Presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton added her voice to the opposition to the proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline noting that it is not in the interests of fighting climate change. This doesn’t come as a surprise given the American public’s focus on climate action. Tar sands crude is about as dirty as it gets when it comes to climate change. Keystone XL would take us in the wrong direction. We need to power our future with clean energy, not lock future generations into the dirty fuels of the past. The stakes for the country demand an approach just as assertive on climate change from any candidate, from either party, who aspires to the highest office in the land.
It is worth reminding ourselves just why the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline does not make climate sense. This project would pipe tar sands crude from under the Canadian boreal forests and wetlands to the Gulf Coast where most of it would be exported as diesel to overseas markets. That means putting American farmlands and waters at risk so that the oil industry can access overseas markets for the currently mostly land-locked tar sands.
Tar sands is not your grandfather’s oil. It is strip-mined and melted from deep under Canada’s boreal forest in a process that guzzles energy and water, generating high levels of climate-destroying pollution and devastating miles of wilderness. Dirty fuels such as tar sands have no place in a future of climate action and clean energy.
Keystone XL would drive expansion of tar sands mining and drilling by providing access to new markets overseas. Instead, without Keystone XL, we have seen tar sands projects being postponed and cancelled citing lack of adequate infrastructure. It is no coincidence that the public opposition to Keystone XL has been echoed in opposition to other proposed coastal access pipelines, none of which seem likely to go through.
Because so much of the capital investment in tar sands extraction is up front, once the mines and other facilities are built, they tend to keep producing even as oil prices have sunk to their current low levels. That is another reason why building infrastructure that facilitates expansion of tar sands ends up locking us in to years of dirty fuels production.
Keystone XL fails President Obama’s climate test. Analysis by both the State Department and the Environmental Protection Agency show that Keystone XL would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution.
It is no accident that Clinton has moved from her “inclined to support” comment while Secretary of State to clear opposition of Keystone XL. As American voices for climate action and clean energy have strengthened, so has opposition to senseless dirty energy projects likes tar sands pipelines.
In fact, scientists across North America have called for a moratorium on tar sands expansion and related infrastructure because of its impact on climate change and the environment. These scientists note that addressing climate change will require leaving 75 percent of the world’s fossil fuels in the ground, starting with those that produce the most carbon pollution, like tar sands oil. The choices that Canada and the United States make about tar sands in the coming months and years will reverberate globally, as other nations face the inconsistency of trying to have both climate action and expansion of dirty fuels. Yet Canada has continued on its path of being a climate laggard, recently even labelled as the worst in the industrialized world on climate action by a United Nations panel.
The decision to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline once and for all rests with the Administration. President Obama has made it clear that Keystone XL would be all risk and no reward for the American people. Now it’s time for him to reject the tar sands pipeline for good.
Susan Casey-Lefkowitz is a Senior Advisor to the NRDC Action Fund.