Civil Resistance to Ensure Our Civil Existence: Going to Jail to Stop Keystone XL South
Citizens Risking Arrest at White House
To Stop Jan. 22 Start-Up of Keystone XL South
Obama Has “Moral Obligation” to Order
“Illegal” Tar Sands Pipeline Be Permanently Shut Down
Contact: Tom Weis, Climate Crisis Solutions (303-378-1364)
Patrick Carolan, Franciscan Action Network (203-522-2324)
January 15, 2014 (Washington, DC) – Today, citizens marked the 85th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. by risking arrest to stop the scheduled Jan. 22 start-up of TransCanada’s Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma. They are calling on President Obama to exercise his executive powers to permanently shut the pipeline down, starting with ordering the Pipeline Hazardous Materials and Safety Administration to re-inspect the pipeline’s anomaly-plagued 485-mile southern leg.
“That pipe is in there illegally,” said Texas landowner Michael Bishop, who has sued the US Army Corps for granting TransCanada permits to build Keystone XL on his land without public hearings or water impact studies, as required by law. “If a burglar is in your home, they can’t argue they have a right to be there. Yet President Obama approved and promoted this Keystone XL pipeline that has destroyed my property and the future of my children and grandchildren.”
“I ask President Obama to immediately shut this pipeline down,” said Texas farmer Julia Trigg Crawford, who has mounted a legal challenge against TransCanada’s abuse of eminent domain that is being considered by the Texas Supreme Court. “He can start by ordering that every mile of this anomaly-plagued pipeline be retested and dug up if necessary. The risks are too great to allow Keystone XL to threaten our homes with toxic tar sands.”
“President Obama knows we just passed the grim milestone of 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, yet he approved this tar sands pipeline that would make the climate crisis worse,” said Tom Weis, President of Climate Crisis Solutions. “This isn’t climate leadership, this is madness.” Weis was in the first wave of 1,253 activists arrested outside the White House during a 2011 protest against Keystone XL, spending two nights in a DC cellblock with Bill McKibben and 63 others.
“Caring for God’s creation means having the moral conviction to defend the Earth and future generations when they are threatened,” said Patrick Carolan, Executive Director of the Franciscan Action Network. “Today we ask President Obama to show moral courage and live the faith he often talks about by using his executive powers to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma.”
“The president has a clear moral obligation to stop Keystone XL’s southern leg,” said Ted Glick, Interfaith Moral Action on Climate. “Only days remain for him to extinguish this 485-mile fuse to one of the biggest carbon bombs on Earth.”
The 485-mile southern leg of TransCanada’s Cushing, OK to Port Arthur, TX Keystone XL tar sands pipeline has been completed, is being filled, and is scheduled to start up on January 22. Landowners in Texas and Oklahoma have reported TransCanada patrol planes flying up and down the line in Texas and Oklahoma, with foot patrols searching for leaks.
This emergency direct action is part of IMAC’s 2nd annual Pray-In for the Climate and is endorsed by Texas landowners Julia Trigg Crawford, Michael Bishop and Eleanor Fairchild, along with Bill McKibben, Ed Begley, Jr. and others.
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THIS LETTER WAS SENT TO THE WHITE HOUSE ON 12/10. IT WAS RUDELY & SUMMARILY IGNORED:
December 10, 2013
Senior Advisor to President Obama
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Ms. Jarrett,
Thank you for your recent visit to the Fast4Families tent on the National Mall. I appreciate you taking the time to hear the stories of those of us fasting for immigration reform, and the role you undoubtedly played in the President’s subsequent visit to the fasting tent, where he thanked fasters for our collective “sacrifice and dedication.”
I especially want to thank you for speaking with me afterwards to hear my request for a face-to-face meeting with President Obama to discuss stopping Keystone XL in its entirety – starting with shutting down the pipeline’s 485-mile southern leg in Texas and Oklahoma. I voiced similar requests to Vice President Biden, Denis McDonough, Cecilia Muñoz and Tom Perez when they visited the fasting tent, each of whom is copied on this correspondence. You invited me to send you a letter requesting a meeting, and outlining our objections to Keystone XL, which you offered to share with the President.
