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
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