Year 4, Month 6, Day 1: Do It To Me One More Time

I’m soooooo tired of these assholes. WaPo:

Climate change is an issue that needs to be discussed thoughtfully and objectively. Unfortunately, claims that distort the facts hinder the legitimate evaluation of policy options. The rhetoric has driven some policymakers toward costly regulations and policies that will harm hardworking American families and do little to decrease global carbon emissions. The Obama administration’s decision to delay, and possibly deny, the Keystone XL pipeline is a prime example.

The State Department has found that the pipeline will have minimal impact on the surrounding environment and no significant effect on the climate. Recent expert testimony before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology confirms this finding. In fact, even if the pipeline is approved and is used at maximum capacity, the resulting increase in carbon dioxide emissions would be a mere 12 one-thousandths of 1 percent (0.0012 percent). There is scant scientific or environmental justification for refusing to approve the pipeline, a project that the State Department has also found would generate more than 40,000 U.S. jobs.

Buffoon. Ignoramus. Weasel-minded smeghead. And those are his good points. May 20:

Let’s ignore the predictable irony of a Republican lawmaker decrying “overheated rhetoric” on climate change; that’s a cheap shot at Rep. Lamar Smith’s disingenuous defense of the Keystone XL project. Instead let’s just point out the State Department study extolling the pipeline was written by a TransCanada contractor, and its key assertion that the pipeline wouldn’t significantly increase greenhouse emissions was, according to analysts at “Scientific American,” predicated on the assumption that the tar sands oil would be extracted anyway, pipeline or no

Did I say disingenuous? More like mendacious. Rep. Smith also claims that the KXL project would create 40,000 jobs, an assertion that’s simply false — unless he’s thinking of the thousands of cleanup specialists, public-health experts, class action lawyers, insurance adjusters, water purification experts, oncologists, and funeral directors whose employment security will be guaranteed for decades to come if this disaster-in-the-making finds its way across American soil.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 30: ________, And Thanks For The Memories

Heavy times in Rapid City, South Dakota:

Tribal representatives walked out of a meeting today with Department of State officials who came to Rapid City to discuss concerns about the Keystone pipeline project and its potential impact on sites sacred to the tribes, according to a press release from the Indigenous Environmental Network.

The press release went on to say that “tribal, traditional and community members from the Lakota, Ponca, and Pawnee declared the meeting a sham. Oglala Sioux Tribe President Bryan Brewer made a statement dismissing the gathering as a sham because no leadership of the United States was present.”

Instead, the press release said, the “Obama administration sent low level clerks to meet with our tribal and treaty leaders. This disrespect to the provisions of the 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty between the Lakota, Arapahoe, Cheyenne and the United States, as well as violations to international law and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, will not be tolerated.”

In the eyes of our corporate overlords, we are all disposable. May 18:

The treatment accorded to Native American tribal leaders in the negotiations over the Keystone XL is essentially identical to that offered American citizens in general. While the tribes are justifiably suspicious, given that the US Government has a long history of making promises it doesn’t keep, we need to understand that another and all-but-unstoppable force involved the ongoing pipeline controversy which has occupied the halls of Congress and the corridors of federal and state governments. The overwhelmingly powerful corporate interests whose profits will increase further with Keystone’s completion are equally ready to promise impossibilities to all American citizens.

They promise the pipeline won’t leak, and if it does leak, they promise to clean it up. They promise that climate change won’t be impacted by extracting and burning the tar sands — and they also promise that climate change won’t damage the pipeline. They promise that the project will bring economic well-being to the US, and end our dependence on foreign oil. Given their dismal track record on all these issues, and the essentially nonexistent penalties for failing to deliver, the fossil fuel industry could promise even more. Approve the pipeline, and everybody gets a pony!

