Tar Sands Action Response to Pres. Obama's Comments on Keystone XL

News — the tar sands action team November 1, 2011 at 8:02 pm

WASHINGTON — President Obama took full ownership of the ultimate decision on the Keystone XL pipeline this afternoon in an interview with a Nebraska television station. Links to the president’s comments are below.

Author Bill McKibben, who is spearheading protests against the Keystone XL pipeline with the group Tar Sands Action, had the following reaction to the President’s announcement:

“Only a day ago the President’s press secretary said the State Department would make the call. Now, it’s very good to see the President taking full ownership of this decision and indicating that the environment will be the top priority going forward.

Of course, it’s not just people in Nebraska that are upset about this project. People from all 50 states were arrested in Washington this August protesting the pipeline and they will be coming back to the White House this Sunday because this pipeline is also a conduit for climate change.”

In the interview, President Obama explained that the State Department would be giving him a final report in the coming months and that he would weigh a number of factors, including health and safety, before making a decision whether or not to grant the controversial pipeline the necessary permit for construction.

Pipeline opponents will attempt to completely encircle the White House in a major protest against the Keystone XL pipeline this Sunday, November 6, one year before the 2012 election. Demonstrators will be carrying signs with quotes from President Obama, including ‘Let us be the generation that ends the tyranny of oil’ and others. Actor Mark Ruffalo, Nobel Prize recipient Jody Williams, Presidential Medal of Freedom winner and NRDC founder John Adams, and other notable individuals will help lead the protest.


Politico published the President’s full comments on the pipeline on Tuesday afternoon in a story here:

Video of the interview with the President is here, comments on Keystone XL begin around the 1:45 mark:

Here are the President’s full comments on the pipeline:

“The State Department’s in charge of analyzing this, because there’s a pipeline coming in from Canada. They’ll be giving me a report over the next several months, and, you know, my general attitude is, what is best for the American people? What’s best for our economy both short term and long term? But also, what’s best for the health of the American people? Because we don’t want for examples aquifers, they’re adversely affected, folks in Nebraska obviously would be directly impacted, and so we want to make sure we’re taking the long view on these issues.

“We need to encourage domestic oil and natural gas production. We need to make sure that we have energy security and aren’t just relying on Middle East sources. But there’s a way of doing that and still making sure that the health and safety of the American people and folks in Nebraska are protected, and that’s how I’ll be measuring these recommendations when they come to me.”

In response to a question on how the promise of job growth will affect his decision, the President responded,

“It does, but I think folks in Nebraska like all across the country aren’t going to say to themselves, ‘We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means that our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health or rich land that’s so important to agriculture in Nebraska are being adversely affected, because those create jobs, and you know when somebody gets sick that’s a cost that the society has to bear as well. So these are all things that you have to take a look at when you make these decisions.”

  1. teacher-activist says:

    The video you link to does not show the President addressing the pipeline.

  2. I pray to God President Obama will make the right decision and stop the Keystone. For the sake of the water, farmlands, aboriginal communities, air quality, climate change etc. The financial situation won’t be saved with the Keystone. We’re beyond peak oil already and the economic systems are too flawed anyway. We’ve got a fiat system doomed to fail. We need green energy to make the system more cost effective and we need localized energy infrastructure ASAP to deal with the reality that peak oil has passed. With renewable we will can reduce oil subsidizes, reduce health care costs and lost productivity associated with illness costs of smog. We can improve health, create jobs and rebuild towards a cleaner and healthier planet.

    Do the right thing Mr. President. It’s time.

  3. Beepdillon says:

    Yes…it’s a good thing you typed out what the President said, originally, because the video no longer shows his speaking about the Keystone XL Pipeline.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Sad to read Obama’s comments: there is NO clear indication that he is making the link between the KXL and accelerating climate change. He seems to be focused on soil and water, which, while important, will pale by comparison the the climate change impacs!

    • I agree, we need to make the link as clear as possible. What part of “game over” for civilization don’t they understand? Maybe a sports metaphor is not the right way to go? How about terminally disastrous consequences for the whole of the interdependent web of existence?

    • Peter Burgess says:

      All of Canada’s CO2 emissions including the tar sands account for 0.1% of the worlds CO2 pollution so subsequently your estimation is far away from reality.

  5. Dan Willmore says:

    I wonder if Obama has considered the U.S. residents who live on the North Shore of Alaska. The Toxic waste from Oil sands processing flows from Alberta to the Beaufort Sea and into the Arctic Ocean.

