Keystone XL

State Department Finds Something Worse Than Keystone

(3BL Media/Justmeans) - There is a famous tale in the Bible of King Solomon’s wisdom. When confronted with two women claiming to be the mother of a certain baby, the wise king proposed cutting the baby in half, and giving half to each. When one woman refused, he gave her the baby, since it was clear to him that she must be the real mother.

A State Department report, published last week, after poring over the mountains of data pertaining to the Keystone XL pipeline, in hopes of finding a clear signal to resolve this difficult decision, announced a finding that more people would likely die from spills if the tar sands oil is transported by train, than if the pipeline is completed. That’s because oil train spills occur even more frequently than pipeline spills. Rail is also more expensive. So, one might surmise, as Coral Davenport suggests in the NY Times, that if King Solomon were alive today, he would say that if we care at all about all those people living besides railroad lines, whose lives are about to become a game of Russian roulette, we would go ahead and approve the pipeline.

Except, of course, that tar sands oil is not a baby—unless of course, you count another illustrious literary character, the Tar Baby, that concoction that old Br'er Fox used to first anger and then entrap Br'er Rabbit. You’ll recall that the more Br’er Rabbit fought the Tar Baby, the more tangled up he became.

Delicious parallels aside, we needn’t go there because it’s a false choice.

First of all, the Canadian government, not particularly well known for their level of environmental concern, just approved an alternative pipeline, the Northern Gateway, that would run to the Canadian west coast in British Columbia, therefore not requiring any kind of approval from the US. The Northern Gateway cannot yet be considered a fait accomplit, as it is bound to encounter stiff opposition in British Columbia, which is filled with both liberals and aboriginal First Nations, who, unlike their counterparts in the US, enjoy substantial territorial rights. Still, it does represent a third possibility beyond Keystone and the accident-prone trains.

But, the second and far more widely reaching point is that neither pipeline is necessary in any definition of the term that stretches wider than the immediate concern of those investors who have put their money into that particular slot machine and are waiting anxiously for the tumblers to stop rolling.

Earth Day 2014: Where Do We Stand?

(Justmeans/3BL Media) - As I sat at my desk trying to find a suitable subject for the 44th annual Earth Day, I scoured my Twitter feed and my inbox looking for the story that would capture the essence of where we stand right now in our battle to save the planet. While there is plenty of interesting news coming out every day, it is so strongly divided into good news and bad news, that there is no way that one story can possibly sum it all up.

Take the IPCC, for example. Earlier this month, Working Group II, responsible for studying the impacts of climate change issued a frightening report that was hard to view as anything other than a call to action. The impacts are already occurring, chain reactions have been set in motion, and we can expect things to get quite bad, especially if we don’t begin to substantially escalate our efforts to curb emissions. IPCC chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri, said. “nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.” This will be particularly true for those most vulnerable, including low-lying and poorer countries, as well as the poorest residents of all countries. But the same report (which still is yet to be officially published) also said that the economic cost of a 2.5 degrees Celsius rise is going to be somewhere between 0.2 and 2.0% of the global GDP, far less than expected. That might be considered good news, though it might also encourage politicians to defer action on the bad news contained in the report.

Then there is the question of natural gas. There can be no doubt that the large-scale replacement of coal with natural gas for electric generation purposes, accelerated by the drop in natural gas prices, has led to a dramatic reduction in carbon emissions. Coal has been the largest source of carbon pollution, and natural gas emits only half as much carbon. Unfortunately, this boom in natural gas production has come to us via hydraulic fracking, a method that is fraught with problems of its own, ranging from earthquakes, to sizable methane releases (methane is twenty times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas), to contamination of drinking water. These concerns are substantial enough for the National Renewable Energy Lab to declare natural gas less climate-friendly than diesel fuel, though still better than coal. Producers are also pressing to increase natural gas exports, which is not only bad for the environment, but will also raise gas prices here in the US.

Business Leaders Urge President Obama to Oppose Keystone XL

stop-keystoneIn an open letter to President Barack Obama, the American Sustainable Business Council and several leading U.S. companies have urged the president to oppose the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.

The Latest Pipeline War Update: an Opportunity for a Diversified Energy Future for Canada?

pipelineFollowing on US President Barack Obama’s endorsement of climate change action in his second term inauguration speech, the US Ambassador to Canada, David Jacobson, has implied that Obama is looking to see greater forward motion by Canada on climate as a trade-off for approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline1,2.

In Second Inaugural, a Bold Stance on Climate Change, but Tactics Still Uncertain

President Obama outlined a proactive stance on climate change during his second inaugural address.

President Obama outlined a proactive stance on climate change during his second inaugural address.

Pipe Wars, Part II: Will “Job Creation” Make or Break Oil Pipeline Projects in Canada and U.S.?

trans_alaska_oil_pipeline_crossing_south_fork_koyukuk_riverBy: Meirav Even-Har, Toronto

Will the Keystone XL and Northern Gateway oil pipeline projects create 20,000 or 2,000 jobs? Will the jobs be long-term or temporary?

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