In light of the fact that TransCanada began injecting oil into Keystone XL’s southern leg on Saturday, with plans to bring the pipeline commercially on line by January 3, it is urgent that we meet with President Obama before the end of the year to identify immediate actions the administration can take to prevent this project from delivering tar sands oil to Gulf Coast refineries.
This letter is co-signed by several east Texas landowners whose rights have been violated by construction of the pipeline’s southern leg; a matriarch of the Great Sioux Nation whose treaty rights stand to be violated by construction of the pipeline’s northern leg; two prominent faith leaders; and two national environmental leaders. Given the urgency of this matter, your help in arranging a sit-down with President Obama before the end of the year would be most appreciated.
Michael Bishop, Julia Trigg Crawford and Eleanor Fairchild are three of numerous landowners in Texas and Oklahoma who currently have sections of Keystone XL pipeline buried beneath their property against their will. Mr. Bishop is a Marine veteran who has several lawsuits filed to stop the pipeline’s southern leg, including one to revoke Army Corps water-crossing permits that were issued without public hearings, as required by law. His response to those who says it’s too late to stop the project is: “The pipe is in there illegally. That’s like arguing that if a burglar is already in your house, well, now they have a right to be there.” Ms. Crawford, a Texas farmer who describes the pipeline as “all risk and no reward,” is challenging TransCanada in court for abusing eminent domain laws to take her family’s property for private use and private economic gain. Despite the late hour, she also maintains, “It is not too late for President Obama to right this great wrong.” Mrs. Fairchild is a 78-year- old great-grandmother who refused to play ball with TransCanada and was subsequently arrested for “trespassing” on her own land and labeled an “eco-terrorist” by the company. She has since traveled to Michigan to see for herself the devastating effects of the three-year old Kalamazoo River tar sands spill (the largest onshore oil spill in U.S. history) and says, “Texans do not want this pipeline forced through their homes.” All three of these Texas landowners have vitally important information to share with the President about TransCanada’s abusive, deceitful and unjust treatment of U.S. citizens.
Lakota matriarch Debra White Plume will share with the President the unshakable determination of the Great Sioux Nation to nonviolently resist any attempt by TransCanada to build the northern leg of Keystone XL across their treaty territory. Such construction would violate the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which was ratified by Congress. The pipeline would also endanger the Oglala Lakota’s sole source of drinking water, putting the lives and health of their people at risk. A series of well-attended “Moccasins on the Ground” nonviolent direct action trainings have already been held to ensure that the pipeline does not cross treaty territory.
Earth Policy Institute President Lester Brown will share with the President why America needs to be shooting for the moon with renewable energy, not drilling our way deeper into the climate hole with extreme fossil fuel projects like Keystone XL’s southern leg. A green energy “moon shot” will reinvigorate America’s economy and generate many more jobs than our nation’s current energy policies. The urgency of the climate crisis demands an emergency mobilization – similar to how the U.S. in 1942 restructured our industrial economy in a matter of months – to cut U.S. carbon emissions 80 percent by 2020.
Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica will share with the President the myriad of risks posed by Keystone XL’s southern leg, including the potential for this continental carbon bomb to ignite catastrophic climate change. By evading a transparent and thorough review of the pipeline’s likely impacts, TransCanada has not only jeopardized the American people’s rights to clean air and clean water, but is also putting U.S. taxpayers at serious financial risk from tar sands oil spills.
Father Jacek Orzechowski and Franciscan Action Network Executive Director Patrick Carolan, who embrace the teachings of St. Francis of Assisi and his call for the protection of creation, will share with the President the perspective of Franciscans and other faith leaders who object to Keystone XL in its entirety on moral grounds.