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 22: Just You, Just Me

The Houston Chronicle offers space to a petroleum-industry shill:

The environmentalist activist community has a new Public Enemy No. 1: Keystone XL. That’s the proposed 1,200-mile pipeline linking Canadian oil fields to Texas refineries. The project is up for debate at the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology this week – the latest in what is now a four-year-long national debate on the project. The facts have become nearly smothered by the small but vocal opposition, but the fact is the Keystone XL pipeline offers a safe, efficient and affordable means of transporting the resources our nation needs.

Block the Keystone XL pipeline and Americans are going to see a nation that is less energy-secure, an economic recovery further stymied and prospects for growth jeopardized. Perhaps most important for the activists who oppose it – a vastly increased chance for spills and other environmental incidents.

While the debate that surrounds the Keystone XL pipeline has been continuous for years, opponents to the transcontinental energy initiative coalesced early on in the process.

Unburdened by facts and uninterested in offering arguments to support their positions, opponents to Keystone XL have been willing to lob unsupported claim after unsubstantiated attack over and over again.

Lost in all of this rhetorical wind? The most salient fact: If Keystone XL is blocked, America’s demand for oil will remain undiminished, and so, too, will the appetite to develop the Canadian oil resources that opponents of the pipeline deride.

I just dashed this off in a state of dudgeon, and it shows. Busy busy busy today. May 11:

Michael Economides’ writing in support of the Keystone XL pipeline is a textbook example of rhetorical contortion in the service of an addiction. The “dilbit” (diluted bitumen oil) from the Alberta tar sands needs both higher pressure and temperature to flow through pipelines — factors linked to increased corrosion and rupture. That the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration doesn’t connect pipeline failures to tar sands oil only underlines that causality is complex. In fact, pipelines in the Midwest that move this sort of heavy crude have spilled almost four times more per pipeline mile than the U.S. average. The recent disasters in Arkansas and Kalamazoo both involved dilbit. It’s terrible stuff, and the only way to keep it safe is to leave it in the ground.

The underlying assumption in Mr. Economides’ piece is that our national oil habit cannot, must not, will not change — and therefore our energy economy has no choice but to feed our craving for a fossil-fuel fix. Spoken like a pusher. There are plenty of alternatives, but none that offer Mr. Economides the perquisites he so obviously relishes as a mouthpiece of the fossil fuel industry.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 21: The Conservative Id, Yes, The Conservative Id

We have a minority vice-president. WaPo:

Environmentalists have seized on a comment Vice President Biden made while working a rope line in Columbia, S.C., on Friday, in which he told an activist he is “in the minority” within the administration when it comes to opposing the Keystone XL pipeline.

Elaine Cooper, who serves on the executive committee of the Sierra Club’s South Caroline chapter, said in an interview Wednesday that Biden shared his thoughts with her during Rep. James Clyburn’s (D-S.C.) annual fish fry.

Buzzfeed first reported the vice president’s remarks late Tuesday, based on an e-mail a colleague of Cooper had sent to fellow environmentalists.

Cooper, who was wearing a black-and-white leather hat, said she attracted the vice president’s attention and was able to ask him about the controversial proposal to ship heavy crude oil from Canada to U.S. refineries on the Gulf Coast.

” ‘Sir, do you support rejecting the Keystone pipeline?’ ” Cooper recalled asking Biden. “And he responded, ‘Yes, I do support rejecting the Keystone pipeline, but I’m in the minority.’ And he smiled back at me.”

Good for Joe. How about good for us? May 9:

It’s an enduring irony: in a corporatized political system, the only position in government offering almost complete freedom of expression is the one John Nance Garner so memorably characterized as “not worth a bucket of warm spit.” Vice-Presidents have for years expressed their constituents’ true sentiments in ways that chief executives cannot; think of Nixon under Eisenhower, and Spiro Agnew’s turn as “Nixon’s Nixon” a decade later, the voice of the conservative American id.

