Oct 14, 2011

Tar Sands vs. the Environment 1

From a short term economic perspective, there are two primary reasons for expanding the Keystone XL Pipeline: Jobs & National Security.
  • Jobs. The pipeline's expansion might bring as many as 20,000 jobs to American union workers.

  • National Security. There's enough tar sands oil in Canada to eliminate America's reliance on other oil producing nations.

With a total supply about eight times larger than that of Saudi Arabia, Canada's Tar Sands are estimated to be worth trillions of dollars. Roughly speaking, the Alberta tar sands could produce 170 billion barrels of oil at today's prices, an additional 1 trillion barrels at higher prices. In 2009 the U.S. consumed about 18.7 million barrels of oil per day.

Here's Five Ideas for Environmentalists:

  1. Reframe the Debate. Environmentalists cannot afford to be pitted against the jobless. It's disingenious, politically disastrous and indicative of our lack of awareness of popular social issues. We need to: a) use the power of our environmental organizations to aggressively engage in finding or creating green jobs for union workers and others; b) use our collective power to call on the State Department to find these people greener jobs; c) better define which jobs we're fighting against (large corporate interests who profit wildly from environmental destruction); or d) all of the above.
  2. Rethink Organizing. We need more resources invested in campaigns that promote the most effective actions, statements and coordinations. I attend church and I attend rallies, but these activities (when pitted against well organized pro-business campaigns) seem to maintain the status quo, not change it. 

  3. Educate the Opposition. We need education that's directed at the people who understand us the least. "The media" won't help. The media's first role is to stimulate, not educate. In a public forum, starting with, "Did you guys know that...insert quantitative and qualitative anecdote here." When pipefitters look out at the world, they don't see environmental problems that threaten what they hold dear. From an environmental campaign perspective, these unionites are not aware of what they're fighting for.  

  4. Spend Your Money. We need to get serious about investing in the solutions to the issues we're passionate about. The best pro-pipeline criticism of the environmental position last night: "I hope you didn't drive here in a car, or use electricity today, or rely in any way on any of the fossil fuels that have made this country the greatest country the world has ever seen." Meeting that standard can be done, but it costs money. I drive a 100% veggie fueled diesel vehicle. No mods, just put in the fuel. My car also uses 100% animal fat based engine oil. My car requires a fraction of the fossil products of most cars depend on. This is easy to do. I eat and wear local and organic. We recycle everything we can and minimalize packaging waste. We've kept our electricity use minimal during daylight hours this summer. We're on green electricity. . . and so on. Environmentalists need to: a) stop funding the opposition; b) support the economic growth of the alternatives to their opposition (this is an imperative); and c) demonstrate the related solutions they use in their own lives every time they speak publicly ("I'm Chris and I drive a non-fossil fuel vehicle. It gets 35 mpg and runs on locally sourced biodiesel and biooil. When traveling across country I can refuel it with regular diesel or biodiesel depending on what's available...etc...").

  5. Respond to the Opposition's Logic. In the case of last night's hearing, it was jobs and national security. Jobs: Are the 20,000 new jobs claims overstated? Cornell University thinks so. National Security: Presidents Obama and W. Bush have each stated "America needs to end its addiction to oil." But from a climate perspective tar sands oil production and consumption is 1.3 to 1.7 times more carbon intensive than current oil production and consumption. Using tar sands means increasing CO2 emissions related to transportation by at least 1/3rd. Climate scientist James Hansen calls this game over for the climate. The pipeline would also put America's most important water source for agriculture and drinking water in danger from: human error during design, human error during installation, environmental or landscape changes, natural disasters, terrorism and sabotage. Today's Keystone pipeline has had 12 incidents of leakage in 12 months. At this scale, one mistake or accident can affect a lot of people's jobs, way of life, food chain, and well being. Think Fukushima (March 2011) and Deepwater Horizon (April 2010). See more on this in part 2 of this blog.
All in all, the argument is simple. It's dirty job creation for a very specific population (maybe 20,000 people) vs. the fate of the United States of America. The choice should be clear.

Images courtesy Statesman.com & Creative Commons.
Read Faith-based and Secular statements.
Tar Sands photo gallery.

Read the original of this blog here


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