There is a better way.
In June, the President pledged during his televised climate action speech, “I am willing to work with anybody – Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, Greens – anybody – to combat this threat on behalf of our kids. I am open to all sorts of new ideas, maybe better ideas, to make sure that we deal with climate change in a way that promotes jobs and growth.”
Our idea is to refrain from taking actions that will make matters worse. Knowing that the southern leg
of Keystone XL will exacerbate the climate threat, by allowing more than half a million barrels of
climate-destroying tar sands to flow daily from Alberta to Gulf Coast refineries, it is indefensible, from
a climate perspective, for the Obama administration to allow this project to go commercially on line.
The President himself stated during a July 24, 2013 interview with The New York Times: “I’m going to evaluate this [Keystone pipeline] based on whether or not this is going to significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere.” As documented in a recent Sierra Club report, FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test, the Keystone pipeline is a linchpin to more tar sands development, and increased tar sands development will significantly contribute to carbon in our atmosphere.
The staggering reality is that Canada’s tar sands contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history, with new tar sands mining techniques allowing up to 70% of that tar sands to be removed and burned. Climate scientists warn that fully exploiting this fuel source – which completion of Keystone XL’s southern leg would help facilitate – could trigger an uncontrollable over-heating of our planet, threatening civilization as we know it.
The President also acknowledged during this same interview with The New York Times that this export pipeline is likely to raise U.S. gas prices and will generate very few jobs.
President Obama: “That oil is going to be piped down to the Gulf to be sold on the world oil markets, so it does not bring down gas prices here in the United States. In fact, it might actually cause some gas prices in the Midwest to go up where currently they can’t ship some of that oil to world markets.”
President Obama: “My hope would be that any reporter who is looking at the facts would take the time
to confirm that the most realistic estimates are this might create maybe 2,000 jobs during the
construction of the pipeline — which might take a year or two — and then after that we’re talking about
somewhere between 50 and 100 [chuckles] jobs in a economy of 150 million working people.”
Then there is the issue of pubic health and safety. TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline, built in 2010, leaked twelve times in its first twelve months of operation. Just as the President said about immigration reform that “it is not a question of if immigration reform will pass, but how soon,” so do we assert that it is not a question of whether the southern leg of Keystone XL will spill, but how soon it will contaminate any one of the hundreds of rivers and streams it crosses, or the Carrizo- Wilcox Aquifer, which supplies water to more than 10 million Texans.
Alarm bells are ringing. Even before the installation of the pipeline’s 485-mile southern leg was completed, there were 125 excavations of Keystone XL pipe along a 250-mile stretch in Texas due to “anomalies,” including dents, sags and faulty welds. These weak spots in the pipeline pose the very real danger of leaks and spills. From a safety perspective, it would be the height of irresponsibility for federal regulators to allow this project to go commercially on line absent new inspections and a thorough investigation of TransCanada’s highly questionable construction and safety practices.
Again, our request is for a face-to-face meeting with the President before the end of the year to identify actions the administration can take to prevent this project from going commercially on line.
We look forward to the President’s response. I plan to remain in Washington, DC at least through the end of the year for the express purpose of this meeting. As I do not have a set physical address while here, I ask that I be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 303-378-1364.
Tom Weis, President
Climate Crisis Solutions
Michael Bishop, Landowner
Julia Trigg Crawford, Landowner
Eleanor Fairchild, Landowner
Debra White Plume
Oglala Lakota Nation
Lester Brown, President
Earth Policy Institute
Erich Pica, President
Friends of the Earth
Patrick Carolan, Executive Director
Franciscan Action Network
Father Jacek Orzechowski, OFM & Chair,
Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Directorate for the Franciscans of the Holy Name Province
Vice President Joe Biden
Chief of Staff Denis McDonough
Director of Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
***Please Support Michael Bishop’s Legal Defense Fund here!!!***
***Please Support the Crawford Family Defense Fund here!!!***
Climate Leaders Gather Outside White House to Demand
President Stop Construction of Keystone XL’s Southern Leg
7,000+ Petition Signatures from All 50 States Being Delivered to White House
During Peaceful Action in Support of Texas Landowners
Contacts: Tom Weis at 303-378-1364 (mobile)
Michael Bishop at 936-715-9338 (home)
November 7, 2013 (Washington, DC) – Today, climate justice leaders peaceably assembled outside the White House to demand that the Obama administration intervene to stop the construction of the nearly completed 485-mile southern leg of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in Texas and Oklahoma.