Joe Biden, on the other hand, channels our collective superego, as witness his emergence as an eloquent and compassionate advocate of marriage equality. Nowhere is Mr. Biden’s finely-honed moral sensibility more evident than in his recent outspoken opposition to that planetary disaster-in-the-making, the Keystone XL pipeline. Unlike some who’ve held his office, Joe Biden elevates the vice-presidency with an eloquent expression of the better angels of our nature. Let’s hope he has the president’s ear.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 20: My Biggest Mistake Was Loving You Too Much

Even Forbes Magazine thinks the KXL is a disaster in the making:

With over 16,000 sensors tied to automatic shut-offs, the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline (as in Xtra-Large) is not your father’s pipeline. However, it’s still a pipeline, and the long history of ruptures, leaks, spills and other “incidents” call attention to the problems that face all pipelines in America.

We just don’t maintain them like we should.

And it’s the same for all critical infrastructure. The corporations that build and operate this infrastructure talk about all the bells and whistles they have to make them safe, and promise to do so, but history says differently. Decades after these things are built, the industry just doesn’t care anymore.

It’s not that these pipelines and rigs can’t be run safely, it’s that they aren’t. Maybe the managers and operators who originally built them once cared, but after they’ve retired or died, the new managers don’t have the same ownership.

Hippie. May 7:

Whether it’s coal or oil, the core mentality underlying fossil fuel is essentially simple-minded: make a hole in the ground and burn the stuff that comes out. When your goal is to enrich your investors, then it’s good business to transfer the costs and consequences of leaks, spills, collapses, and containment failures to ordinary people, who’ll take care of it with their tax dollars. Furthermore, given the short attention span of most citizens, TransCanada and other pipeline promoters have nothing to lose by downplaying the risks and inflating the benefits of projects like the Keystone XL — and nothing to gain by making huge investments in safety, infrastructure, and maintenance.

As a path to riches, it’s not complicated — but as a way to encourage good citizenship, it’s a failure. As the climate crisis intensifies, the extractive industries can no longer ignore the grave moral dimensions of their environmental irresponsibility.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 21: It Takes A Village

Washington Post: “Environmentalists hope spill will turn Americans against Keystone.”

The 1,700-mile project, which would bring crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta to refineries in Port Arthur, Tex., enjoys broad support from the public. A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday found 66 percent of Americans back the project, as opposed to 23 percent who oppose it.

But billionaire Tom Steyer, who hosted a Democratic fundraiser which President Obama headlined Wednesday night, is hoping to change that. His consultants held a focus group in Boston Wednesday night with likely Massachusetts Democratic primary voters. Initially they found the group roughly evenly split in terms of attitudes toward the pipeline, until they showed them images of last week’s Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, Ark.

“When we showed footage of tar sands oil rolling down suburban streets in Arkansas, people in the focus groups were practically out of their chairs – even at the end of a two-hour focus group,” wrote consultant Mike Casey in an e-mail. “To a person, they were outraged. Two switched their votes on the spot from Lynch to Markey. The footage hit home with all of them.”

Lynch campaign campaign spokesman Conor Yunits wrote in an e-mail that oil also spilled in a train derailment in Minnesota, showing that alternative methods of transporting oil also have a downside.

“The question is, how can it be transported in the safest possible way? ‬” Yunits asked. “Congressman Lynch believes that if we can construct the pipeline safely, we should consider it. But, as he has said all along, if President Obama and Secretary Kerry ultimately decide that it cannot be constructed safely, he will support their decision.”

Lynch is running against Ed Markey for the newly open Senate seat. He’s a tool of the big money interests. Anyway, here’s my screed, sent April 9:

We’re often told they’re a cheap source of energy, but the true cost of fossil fuels has long been camouflaged by government support on one side, and a collective refusal to consider externalities on the other. While subsidies have kept prices artificially low and enriched a few individuals beyond any dreams of avarice, unacknowledged costs (health impacts, cleanup of spills and leaks, and global climate change, not to mention the wars) are piling up. Who’s going to pay the enormous bill? The taxpayers, of course.

