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Climate and the XL pipeline - Nov 14

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U.S. to Delay Decision on Pipeline Until After Election

John M. Broder and Dan Frosch, The New York Times
The Obama administration, under sharp pressure from officials in Nebraska and restive environmental activists, announced Thursday that it would review the route of the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, effectively delaying any decision about its fate until after the 2012 election.

The State Department said in a statement that it was ordering a review of alternate routes to avoid the environmentally sensitive Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which would have been put at risk by a rupture of the 1,700-mile pipeline carrying a heavy form of crude extracted from oil sands formations in Alberta to refineries in Oklahoma and the Gulf Coast.

The move is the latest in a series of administration decisions pushing back thorny environmental matters beyond next November’s presidential election to try to avoid the heat from opposing interests — business lobbies or environmental and health advocates — and to find a political middle ground. President Obama delayed a review of the nation’s smog standard until 2013, pushed back offshore oil lease sales in the Arctic until at least 2015 and blocked new regulations for coal ash from power plants.

The proposed project by a Canadian pipeline company, TransCanada, similarly put the president in a political vise, squeezed between the demand for a secure source of oil and the thousands of jobs the project will bring, and the loud agitation of environmental advocates who threatened to withhold electoral support next year if he approved it.
(10 November 2011)



Is the Pipeline Victory a Turning Point for the Climate Movement

Ted Glick, Grist
Two days ago I was convinced that the amazing Keystone XL pipeline victory won by the North American climate movement on November 10 was going to be, without question, a pivotal turning point. Today, having thought more about it, I’d say it’s more like somewhere between “maybe” and “probably.”

I’m reminded of another “victory” that many in the climate and broader progressive movement were feeling just about three years ago: Obama’s election. That one didn’t exactly turn out the way many of us thought it would.

Obama does deserve credit and thanks for the decision he made to put off a final decision about the tar sands Keystone XL pipeline until sometime in 2013. This is a major blow to Transcanada and their efforts to expand tar sands oil production. It’s a rare instance where a fix that was in was “unfixed’ and overturned because of the power of a genuinely popular national movement. Without such a movement, there is no way that Obama would have done what he did.

THIS is the most important thing about this victory. It shows what can happen when groups and constituencies which don’t ordinarily work together do so in a united, diverse campaign built upon mutual respect and a multi-tactical approach that ranges from traditional lobbying of government officials to massive and sustained nonviolent civil disobedience.

Would it have been better if Obama had explicitly turned this pipeline down, explaining that he was doing so, in part, because of the urgent need to stop extreme energy extraction and get serious about energy efficiency and a shift to renewables? That the extreme weather events we are regularly experiencing in the US need to be a wakeup call? That it’s time to do what he said he would do in 2008, “free America from the tyranny of oil?”

Yes, but I don’t think too many of us in the pipeline fight were expecting this. We thought what happened was the best we could realistically hope for.

Ted Glick is the Policy Director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network and is a co-founder of the Climate Crisis Coalition, but these views are solely his own. Past writings and other information can be found at tedglick.com.
(13 November 2011)



Keystone XL pipeline dealy: We won, you won

Bill McKibben, Post Carbon Institute
Dear Friends,

The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline that we’ve been fighting for months has been effectively killed. The President didn’t outright reject the Keystone XL pipeline permit, but a few minutes ago he sent the pipeline back for a thorough re-review that will delay it til 2013. Most analysts agree: the pipeline will never get built.

The President explicitly noted climate change, along with the pipeline route, as one of the factors that a new review would need to assess. There’s no way, with an honest review, that a pipeline that helps speed the tapping of the world’s second-largest pool of carbon can pass environmental muster.

It’s important to understand how unlikely this victory is. A month ago, a secret poll of “energy insiders” by found that “virtually all” expected easy approval of the pipeline by year’s end. A done deal has come spectacularly undone. Our movement spoke loudly about climate change and President Obama responded. There have been few even partial victories about global warming in the United States in recent years, so that makes this an important day.

The President deserves thanks for making this call -- it’s not easy in the face of the fossil fuel industry and its endless reserves of cash. The deepest thanks, however, go to the incredible, diverse movement that helped ramp up the pressure to give the President the room to make this call. And it means so much that this day is shared by our allies around the world -- the people who have stood in solidarity, signed petitions, and organized actions to let us know that you’re fighting in this movement right along with us.

Our fight, of course, is barely begun. Some in our movement will say that this decision is just politics as usual: that the President wants us off the streets -- and off his front lawn -- until after the election, at which point the administration can approve the pipeline, alienating its supporters without electoral consequence. The President should know that if this pipeline proposal somehow reemerges from the review process we will use every tool at our disposal to keep it from ever being built.

If there’s a lesson of the last few months, both in our work and in the Occupy encampments around the world, it’s that sometimes we have to put our bodies on the line and take to the streets to make our voices heard.

We'll be stepping up our efforts in the months ahead, expanding our work to take on all the forms of ‘extreme energy’ now coming to the fore around the world: mountaintop removal coal mining, deep sea oil drilling, “fracking” for gas and oil. We’ll keep sending you updates; you keep letting us know what we need to do next.

Last week, scientists announced that the planet had poured a record amount of CO2 into the atmosphere last year; that’s a sign of how desperate our battle is. But we take courage from today’s White House announcement; it gives us some clues about how to fight going forward -- and not just in the US, but in every corner of the earth.

I’m going to bed tired tonight. But I’ll get up in the morning ready for the next battle, more confident because I know you’re part of this fight too.
(11 November 2011)



Depressing climate-related trends – but who gets it?

Barry Brook, Brave New Climate
I saw two particularly depressing trend lines this week. Both were confronting enough to make me stop, sit back and just contemplate. It was not as though these came as a great surprise — I’d been following these data for years. But for some reason, the seriousness of them really struck home like never before.
The first was a report on Arctic sea ice volume. Here is the graph that shocked me:

It shows the minimum northern hemisphere sea ice volume yearly from 1979 to 2011, and a simple time-series forecast based on a fit of the exponential-decline model. You can read about the details here: PIOMAS September 2011 (volume record lower still), where various related charts are also shown. One can argue about the precision of the projection line, but the general fit is remarkably robust and, on this basis, it is reasonable to conclude that unless some remarkable turn around occurs, the Arctic summer ice volume will be near-zero by 2020.
(6 November 2011)

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