To the Last Drop…
I was born in Edmonton, Alberta in ’66, my Dad was just hired, fresh out of McGill University, by Alberta’s Dept. of Transportation as a Surveyor. Shortly afterwards, Great Canadian Oil Sands (GCOS) lured him away to Ft. McMurray for their first large-scale attempts to exploit the vast amounts of Tar Sands that surround the area. Just in time for Suncor’s opening of their new plant in ’67.
During the opening ceremonies for the plant, Sun Oil Company chairman J. Howard Pew (then 85 years old) made remarks which still ring true:
No nation can long be secure in this atomic age unless it be amply supplied with petroleum . . . . It is the considered opinion of our group that if the North American continent is to produce the oil to meet its requirements in the years ahead, oil from the Athabasca area must of necessity play an important role.
My sister was born in Ft. McMurray, in ’68. My Dad was an avid outdoorsman and hunter, and some of my fondest memories of my Dad was when, after a long boat ride down the Athabasca River, we docked at the various piers which comprised the actual storefronts of the handful of stores of the hamlet of Ft. Chipewyan. I also remember many long frigid snowmobile hunting trips. My Dad, later in ’76, was hired by Cominco, as the Lead Surveyor, and we moved even further north to Pine Point, NWT. In May of ’76, my Dad was tragically killed in a helicopter crash, and a month later, I wound up here in the Isles. I can only imagine what my Dad would think about the current plight of the Athabascan River and the sheer amount of environmental devastation of the area…!
Folks, major facts are being neglected in all the reporting, when they keep saying the ‘vast barren arctic wastelands’ of Alberta they’re lying through their teeth, it was once heavily forested areas that were lost forever, simply from the massive amounts of strip mining that has been occurring non-stop since the early ’60s…
Folks, right now, we need to support Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry Call for Civil Disobedience on Tar Sands. We need to stop the ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands straight to Texas refineries…
As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.
And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.
These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.
To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.
How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million. Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out. As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.
Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.
And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.
So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington. A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.
And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces…
People, We need to act Now…!