We have long known that sustained exposure to petrochemicals can cause brain damage, but it’s becoming clear that it’s toxic in ways that go beyond the purely physiological. How else to explain the grotesque responses of oil company executives to the recent oil spills in Arkansas, Texas, Minnesota and Ontario? Oil apparently damages ethics and morality as effectively as it decimates wildlife and ravages ecosystems.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 18: Ain’t Got No Mash Potato

The LA Times runs an op-ed by James Hansen, which gets picked up by the Register-Guard (Eugene, OR):

In March, the State Department gave the president cover to open a big spigot that will hitch our country to one of the dirtiest fuels on Earth for 40 years or more. The draft environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline acknowledges tar sands are nasty stuff for the environment, but concludes that the project is OK because this oil will get to market anyway — with or without a pipeline.

A public comment period is under way through April 22, after which the department will prepare a final statement to help the administration decide whether the pipeline is in the “national interest.” If the conclusion is yes, a Canadian company, TransCanada, gets a permit to build a pipeline to transport toxic tar sands through our heartland, connecting to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico, for likely export to China.

Around the world, emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide continue to soar. Australia is now finishing “the angry summer” — 123 extreme weather records broken in 90 days —which government sources link to climate change. Last year, 2012, also was the hottest year on record in the contiguous United States.

More Paul Revere analogies…coming up on Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts! April 7:

Scientists have been warning us for over fifty years that our CO2 emissions were likely to transform Earth profoundly — perhaps catastrophically. And for over fifty years our elected leaders chose to pass the problem along to someone else to solve. When they weren’t simply trying to keep the scientists quiet, that is.

George W. Bush’s administration censored NASA climatologist James Hansen’s report on climate change, muzzling one of climate science’s most informed and articulate voices. Meanwhile, deranged talk-radio personalities incited their low-information audiences into an anti-science frenzy that brought Hansen and other researchers like Dr. Michael Mann death threats and torrents of hate mail.

Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago, farmers in a few Massachusetts towns hearkened to a midnight call, and our nation’s birth can be traced to their readiness to respond to a clear and imminent danger.

Now, a modern-day Paul Revere is again sounding the alarm. Where will we be in two hundred years if we ignore James Hansen’s urgent warnings?

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 13: You Can’t Spell Exaggerations And Lies Without X and L

The Chicago Tribune runs an op-ed strongly advocating approval of the KXL. Because fuck the facts, bitches. It’s all about FREEDOM.

President Barack Obama has a big decision to make about this nation’s economic future. The call is an easy one, and it’s long overdue.

The president should approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which would link the rich oil sands in the Canadian province of Alberta to U.S. refineries and ports in the Gulf of Mexico. Last Friday evening, 17 Democrats joined all of the U.S. Senate’s Republicans in urging Obama to do just that. The 62-37 vote was nonbinding but signaled bipartisan frustration with the administration’s reluctance to approve the project.

The president is expected to make a decision by this summer. He rejected a Keystone plan a year ago, in the midst of his re-election campaign. That was applauded by some environmental groups and angered the Canadian government. But the most significant impact was this: It kept Americans from getting good-paying jobs.

They’re hardly even trying anymore.

Leaving aside the thousands of short-term construction jobs guaranteed to last exactly as long as it takes to build a segment of the Keystone XL pipeline, we can anticipate a hundred times that number in the long term. For example, the demand for toxic waste mitigation and cleanup experts will spike hugely along the pipeline’s route — not to mention the need for more oncologists, pharmacists, and medical support staff. And let’s not forget funeral directors!

Complex legal actions are guaranteed to proliferate, and no matter who “wins” a civil action against a Canada-based multinational corporation which inadvertently destroyed a region’s water supply, lawyers on both sides will profit hugely.

But the corporate consultants who wrote the State Department’s environmental impact statement say there’s nothing to worry about — a “fact” that’s probably a surprise to citizens of Arkansas and Utah whose communities have recently been devastated by pipeline leaks.

It is indeed an easy call to make.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 17: The Immortal Sociopaths Care Not For Your Puny Human Concerns

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports on the how-fucked-up-is-that Environmental Impact statement on the Keystone XL that recently plopped out of the State Department:

The State Department’s recent conclusion that the Keystone XL pipeline “is unlikely to have a substantial impact” on the rate of Canada’s oil sands development was based on analysis provided by two consulting firms with ties to oil and pipeline companies that could benefit from the proposed project.

