Aug 31 Press Release

Aug 31, 2011 

President Obama Risks Alienating Youth Voters Over Oil Pipeline

Former Obama for America youth organizers to risk arrest tomorrow at White House; Joining more than 700 already arrested to stop Keystone XL pipeline

Washington — Talk about an enthusiasm gap: a group of former Obama for America youth staffers and volunteers will lead more than 100 people in civil disobedience at the White House tomorrow to demand President Obama deny the permit for a major new tar sands oil pipeline.

Tomorrow’s sit-in will be the 11th day of the pipeline protest that has led to the arrest of more than 700 Americans and created a major rift between President Obama and his environmental base. Environmental groups are united in seeing the president’s decision on the pipeline as a key litmus test for the 2012 election, yet the Administration has remained stubbornly silent on the issue.

“Obama won the election because the left, young people who are disproportionately environmentalists, came out in huge numbers,” Doug Schoen, who was a strategist for President Bill Clinton, said in an interview with Bloomberg today (source). “If he doesn’t have the kind of support he had from the left, from young people, from environmentalists, he is not going to be re- elected. It’s as simple as that.”

Among the former Obama for America staff and volunteers risking arrest at 10:30 AM at the White House sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue tomorrow are:

Courtney Hight, a former Youth Vote Director in Florida and White House Council on Environmental Quality staffer, now co-director of the Energy Action Coalition:

“Young people mobilized in record numbers in 2008 to elect a leader they believed would fulfill his promise. Tomorrow I’m sitting-in with hundreds of other young people to call on President Obama to fulfill his promise and stand up to Big Oil. He must reject the Keystone XL pipeline; his legacy relies on it.”

Danielle Simms, an Obama campaign volunteer from Lynchburg, VA and leader with Young Democrats of America:

“This protest is important to me as an African American because oil refineries are often located near our neighborhoods and hurt our health. I desperately want to see the Obama I campaigned for, and spent countless days and nights organizing, phone-banking, and canvassing for, deny the permit for this disastrous pipeline and protect our communities.” (Danielle’s story)

Alex Epstein, a Youth Vote Organizer in Colorado, and campus leader at University of Boulder:  

“If this pipeline is approved the blame will be squarely on President Obama’s shoulders, and voters will remember that. The people don’t want this pipeline, the Oil companies do, who does Obama represent?”

Earlier this week, Elijah Zarlin, formerly a senior email writer on the Obama Campaign’s new media team that helped propel him to the presidency, was also taken away from the White House sidewalk in handcuffs.

“We hope that as wave after wave of these people line up to get arrested — you know, that’s no small thing — that he’ll realize that these are his people, the people who helped get him where he is and the people that he needs to get another term,” Zarlin told the Huffington Post.

The country’s top green groups, who released a letter last week calling on President Obama to block the Keystone XL oil pipeline, have echoed the youth sentiment, raising the volume on the possibility of sitting out the 2012 election if the pipeline project goes through.

“We will see an enthusiasm deficit” toward Obama in the campaign, Michael Brune, executive director of the 1.4 million-member Sierra Club, said in an interview with Bloomberg News. “We won’t see our members volunteering 20 or 25 or 30 hours a week. We won’t see bus-loads of people from California going to canvas in Reno, Nevada, or Sierra Club members from Chicago going to Ohio. We won’t see the same passion and intensity.”

The proposed 1,700 mile Keystone XL pipeline would carry dirty, tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. A rupture in the pipeline could cause a BP style oil spill in America’s heartland, over the source of fresh drinking water for 20 million people. NASA’s top climate scientist says that fully developing the tar sands in Canada would mean “essentially game over” for the climate.

President Obama can stop this potential environmental disaster right now with a stroke of his pen by denying the Canadian company TransCanada the “Presidential Permit” they need to build the pipeline.


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