There were there to deliver to the White House a petition signed by more than 7,000 people from all 50 states calling on the tar sands pipeline to be stopped in its entirety. The petition is endorsed by Daryl Hannah; Ed Begley, Jr.; Mariel Hemingway; Lester Brown; Julia Butterfly Hill; Paul Hawken; James Hansen; Tim DeChristopher; Debra White Plume; and many others.
Texas landowner Michael Bishop, who won a court injunction in 2012 temporarily stopping the pipeline’s construction, and who has filed other lawsuits to permanently shut it down, said, “TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline has destroyed my property and the future of my children and grandchildren and was approved and promoted by President Obama.” He continued, “I stand with Tom Weis in challenging this administration to stop speaking out of both sides of their mouth and to take a stand against this pipeline being completed. The climate crisis demands that all tar sands development in Canada be stopped. This administration must wake up to the lion at our doorstep.”
TransCanada has also taken part of Julia Trigg Crawford’s family farm through eminent domain for Keystone XL’s southern leg, a taking she is appealing to the Texas Supreme Court. “Today this monster pipeline lies quiet and empty beneath my family’s Texas farm, and I stand firm with others in demanding it stay that way,” she said. “The risks are too great to allow this pipeline to go on line and threaten our homes with toxic tar sands. President Obama, it is not too late to right this great wrong.”
Tom Weis, president of Climate Crisis Solutions, who pedaled the petition more than 485 miles to the White House, played off of words the president spoke when he flew to Cushing, Oklahoma last March to fast track construction of the pipeline’s southern leg. “Today we are calling on the president to direct his administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make stopping the construction of Keystone XL’s southern leg a priority, to go ahead and get it done,” Weis said. He was in the first wave of 1,253 activists arrested outside the White House during a 2011 protest against Keystone XL, spending two nights in a DC cellblock with Bill McKibben and 63 others.
“For Gulf Coast communities of color that are forced to breathe poisoned refinery air, KXL South would spell even more dangerous toxic emissions,” said Tar Sands Blockade spokesperson Ron Seifert. “KXL South is an environmental justice issue, and the only way President Obama can be on the right side of justice is if he acts to block the pipeline before it goes online.”
Renewing a call he originally made in 2010, when he pedaled 2,500 miles from Boulder, CO to Washington, DC in support of a national goal of 100% renewable electricity for the U.S. by 2020, Weis concluded, “The severity of the climate crisis demands a green energy ‘moon shot’ for America. It’s time for our generation to stand up and do something great.”
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**ROCKET TRIKE LANDS IN WASHINGTON, DC**
**RIDE LAUNCH SCHEDULED FOR MONDAY, OCT. 14 IN CLEVELAND, OH**
WHY I AM RIDING ONE LAST TIME TO STOP THE 485-MILE KEYSTONE XL CLIMATE DISASTER
Never have I found myself engaged in a fight of such profound importance that was so perilously close to being lost. The July issue of Scientific American sums it up well: “The fate of the Alberta’s tar sands mines – and the climate – may come down to the Keystone XL pipeline.”
Stefanie Spear, Founder and CEO of EcoWatch, exhorts: “Stopping the construction of the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline is the single most important step in preventing irreversible damage to our climate.”