    • Cheena1ca says:

      I sure hope he considers it Dan. I’m in Canada and so many of us are against these filthy tar sands too!! It is a death sentence for our planet, some locals ppl are already suffering health consequences – combined with a massive waste of water … deemed unusable after being used in the tar sands. **O, and just a little hint for you – please try to always call it ‘Tar Sands’ – it’s the GD cons in govt here right now that have tried to pretty up the name by calling it oil sands. It’s tar, plain and simple. U might want to pass that on to your friends too!**

      Let’s hope we are lucky with this and it doesn’t go thru!

      • Peter says:

        “It is a death sentence for our planet, ”

        Are you people for real? Seriously?

        It’s 0.04% of the worlds man made co2.


        man. “Death sentence” he says. You people seriously need to grow up.

    • Don Lieber says:

      Dan – an excellent point, one which, among many others, is under-discussed. Do you have other info on that, quantifying it — or photos – or a particular website etc.etc. which can discuss that in greater detail? I’m a journalist and would like to write a piece on this overlooked element of it. I would like to think that ‘mainstream’ mainlanders tend to still have a sore-spot for keeping Alaska clean and gorgeous – “Exxon Valdez” (for all the lies about Exxon actually cleaning it up etc) still rings as a benchmark violation to the masses, and politically. This would be useful info to put out there more….would love more info from you….thanks. donbrx@gmail.com.

    • Peter says:

      “The Toxic waste from Oil sands processing flows from Alberta to the Beaufort Sea and into the Arctic Ocean. ”

      Actually no it doesn’t. Not remotely. You are mixing up reality with unrealistic projections.

  6. Piyush says:

    There is no mention of climate change in president Obama’s statement. “We need to encourage domestic oil and natural gas production” contradicts climate change. There is no such thing as clean oil. All new oil should stay in the ground, not just tar sands oil. It looks like the pipeline may simply be re-routed to not go over the aquifer and sensitive areas in Nebraska but what about climate change part? How does encouraging domestic oil “end tyranny of oil”? There is bigger pollution in politics than in the atmosphere it seems. The protest on Sunday needs to be very strong.

  7. Lpurdy says:

    Despite the lack of addressing climate change, as others have pointed out, if in the end he decides to veto the pipeline based on issues of soil safety and the health of the American people, that’s just fine by me. We have the same goal. There’s more to the ending of fossil fuels than simply rapid climate change–though clearly that is one of the most terrifying things our species has ever encountered–so I’m in favor of whatever argument gives President Obama the political strength to brush off the heavy hand of Transcanada. Climate change is a hot button issue. Hopefully, an American’s reliable access to water is not.

    • Sally G says:

      This is true; he must use the arguments that will resonate with the most people, and clean drinking water is one of the best, I think. I actually find this rather encouraging, though we must have a strong showing on Sunday to make it clear that good words followed by no action will not be enough. James Hansen has made it clear that business as usual in Washington is strong speech, weak (if any) action. That cannot be allowed to happen here. My biggest concern is that the decision will be delayed until after the presidential election as too touchy a subject to risk creating a final, trackable record on the subject.

  8. Ed Willis says:

    Think hard, Mr. President. This may well be the most important decision you will make in the months leading up to the election!

  9. Jackson says:

    Here’s a simple action that everyone can take. In response to any solicitation for funds from the Obama 2012 re-election committee, let them know that you’ll consider donating if and only if he rejects the Keystone XL pipeline. If thousands of us do it, it might also make the point.

    • Davemaciewski says:

      I think it’s important that Obama rejects the pipeline, and I agree with others that it’s a bad sign that he didn’t mention tar sands contribution to climate change. However, not being a Dem or Repub supporter anyways, it’s very bad political strategy to hang voting up or down for Obama only on this issue. If a candidate or party doesn’t offer a comprehensive platform to draw down the military-industrial empire, protect us from corporate tyranny, and have a comprehensive agenda for a sustainable future, my advice is don’t vote! As the Occupy Wall Street folks as doing, we’ve got to vote with our feet.

  10. Suzheart03 says:

    In my experience when a politician says he is going to do what’s best, he usually is going decide it’s best to go forward with the proposal the public opposes. Let’s keep the pressure on to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  11. SRL says:

    Bill, again, you have only mentioned the pipeline, not the Tar Sands. Unless you note that stopping the pipeline is the first step and the second is ending the dirty oil production of the Tar Sands (and replacing it with clean, renewable energy(, the movement will die off if the pipeline is stopped — and Obama’s comments are mildly encouraging. I seen this happen with too many single-issue focused movements.