EnSys Energy has worked with Exxon Mobil, BP and Koch Industries, which own oil sands production facilities and refineries in the Midwest that process heavy Canadian crude oil.

Imperial Oil, one of Canada’s largest oil sands producers, is a subsidiary of Exxon.

ICF International works with pipeline and oil companies but doesn’t list specific clients on its website. It declined to comment on the Keystone, referring questions to the State Department.

EnSys President Martin Tallett said he couldn’t talk about the proposed pipeline, but he pointed out that in addition to working for the oil industry, his company works for the Environmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department and the World Bank.

“We don’t do advocacy,” Tallett said. “Our goal is to tell it like it is, to tell the way we see it. … If we were the pet of government agencies or oil companies, the other side wouldn’t come to us.”

The State Department did not respond to questions about the 2,000-page environmental impact statement it released Friday.

And then we have this:

The State Department’s “don’t worry” environmental impact statement for the proposed Keystone XL tarsands pipeline, released late Friday afternoon, was written not by government officials but by a private company in the pay of the pipeline’s owner. The “sustainability consultancy” Environmental Resources Management (ERM) was paid an undisclosed amount under contract to TransCanada to write the statement, which is now an official government document. The statement estimates, and then dismisses, the pipeline’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental impacts, because, it asserts, the mining and burning of the tar sands is unstoppable.

Move along, move along. Nothin’ to see here. Sent March 7:

While the State Department’s statement on the exploitation of the Canadian tar sands is flawed, the real problem is that the document was produced in a fundamentally dishonest way. It turns out that TransCanada, the corporation behind the Keystone XL project, paid a private “consulting” firm called ERM (Environmental Resources Management) to write the findings, which claim that since the extraction of tar sands oil is inevitable, the environmental damage caused by the pipeline can simply be ignored. The statement also asserts that the giant pipeline will be safe from the effects of climate change — which, given the massive climate impact of the tar sands oil, is a breathtaking combination of folly, hypocrisy and hubris.

Fossil fuel companies already have a hugely disproportionate degree of influence on our government, but TransCanada’s self-insertion in the State Department’s analysis is grotesque even by these standards. While it’s lucky for them that corporate “persons” are incapable of embarrassment or shame, it’s not such a good deal for the rest of us.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 3, Day 13: Oh, All Right. Go Ahead And Have Your Apocalypse, But Don’t Expect Me To Bring Snacks

Aw, gimme a fuckin’ break. The Washington Post:

The State Department released a draft environmental impact assessment of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline Friday, suggesting that the project would have little impact on climate change.

Canada’s oil sands will be developed even if President Obama denies a permit to the pipeline connecting the region to Gulf Coast refineries, the analysis said. Such a move also would not alter U.S. oil consumption, the report added.

The lengthy assessment did not give environmentalists the answer they had hoped for in the debate over the project’s climate impact. Opponents say a presidential rejection of the project would send a powerful message to the world about the importance of moving away from fossil fuels and make it more difficult for Canada to export its energy-intensive oil.

There aren’t enough faces and enough palms. March 2:

As a former smoker, President Obama should know how hard it is to overcome a powerful addiction. He is also undoubtedly familiar with the countless rationalizations smokers use to avoid coming to terms with their dependency. “One more won’t hurt,” “my grandfather smoked and he lived to be 97,” “it helps me relax,” and “I don’t have time to quit right now” — all these and more have analogical equivalents in the arguments currently being presented for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Our nation’s addiction to oil and coal is profoundly damaging to our planet’s health; the State Department’s risible dismissal of the pipeline’s climate change impact sounds remarkably like a carton-a-day smoker’s raspy contempt for the oncologist’s warning. The dirty crude of the Canadian tar sands needs to stay in the ground for the same reason that countless smokers have finally overcome their dependency: because life is preferable to the alternative.

Warren Senders