Mark Karlin, Editor of BuzzFlash at Truthout, warns: “What most US citizens don’t know – including most progressives – is that when the southern pipeline segment starts flowing with tar sands oil in a short while, the fuse will have already ignited the [carbon] bomb.”
This fall, I will pedal the EcoWatch/Climate Crisis Solutions “Tell President Obama to Stop Construction of the Southern Leg of Keystone XL” petition 485 miles (the length of Keystone XL’s southern leg) from Cleveland to the White House. More than 7,000 people from all 50 states and many nations have already signed our petition, which is publicly endorsed by Daryl Hannah; Tim DeChristopher; Mariel Hemingway; Ed Begley, Jr.; Lester Brown; James Hansen; Tantoo Cr Cardinal; Michael Bishop; Julia Trigg Crawford; Randy Thompson; Julia Butterfly Hill; Paul Hawken, Debra White Plume; and many others.
This fourth, and final, Ride for Renewables will conclude with a no-holds-barred press conference and peaceful action outside the White House demanding that President Obama immediately stop the construction of Keystone XL’s southern leg that is now 95% built and targeted for completion by the end of this year.
In his June 25 climate speech, the president said, “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.” The problem with the president’s statement is the Keystone pipeline IS ALREADY BEING BUILT in Texas & Oklahoma, with zero regard for carbon emissions or America’s interests.
While he may still be undecided about whether to approve a permit for the pipeline’s northern leg, it is absurd for President Obama, or his political enablers, to pretend he has not made a decision about the Keystone pipeline, when he directed his administration to fast-track its construction in Texas and Oklahoma last spring. If not stopped, Keystone XL’s 485-mile southern leg will soon begin pumping more than half a million barrels of toxic tar sands daily from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries (see map below and to the right) WITH OR WITHOUT THE PIPELINE’S NORTHERN LEG. The map to the right shows how TransCanada will accomplish this by simply connecting Keystone XL’s southern leg to Keystone I (the orange line on the map) built in 2010.
But for the fearless resistance of local landowners, and the heroic efforts of the Tar Sands Blockade and Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, tar sands might already be surging across America’s breadbasket to Texas refineries, for export overseas.
Despite being 95% built and targeted for completion in late 2013, the construction of KXL can still be stopped. Texas landowner and petition signer Michael Bishop has a class-action lawsuit filed against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to invalidate TransCanada’s permits and order public hearings on the pipeline’s route through TX and OK. On the ground, TransCanada has been scrambling to replace newly laid defective pipe along a 60-mile stretch in Texas, with calls mounting for an investigation and a halt to further construction. And then there is us, and we have yet to be heard.
Rarely does such a clear-cut opportunity present itself to alter the course of history by simply doing what is right. Please join our growing people’s movement to stop the Keystone XL climate disaster by signing our petition today. Then join us outside the White House on Nov. 7 as we take a stand for our children, the next seven generations, and all life on Earth.
WHY I DID THE 2012 RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: “DEFEND AMERICA, STOP KEYSTONE TOUR”
Both major party presidential candidates made it clear in 2012 they wanted Keystone XL built:
“And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.”
- President Obama, speaking about the southern leg of Keystone XL in Cushing, OK (March 22, 2012)
“If I’m President, we’ll build it if I have to build it myself.”
- Governor Romney, commenting on the Keystone XL pipeline in Pittsburgh, PA (May 4, 2012)
WATCH 2012 PROMO VIDEO:
Democratic President Barack Obama shrewdly delayed a decision on permitting the northern leg of the pipeline until after the 2012 election, but telegraphed his ultimate intentions by calling for the southern (OK-TX) leg to be fast-tracked. Republican Governor Mitt Romney, who also supported construction of the southern leg, said he would approve the northern leg on “day one” of his presidency.
