Keystone XL: A Victory in Slow Motion

Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop, 60, locked to Keystone construction equipment on May 13, 2013.
Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop, 60, locked to Keystone construction equipment on May 13, 2013.

It’s been more than two years since the oil industry predicted an easy win on permitting the Keystone XL pipeline and still no new tar sands pipeline has crossed the Canadian border. Bill McKibben gives an update (Keystone: What We Know) on this quintessential David vs Goliath climate fight:

…  Gradually, the silliness of the arguments for the pipeline has begun to erode their credibility. It’s possible that somewhere in America someone believes the American Petroleum Institute statement this week that approval of KXL would lower gas prices this summer, but it’s hard to imagine quite who. By now most people know that the project’s jobs have been routinely overstated, and that the oil is destined to be shipped abroad.

7) And gradually the horror of climate change is convincing more and more people what folly it would be to hook us up to a project that guarantees decades more of fossil fuel use. Since we started, the U.S. has seen the hottest year in its history, an epic Midwest drought, the largest forest fires in southwest history, and oh yeah a hurricane that filled the New York subway system with the Atlantic ocean.

8) One more thing — since it’s entirely clear that stopping Keystone by itself won’t solve the climate crisis, the green movement has shown it can go on offense too. Charged up in part by the KXL battle, student groups around the nation have launched a full-scale campaign for divestment from fossil fuels that has spread to over 300 campuses and inspired city governments from Seattle to San Francisco to explore selling their stocks.

There’s still that one thing we don’t know, however, and that’s what Barack Obama will do. Congress isn’t going to take this decision off his hands; a shoddy State Department environmental study, which even his own EPA rejects, won’t be much help. The decision will be the president’s. If he blocks Keystone then he’s got himself a climate legacy as well as a bargaining chip — he’d be the first world leader to block a big project because of its effect on the climate. If he doesn’t — well, no beautiful speech on the dangers of climate change will convince anyone.

It was two years ago that the National Journal polled its 300 “energy insiders” and 91 percent of them predicted a quick approval for the project. Since then we’ve kept half a billion barrels of the dirtiest oil on earth in the ground. The smart money still says we’re going to lose, but it’s not quite as sure: the Canadian business press is reporting this week that no one wants to buy tarsand leases or finance new projects — prospects for the future have become “uncertain.” And it’s not just Keystone — analysts said earlier this spring that in the wake of the KXL battle it’s likely every new pipeline will face a battle. Tarsands barons like the Koch brothers still have all the money, and they’ve still got the odds in their favor. But the smart money has lost a few IQ points. —Bill McKibben

Read the whole article.

Elizabeth Warren Rap: Who’s Got the Back of the Sheriff of Wall Street?

I love Elizabeth Warren. She’s “kick-butt.” As special advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, she’s been hailed as one of the “new Sheriffs of Wall Street.”

In a recent conference call hosted by Sojourners, “Sheriff Warren” said of predatory bankers: “Just because we’re not perfect human beings doesn’t give anyone the right to cheat us.” (Imagine it in Clint Eastwood’s voice.) In my opinion, Warren is taking up the cause of the prophet Isaiah, when he said: “The scoundrel’s methods are wicked, he makes up evil schemes to destroy the poor with lies, even when the plea of the needy is just” (Isaiah 32:7). Warren is determined to clean up the scoundrels in the financial industry who eat the poor for breakfast.

A group called the Main Street Brigade (MSB) released a Western-themed rap video calling for Elizabeth Warren to be chosen as the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau – not “interim” or temporary, as she is currently.

The video features Los Angeles comedian Ryan Anthony Lumas rapping about how the country needs Warren to protect people from banks (“Sheriff Warren is what we need, ya’ll.”) Warren’s picture appears in the video only on the cover of Time magazine, and Lumas makes a reference to Oklahoma, where Warren grew up. MSB describes itself as “a rapid response team, nationwide, that can be activated to protect our communities” from “devastation” by the banking industry.

Also this week, Ralph Nader released anOpen Letter to President Obama calling Obama to account for welcoming with open arms General Electric’s CEO while burying Elizabeth Warren as far back as he can get her. When she spoke on the Sojourners call, she was sitting at a bench in the Rayburn Building because she doesn’t really have an office and the Republican-controlled House is working hard to defund what little budget she had. Here’s an excerpt from Nader’s letter:

An interesting contrast is playing out at the White House these days—between your expressed praise of General Electric’s CEO, Jeffrey R. Immelt and the silence regarding the widely desired nomination of Elizabeth Warren to head the new Consumer Financial Regulatory Bureau within the Federal Reserve.

On one hand, you promptly appointed Mr. Immelt to be the chairman of the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitive, while letting him keep his full time lucrative position as CEO of General Electric (The Corporate State Expands). At the announcement, you said that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.” …

Compare, if you will, the record of Elizabeth Warren and her acutely informed knowledge about delivering justice to those innocents harmed by injustice in the financial services industry. A stand-up Law Professor at your alma mater, author of highly regarded articles and books connecting knowledge to action, the probing Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) and now in the Treasury Department working intensively to get the CFRB underway by the statutory deadline this July with competent, people-oriented staff.

Read Sojourners interview with Elizabeth Warren.