipartisan effort. Last year, Arizona added what amounts to a $5 per month surcharge for solar customers, a move that was widely seen as a compromise, particularly after ALEC and other Koch-backed groups got involved.

While any extra charge placed on potential customers is a concern, Gary hopes that like Arizona, Oklahoma’s fee is modest enough to protect her business from serious damage.

Matt Kasper, energy research assistant at the Center for American Progress, contributed to this piece.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.