What would you do if a foreign energy company trespassed on your property, staked it out, and threatened you with eminent domain if you didn’t sell them easement rights to run a tar sands pipeline across your land? What if this same corporation recklessly put the health and lives of your loved ones in jeopardy by refusing to disclose the hazardous chemicals they planned to pipe under your yard? I don’t think you would stand for it. I certainly wouldn’t, which is why I couldn’t just sit by while TransCanada abused our Great Plains friends and neighbors.
In response, I launched the nonpartisan “Defend America, Stop Keystone Tour” last fall calling on both presidential candidates to withdraw their support for this dangerous pipeline scheme and to instead begin championing a U.S.-led green industrial revolution.
WATCH 2012 LAUNCH VIDEO:
TransCanada knows if they are successful in ramming through the southern (OK-TX) leg of Keystone XL, approval for the northern leg in 2013 becomes all that much more likely. Alternatively, if the American people succeed in blocking construction of the southern leg, we will have likely blocked Keystone XL in its entirety. What TransCanada does not want you to know is that completion of the southern leg alone would open the floodgates to the exploitation of Canadian tar sands by enabling toxic slurry to flow all the way from Alberta’s landlocked mine fields to Texas refineries. This makes Keystone XL a make or break fight.
TransCanada, the oil lobby and leaders of both major political parties have disingenuously portrayed Keystone XL as a project that will create tens of thousands of jobs, lower gasoline prices, and promote U.S. energy security. None of these claims are true. To the contrary, Keystone XL poses an imminent economic, public health and national security threat to the United States of America.
Twenty prominent scientists – including one of the nation’s top climate experts, Dr. James Hansen – have warned that Keystone XL “would practically guarantee extensive exploitation” of Canada’s tar sands, which “on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control.” Dr. Hansen – who along with other scientists links deadly heat waves to climate change – also warns that such exploitation would mean ”game over for the climate.”
In 2007, an elite Military Advisory Board of 11 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps concluded that “climate change is and must be recognized as a threat to our national security.” Echoing this sentiment, Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.), president of the bipartisan American Security Project, testified in 2009 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that taking this national security threat “head on is about preserving our way of life.”
The poor safety record of Canadian pipeline companies and the economic danger Keystone XL poses to our nation’s food and water supplies are both well documented. TransCanada’s Keystone I tar sands pipeline, built in 2010, leaked corrosive tar sands slurry 12 times in its first 12 months. That same year, a similar pipeline run by another Canadian company spilled more than 1 million gallons of toxic tar sands into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, sickening hundreds of people, displacing homeowners, wrecking businesses, and destroying jobs.
Keystone XL – which would pump tar sands at extreme pressure and temperature across nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways – promises more of the same by allowing for leaks of up to 1.7 million gallons daily without triggering a real-time leak detection system. It is not a matter of if, but when, this 1,700-mile pipeline will compromise America’s breadbasket by contaminating our Great Plains rivers and aquifers.
Instead of leveling with the American people, Governor Romney and President Obama hid behind the few thousand temporary construction jobs this project would create. The facts show that Keystone XL:
• Risks destroying more jobs than it creates
• Portends higher, not lower, gas prices for the Midwest and Rockies
• Functions as an export pipeline for Canada to sell its oil to foreign markets
• Threatens to further poison the air of people living near tar sands oil refineries
• Violates tribal sovereignty and tramples on private property rights of U.S. citizens
• Jeopardizes the Ogallala Aquifer, source of 1/3 of America’s farmland irrigation water
• Endangers the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which supplies water to more than 10 million Texans
America’s path to prosperity lies in the rapid transition to abundant homegrown renewable energy and appropriate biofuel resources to power our homes, businesses, and vehicles – not in facilitating pipelines transporting the most destructive oil on earth. Keystone XL represents a retreat from the green economy, which already employs 2.7 million workers (more than the fossil fuel industry).
To help honestly reframe the debate, we drafted an “Open Letter” (signed by ranchers, farmers, indigenous leaders and other prominent Americans) to Obama and Romney, calling on both candidates to defend America from Keystone XL on economic, public health and national security grounds.