  12. Anonymous says:

    The tar oil is not needed for the American people, it is for resale to other hapless country’s. The tar is as solid as a hockey puck. The chemicals put in the tar to make it flow freely, is lethal. The chemicals are also corrosive, they eat the pipes into a fragile state and the pipes burst.

    Scientists have found acid, right up to the shores of BC. They were stunned, they thought the acid out in the deeps. The acid will eat the shell’s off the crustaceans. The coral is dying. Scientists say, The Great Barrier Reef, will be gone within twenty years. This is a serious wake-up call. Our oceans are dying, from an over dose of Carbon Monoxide. If the oceans die, we die. If we don’t get rid of fossil fuels, the planet will get rid of us.

    We are having climate changing extremes. Drought, floods, tornado’s, hurricanes, all becoming more in number. The weather extremes are becoming more and more violent and dangerous.

    The pipeline bursts, tanker spills, New Zea Land has just had an oil spill disaster. There is still oil gathering on the rocks, from the Valdez spill over 21 years ago. The disaster of the Gulf spill. Off shore rig explosions. And, on and on and on. What in the hell is it going to take for, common sense to trump greed?

    We all know what happens, when humans breathe in fumes from a vehicle exhaust pipe. How politicians can be so damned stupid and greedy, blows me away.

    • Brian Evans says:

      Really, America doesn’t need this oil? Then why are the refineries in Texas preparing to update their plants to process the heavy crude that Canada has?
      The rest of the world doesn’t need our oil, they have the middle east oil which the US won’t soon if they aren’t careful. And we know Chavez won’t sell to you.
      So I hope we don’t build the pipeline just like everyone wants. Then we can process it ourselves and sell it to you as finished product…try paying Canadian gas prices for awhile…then tell me you don’t want the “tar” that we have to offer.

      BTW, get your facts straight…we have pipelines that have been carrying this product from the OIL SANDS facilities down to central Alberta since the 60s without any environmental issues…you want to see environmental issues in pipelines…look at South American operations of American operated oil companies.

      • Anonymous says:

        Sorry, it was an American site that said the oil was for resale, not for domestic use. Canadians were angry, because they wanted the refinery jobs. The U.S. wants to do the refining to sell the oil to other country’s. However, the dirty crude from the tar sands is a bargain price. Refine the oil and resell it, the U.S. makes a bundle, instead of Canada.

      • Anonymous says:

        Yup, we don’t – US oil consumption has been declining for years, and will decline more as cars become more efficient.

        Also, if you think tar sands pipelines have been operating with no problems, I suggest you visit Kallamazoo and talk to folks there – they’ll set you straight right away: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2011/09/01-5

  13. Brian Evans says:

    maybe the US should look at cleaning up your own act wrt consumption of energy first. latest reports show increase of CO2 emissions in the world…”Extra pollution in China and the US account for more than half the increase in emissions last year”
    if you didn’t burn so much energy then this pipeline wouldn’t be required. I don’t like the pipeline but not for the reasons that are spouted by most about dirty oil…that is crap!! I want the jobs to stay here instead of sending OUR oil to the US to be refined by the old, dirty refineries in the US…we can build new, clean petrochem plants to produce finished product and benefit 100% as we should.
    the industry here in Alberta is the among the tightest controlled in the world…have you seen the Kyoto Protocol implemented anywhere in the US?…NO
    Start reducing your own emissions then you can start complaining about where it comes from.

  14. M.Libow says:

    From Huffington Post: The keystone pipeline decision could be delayed until after the election.
 The project has left Obama trapped between environmentalists who oppose it and unions who back it, because it would create jobs. In Robert Redford’s video, he CLEARLY explains why the pipeline will not create jobs! The pipeline will only create 2,500 TEMPORARY jobs. Unless Obama clearly makes a decision not to do this to our environment, before he is elected, how can anyone in their right mind vote for him??? NO WAY. AS SOON as he is elected, he will approve it.
    This was Obama’s promise to us! “As we recover from this recession, the transition to clean energy has the potential to grow our economy and create millions of jobs – but only if we accelerate that transition. Only if we seize the moment.” – President Barack Obama. ANOTHER broken promise.

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