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Bill McKibbon on Keystone XL

Via Tom Dispatch:

And so, as I said, I’ll go to this weekend’s big celebrations for the opening of the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial on the Washington Mall with even more respect for his calm power.

Preacher, speaker, writer under fire, but also tactician. He really understood the power of nonviolence, a power we’ve experienced in the last few days. When the police cracked down on us [#162] , the publicity it produced cemented two of the main purposes of our protest:

First, it made Keystone XL -- the new, 1,700-mile-long pipeline we’re trying to block that will vastly increase the flow of “dirty” tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf of Mexico -- into a national issue. A few months ago, it was mainly people along the route of the prospective pipeline who were organizing against it. (And with good reason: tar sands mining has already wrecked huge swaths of native land in Alberta, and endangers farms, wild areas, and aquifers all along its prospective route.)

As we keep saying: There's stuff happening below the national level, and not covered by our famously free press, everywhere. Wouldn't it be nice if the anti-Keystone XL, anti-Fracking, and anti-mountaintop removal efforts unified? Because (a) the issues are all the same: Rentiers extracting carbon, and turning this country into the sort of second-world country where that's the political economy, while poisoning the planet, and (b) the elite playbook is always the same: Neighbor against neighbor, local corruption, and in the end, devastated groundwater. We've got exactly the same thing up here, except with landfills (which also target marginal communities with little leverage against the rentiers and their imperial center).

Now, however, people are coming to understand -- as we hoped our demonstrations would highlight -- that it poses a danger to the whole planet as well.  After all, it’s the Earth’s second largest pool of carbon, and hence the second-largest potential source of global warming gases after the oil fields of Saudi Arabia. We’ve already plumbed those Saudi deserts.  Now the question is: Will we do the same to the boreal forests of Canada. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has made all too clear, if we do so it’s “essentially game over for the climate.” That message is getting through.  Witness the incredibly strong New York Times editorial opposing the building of the pipeline that I was handed on our release from jail.

Second, being arrested in front of the White House helped make it clearer that President Obama should be the focus of anti-pipeline [pro- ______] activism. For once Congress isn’t in the picture.  The situation couldn’t be simpler: the president, and the president alone, has the power either to sign the permit* that would take the pipeline through the Midwest and down to Texas (with the usual set of disastrous oil spills to come) or block it.

Barack Obama has the power to stop it and no one in Congress or elsewhere can prevent him from doing so.

Yep. Gee, I wonder what Obama will do?

NOTE * The permitting process is key to all of these battles, including landfills.

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Joe's picture
Submitted by Joe on

Proud to say that I met Bill McKibben before the protest began on the 24th. I was arrested with 51 others and let go after paying a 100 dollar fine.

This is such an important issue.

beowulf's picture
Submitted by beowulf on

the issues are all the same: Rentiers extracting carbon, and turning this country into the sort of second-world country where that's the political economy, while poisoning the planet, and (b) the elite playbook is always the same: Neighbor against neighbor, local corruption, and in the end, devastated groundwater. We've got exactly the same thing up here, except with landfills (which also target marginal communities with little leverage against the rentiers and their imperial center).

Two phrases for you Joe.
Piguovian taxation, "a tax levied on a market activity that generates negative externalities."
Countervailing power, "Modern economies give massive powers to large business corporations to bias this process, and there arise 'countervailing' powers... to offset business's excessive advantage"
What you want to do is align your interests with the interest of those plutocrats in this country who don't pollute So tax what you want less of use (pollution, landfill or water usage, whatever) and then use this "green tax" revenue to cut income or corporate taxes in whatever manner gets the most rich people thinking you are a knight of justice. :o)
edit: What am I saying? You should use it cut the estate tax dollar for dollar. As Thoreu would say, "you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours" once you get Walmart money behind you (Thoreau didn't say that last part). :

Gary Flomenhoft of the University of Vermont has drilled down and down a lot of research on different kinds of green taxes available.
http://www.uvm.edu/giee/?Page=research/g...

Joe's picture
Submitted by Joe on

thanks for the link. sin taxes. I know what they are. They're great for a lot of things. Like cigarettes.

But tapping the tar sands, as the leading climate scientist James Hansen says, would be "game over" on the climate change issue.

It can't be tapped at all. Because once its tapped, even if you put a high tax on it (and just how is that a gaurentee?), it's going to get drained down.

The physical pipeline cannot be constructed.

P.S. It's hard to think of a better "tax" on fossil fuel sources, in general, than preventing a huge one from ever coming on line in the first place.