In the hopes of inspiring similar actions at Romney and Obama campaign offices nationwide, I then proceeded to hand-deliver copies of the “Open Letter” – via rocket trike – to Romney and Obama campaign offices along the Front Range and Eastern Plains of the presidential battleground state of Colorado, The ride began at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and ended at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, with a pit stop in Denver for the first nationally televised presidential debate on October 3.
I took this stand because Keystone XL is the exact opposite direction we should be headed as a country. It is time for our political leaders to stand up for our basic rights to clean air, food, and water, and to put the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people before foreign corporate interests. We need a U.S.-led green industrial revolution that will move our economy forward, create millions of new jobs, and help ensure a livable planet for future generations. It is time for a bold vision for the future that is befitting the American people – one marked by innovation, ingenuity, and hope.
Join the fight for climate sanity.
WHY I DID THE 2011 “RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: NO TAR SANDS OIL ON AMERICAN SOIL!”
Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to politics in America today can sense the decay of democracy stemming from politicians in both political parties who value holding onto power more than they value the future of our children, our nation, and our world. As the Wall Street bailout demonstrated in dramatic fashion, the game is rigged against the American people in favor of powerful corporate interests. Even foreign corporations get to play.
WATCH 2011 PROMO VIDEO:
What if you learned a multinational energy company was plotting to ram a 1,700-mile pipeline through America’s breadbasket to pump nearly one million barrels a day of their strip-mined tar sands sludge to oil refineries in Texas? What if you discovered that tar sands pipelines are 16 times more likely to leak than conventional oil pipelines, due to the corrosive, acidic content of toxic tar sands sludge. What if you found out this foreign corporation was bullying U.S. citizens in six states with threats of eminent domain?
Imagine NASA’s top climate scientist, James Hansen, telling you this: “…if we burn all reserves of oil, gas and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse [the Venus syndrome that Hansen warns could “destroy all life on the planet”].” Then this: “If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.” Would this stir you to action?
What I have just described is not a scene out of the science fiction film Avatar. It’s real. The name of the foreign company is TransCanada and their $7 billion pipeline scheme is called “Keystone XL.” Completing this nightmare scenario is an Obama White House already on record supporting the southern (OK-TX) leg of the pipeline and likely to support the rest.
Keystone XL is not in our national interest:
- It is projected to raise gas prices 10-20 cents a gallon in the Midwest.
- It may destroy more jobs than it creates and directly undermines the green industrial revolution and the millions of permanent jobs that would create.
- It threatens to contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer — the drinking water supply of millions of Americans and source of one-third of America’s farmland irrigation water — with oil spills.
- It would expose families living near tar sands oil refineries to increased risks of cancer from toxic air emissions.
- It threatens Native American and Canadian First Nations communities and cultures.
TransCanada profits, and Americans pay with our wallets, our jobs, our water, our health, our sovereignty and our integrity.
It is obvious why TransCanada and big oil companies want this pipeline built. It is less clear why the Obama White House would even consider it. Keystone XL is expected to facilitate oil exports overseas, not the United States. But even if the costly fuel were sold to the U.S., it would only make America more, not less, addicted to the dirtiest foreign oil on the planet.
Ironically, the pipeline route runs through a region of the U.S. so rich in wind resource, it has the potential to supply several times our total national electricity usage. In the face of massive unemployment, it defies logic to be temporarily employing workers to lay pipe for Canada when we could be putting Americans permanently back to work building a national green grid for ourselves, along with the wind turbines and solar panels to power it.
We have reached a turning point in history where a major decision our government is about to make could destroy the ability of future generations to inhabit a livable planet. This is a defining moment for President Obama, who must now choose between our children and the oil lobby. Our job, as I see it, is to show the President the American people have his back in standing up to the oil industry. His job is to do right by us by rejecting Keystone XL and boldly championing a truly green industrial revolution.
