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.
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 that is publicly on record saying they are “inclined” to grant TransCanada a presidential permit to build their pipeline on, get this, national interest grounds, with a decision expected by the end of this year.
Keystone XL is not in our national interest:
- It is expected to increase fuel prices in the Midwest.
- It may cost more jobs than it would create and would undermine 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.
So how again does this pipeline serve our national interests? Let’s see: TransCanada profits, and Americans pay with our wallets, our jobs, our water, our health, our sovereignty and our integrity. Which nation’s interests are we talking about here?
It is obvious why TransCanada and big oil companies want this pipeline built. It is less clear why the Obama White House would 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 foreign oil.
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 am leading a “rocket trike” tour this 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.
The 2010 “Ride for Renewables: 100% by 2020” was launched to reenergize America with a modern day green energy moon shot. Our bold call for 100% renewable electricity by 2020 resonated not just on Main Street, but at the highest levels of government, as evidenced by President Obama’s January State of the Union address. The question now is whether the President’s “Sputnik moment” challenge to the nation will spark a genuine U.S.-led green industrial revolution, or be undermined by polluting corporations like TransCanada to accelerate our march towards global climate catastrophe.
If last year’s 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.
2010 RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: 100% GREEN GRID 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.”
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 bold 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.