New Approach Needed on Climate Issue

Pressure appears to be mounting to make the Keystone XL Pipeline a reality.

A new environmental impact statement issued March 1 says the 1,700-mile pipeline will increase greenhouse gas emissions, but the report avoids offering any conclusive reasons that the project should not be built.

According to the New York Times, the EIS says “that extracting, shipping, refining and burning oil from the tar sands produces more climate-altering greenhouse gases than most conventional oil, but less than many of the project’s critics claim” — between 5 percent and 19 percent more. However, it also says that the pipeline will have no impact on crude oil demand and that other methods of transporting the oil may be worse and that the tar sands oil will continue to be developed, regardless of what happens with the pipeline.

The pipeline has the support of the oil industry, Republicans and some Democrats and unions. Its supporters hail it as a way to move the nation from foreign oil and create construction jobs throughout the Midwest.

But the case for the pipeline is shortsighted and based on a way of thinking from which we must move away. Rather than adding more petroleum to the fuel supply in an effort to be energy independent, we need to reduce our reliance on petroleum and other dirty fuels by expanding efficiency efforts and broadening our use of renewables.

The Keystone XL is about oil-industry profits — at least the profits of Canadian firms. The Pembina Institute, a Canadian non-profit that advances clean energy, said in a January report that the tar-sands industry in Canada is relying on the growth of demand in the United States, which could be sated by the construction of the pipeline and other transportation efforts.

“This growth is projected to cause a doubling of the industry’s climate emissions within the next decade and would be the central reason why Canada fails to meet its carbon reduction targets,” the report says.

The Keystone XL pipeline, the report says, is one of several being relied upon “to realize its 5 million barrels per day production goal by 2030.” Keystone, it says, “would provide needed export capacity, diversify its market, and improve the profitability of oilsands production by capitalizing on the current price difference with lighter oils and oil pegged at higher international prices.”

“Given its size, scope and market potential, the Keystone XL pipeline, if approved, would result in significantly increased oil sands production and increased global greenhouse gas emissions, regardless of whether other transportation options go ahead,” the Pembina report says.

What Pembina is saying, essentially, is that the pipeline and its potential cousins will allow the oil industry to continue operating as is, while the governments of Canada and the United States continue to function as though our ever-growing thirst for oil will have no impact.

Canadian tar-sands oil, the Keystone XL pipeline, drilling in the Arctic or offshore — all of these methods share the same basic flaws. While tar-sands oil and domestic drilling may allow us to move away from oil produced in the Middle East (and this remains debatable), they do nothing to rein in our addictions or move us away from dirty fuel and place us on a more sustainable course.

This cannot happen without political activism, given the oil industry’s vast stores of cash and its influence in the halls of Congress and the state capitals. We need more protests like the massive Feb. 17 climate rally organized by, which are the only tools we have as ordinary individuals to offset the massive clout of the oil and natural gas industries.

Reports like the federal EIS are not the unbiased investigations they are presented as being. They are built from a set of expectations and assumptions – in this case, that we must balance the need for energy independence against climate change — that can and should be changed. Rather than starting from the assumption that we need more petroleum, shouldn’t we be asking how we can lesson our reliance on oil, regardless of where it is found?

Hank Kalet is a poet and journalist who lives in central New Jersey. He teaches news writing at Rutgers University and writing at Middlesex County College. Email His blog is at Facebook,

From The Progressive Populist, April 1, 2013

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