To help bring this about, I led a “rocket trike” tour last fall – in partnership with a broad array of citizens and organizations working to block Keystone XL – along the 1,700-mile pipeline route to draw the nation’s attention to the perils of this project and to support the people in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas who are most directly threatened by this dangerous pipeline scheme.
If the BP Gulf oil spill taught us anything, it’s that energy companies lie, and pipelines spill, with catastrophic consequences for people and the planet. When talking about actions that will make the planet uninhabitable for humanity, most reasonable people would agree we have passed the point of compromise. The American people are drawing a line in the tar sands, and TransCanada shall not pass.
WHY I DID THE 2010 “RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: 100% BY 2020″
Business as usual isn’t working. America is suffering from massive unemployment, an economy in meltdown mode and a climate that is spiraling out of control. It is clearly time for a new national conversation about America’s energy future. I believe the answer is an American-led, job-producing, economy-strengthening, climate-stabilizing green industrial revolution.
Convinced that 2010 was the critical year for America to set the agenda for the coming decade, I decided to take action. So on September 12, 2010, I began biking from Boulder, CO to Washington, DC, calling for a modern day, green energy moon shot for America: 100% renewable electricity for the U.S. by 2020. Over a span of 10 weeks, I traveled 2,500 miles to Washington, DC in my futuristic-looking, electric-assist “rocket trike.”
WATCH 2010 LAUNCH VIDEO:
The purpose of the ride was to begin a new national conversation about America’s energy future. I rode to engage the American people in “taking back our power” by demanding a green industrial revolution that will put unemployed Americans back to work, reestablish our role as world economic leader, and help ensure future generations a livable planet. Almost everyone I met on Main Street, America supported this goal.
Along the way, I visited renewable energy and efficiency projects as motivating examples of the choices already being made by local communities to realize this homegrown green industrial revolution. I also highlighted the deficiencies of old, polluting technologies like coal and nuclear power, and called for an end to the destruction being visited upon Appalachian communities and ecosystems by mountaintop removal mining.
To build public interest in this 10-week trek, I posted a daily blog on this site, and uploaded videos to my Renewable Rider YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. I also aggressively sought out media interviews with print, radio and television news outlets, many of which are posted on my blog. I pedaled through all or parts of the following 11 states on this 2,500-mile journey: CO, NE, KS, MO, IL, IN, OH, KY, WV, MD and DC.
Our political system in Washington, DC is clearly broken, with the two major political parties more interested in fighting each other than for the American people they were elected to represent. But the partisanship dividing our country today does not accurately reflect who we are as a nation. If anything, it reflects the degree to which unaccountable corporations have succeeded in diverting attention away from the real needs of the American people. The energy and climate challenges we face today are not Republican, or Democratic, issues. They are American, and human, issues that affect each of us, regardless of political persuasion. Everyone needs clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, healthy food to eat and a planet to live on. If there was ever a time to put party label aside, and put America first, that time is now.
I refuse to believe America’s best days are behind her, but we need to dispense with Washington’s timid “inside the beltway” mentality and start dreaming big dreams once again. Now is the time to reclaim our moral standing in the world by reaffirming our economic might as a force for good. This is the message I am working to convey – through the voices of Americans I met along the way – to our political leaders in Washington, DC.
While the task of revolutionizing our electricity grid pales in comparison to the revolutionary sacrifice that brought this great nation into being, realizing the “green dream” of a 100% renewable electricity grid in 10 years will nevertheless demand a level of courageous civic, business and political leadership rarely seen since America’s founding to overcome the inertia of the status quo and to convince a reluctant Congress and White House to radically reverse decades of regressive energy policies. But it is in our national character to take on such huge challenges, and prevail, just as it is a core American desire to leave our children a better world than the one we inherited.
I undertook the “Ride for Renewables” in 2010 as my personal stand for the future. 2011 is the year for all of us to stand together and take back our power.
WATCH 2010 LANDING VIDEO: