Earth Island Institute logo, tap or click to visit the Institute home page

Go Back: Home > Earth Island Journal > Latest News > Post and Comments

Latest News

Obama Faces Keystone Dilemma After Senate Urges Pipeline Approval

No reason to deny project, bipartisan majority says, but others in Congress press Obama to back up climate change commitment

By Suzanne Goldberg

President Barack Obama faced intense pressure to break with his inauguration day promise on climate change on Thursday, after a bipartisan majority in the Senate urged approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The letter from 53 senators said there was no reason for Obama to deny the pipeline — as campaigners are demanding — because the project had now undergone exhaustive environmental review.

photoname Photo by Matt WansleyThe state of Nebraska withdrew its objections to the project this week after TransCanada Corp
revised its pipeline route to avoid ecologically sensitive Sandhills region, leaving Obama without
political cover for delays in the project.

The letter, signed by Democrats as well as Republicans, underlined the high political cost to Obama of living up to his promise to act on climate change.

Campaign groups have made the pipeline their signature issue, saying the project to pump crude from Alberta's tar sands to refineries on the Texas Gulf will unlock vast stores of carbon. Protesters plan a day of civil disobedience on February 17.

But Senators are also ratcheting up the pressure, demanding Obama move swiftly to approve a project they say will boost energy supplies and add jobs.

"Because the pipeline has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline in the history of this country, and you already determined that oil from Canada is in the national interest, there is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project," the Senators wrote. "We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do."

Other Democrats in Congress are pressing Obama to back up his new commitments on climate change. But they are not making the Keystone XL the defining issue, as campaigners have done. Two Democrats who have led on environmental issues, senator Sheldon Whitehouse and congressman Henry Waxman, set up a bicameral taskforce on climate change on Thursday. The letter asked Obama to "expand on your vision for tackling climate change" and offered suggestions — but these did not include blocking the pipeline.

Meanwhile, the pro-pipeline forces appeared to be gathering strength. The Washington Post, whose editorial board tends to discount the dangers of climate change, also came on board on Thursday. "Obama should ignore the activists who have bizarrely made Keystone XL a line-in-the-sand issue, when there are dozens more of far greater environmental impact," the newspaper said in an editorial.

TransCanada, the company building the pipeline, noted in an email to reporters that the endorsement followed a meeting between the company's chief executive and the editorial board.

The state of Nebraska withdrew its objections to the project this week, after TransCanada Corp revised its pipeline route to avoid ecologically sensitive Sandhills region.

That left Obama without political cover for delays in the project. With Nebraska on side, the administration now has the final say over the pipeline.

Construction has already begun on the southern portion of the pipeline, from Oklahoma to the refineries on the Texas Gulf coast. But the State Department must still rule on whether the project is in the "national interest". That decision will likely fall to John Kerry, as the incoming secretary of state.

Kerry has a strong record on climate change, and led the effort to try to pass a climate law in the Senate. He told his confirmation hearing on Thursday that the US would be defined in part by its global leadership on climate change.

Obama rejected a cross-border permit for the pipeline last year, citing Nebraska's objections to the original route.

The State Department said this week it expected to complete review of the new route in the spring.

The Guardian
The Guardian UK, one of Britain's top daily newspapers, provides coverage of international environmental issues. Earth Island Journal is a member of the Guardian's Environment News Network.

Email this post to a friend.

Write to the editor about this post.

Subscribe Today
cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJ cover thumbnail EIJFour issues of the award-winning
Earth Island Journal for only $10



Death spiral. 

We can see a closing spiral happening, like a giant hurricane. 

Every day fewer & fewer people are making money from drilling oil.  More money is being made by fewer people daily.  The circle is closing. 

The opposite is an expanding spiral—

where more and more homeowners and farmers are installing solar panels daily. 

Resulting in more people making money from solar: installers, manufactures, repair people, etc. 

2013 is like the beginning of the auto industry.  Only now the new technology and policy is the feed in tariff that allows more and more people to feed solar onto the grid and make money. 

Already this circle is expanding in some 69 nations around the world. 

This change came not from the UN Conference on Climate in Rio, but from one person in Germany, Hermann Scheer, who at age 19 developed the Feed in tariff to require Utilities to pay anyone who wanted to harvest solar to be able to obtain contract to be paid $0.54 kwh for 20 years.  This is a very sweet policy. 

Suddenly Germany was making more jobs, more money and more clean air than any other nation. 

From 1983 to 2013 Germany was able to shift the whole worlds thinking about energy policy. 

Then in 2011, after Fukushima, suddenly Germany decided to shut down all its nukes, because they were making as much energy from solar as they had been from nukes.  They decided they did not need nukes. 

They shut down half and have said they will shut down all the remaining nukes by 2022. 

They are also shutting down all their coal fired power plants by 2030.  How?  Simple.  They are just installing billions of solar panels on million of private homes and requiring the Utilities to pay them for the solar energy they feed into the grid.  Sweet.

Has this ever happened before?  Yes.  In India the British tried to ban the people from harvesting salt from the sea.  Gandhi began a movement to break the law by walking to the sea with 10,000 people and scooping up free sea water and making salt.  Gandhi broke the law and so the British had to change the law.  Now in SF, Paul Kangas is leading a movement to require PG&E to pay homeowners $0.54 kwh for feeding solar onto the grid.  PG&E & the PG&E puppet PUC are refusing to pay people a decent income from their 50 solar panels.  The Governor has mandated that California must achieve 33% of its power from solar & renewables by 2020. 

The best way this can be done is if the PUC makes investing in solar attractive to the 99%, the homeowners & farmers, by requiring PG&E to pay anyone who feeds solar onto the grid at $0.54 kwh. 

That is the actual cost of buying panels and harvesting solar.  That is the real cost of gas, nuclear, coal and oil fired power plants, when you total up the real costs and the hidden tax subsidies secretly given to the Utilities.  Paying anything less for solar is theft. 

ABC-TV 7, “7 on Your side” recently did a great expose on how homeowners are being ripped off by PG&E/ PUC because they refuse to pay $0.54 kwh for solar (1-13-13). 

Lawyers are filing a class action lawsuit against the PUC for failing to meet the state mandated goal for solar, by paying $0.54 kwh.

By paul kangas on Sun, January 27, 2013 at 7:08 pm

Leave a comment

Comments Policy

Remember my personal information?

Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

View Posts by Date View Posts by Author


Four issues for just
$15 a year.

cover thumbnail EIJ

Join Now!