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article imageTar sands protest begins Saturday at White House

By Lynn Herrmann     Aug 19, 2011 in Environment
Washington - The controversial Keystone XL pipeline which would carry 700,000 barrels per day of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries along the Texas Gulf coast has environmentalists planning a 2-week protest at the White House beginning Saturday.
In what some are suggesting could be the largest civil disobedience protest in the history of the country’s environmental movement, 2,000 people have already signed up to descend upon Washington, DC between August 20 and September 3, in an attempt to get President Obama’s attention on the adverse effects such a pipeline would create on the environment.
Those protestors plan to arrive, some 75 to 100 each day, in an attempt to bring recognition to the pipeline’s dangers.
The pipeline, proposed by TransCanada, would carry an energy-intensive tar-like oil and cover a 1,720 stretch from Alberta, working its way through the US heartland on into Texas, ending at coastal refineries. Just over 300 miles of it would be in Canada. If approved by Obama, it will cross the international border between Saskatchewan and Morgan, Montana. As such, it requires a special permit from the US State Department.
Supporters of the pipeline include the American Petroleum Institute (API) along with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), both claiming the pipeline could create upwards of 20,000 new jobs, a claim they see as a plus to the nation’s economic woes.
“Today, with the U.S. economy still struggling, nothing is more important than jobs,” said Cindy Schild, API’s refining issues manager, the San Jose Mercury News reports. “And construction of the pipeline would mean massive numbers of them.”
Alberta tar sands
Alberta tar sands
Photo courtesy Pembina Institute
With millions of Americans currently unemployed, the teamsters union also sees a rosy outlook for jobs creation because of the pipeline. “There are 14 million unemployed people in the United States and we think that big construction and infrastructure projects are a fast and good way to put a large number of people to work quickly,” said Jim Kimball, a chief economist for IBT, according to the News.
In an effort to reduce fears on pipeline safety, API and the Association of Oil Pipe Lines (AOPL)have announced the creation of leadership teams focused on pipeline safety performance. They claim to be attempting “an ultimate goal of zero accidents,” according to Steve Wuori, chairman of AOPL’s board, an API statement reports.
Among the concerns of environmentalists and Native Americans are the pipeline’s crossing of the Yellowstone River and the Ogallala Aquifer, one of the world’s largest aquifers. A leak to the pipeline over the aquifer could have devastating results for around around 2 million Americans who depend on the aquifer to provide safe drinking water.
Industrial impact in Canada continues moving northward  providing great challenges for protection of...
Industrial impact in Canada continues moving northward, providing great challenges for protection of its boreal forest.
Map courtesy of Global Forest Watch Canada
Also at risk is Canada’s boreal forest, a massive 1.2 billion-acre forest already home to more than 7,000 abandoned mines requiring various levels of restoration. As reported earlier by Digital Journal, tar sand mining there is already responsible for 740,000 acres of boreal wetland habitat being destroyed. More than half of Canada’s oil production heads south to the US.
Among those expecting to be part of mass arrests because of their acts of civil disobedience is Professor Jason Box, a climatologist at Ohio State University, and one of the few climate scientist registered in the 2-week long protest.
With a successful career moving along and a wife eight months pregnant with their first child, this will be his first-ever protest. As he sees it, the Keystone XL pipeline is not America’s answer, nor what Obama promised in election campaign in 2008, to clean energy.
“If Obama authorizes this pipeline, it will prove that the power of oil is greater than the power of reason,” Box told Solve Climate News. “He cares about this issue and he tells us he wants the country to run on clean energy. Does he cave in? We shall see.”
Box said the country’s politicians need to be motivated in doing what they were elected to do. “If our elected leaders aren't acting, then we're going to have to get more involved with our democracy,” he added. “This is about motivating decision-makers to do their job. I'd like to think that scientists engaging skillfully with words and reason could start to change this problem ... This is a moral movement and a moral issue. It's unethical for us to stand by while the greed of others results in the destruction of our biosphere.”
In a Washington Post op-ed earlier this week,’s co-founder Bill McKibben wrote: “The issue is simple: We want the president to block construction of Keystone XL, a pipeline that would carry oil from the tar sands of northern Alberta down to the Gulf of Mexico.” Because of the tar sands’ enormous pool of carbon, second only to the oil fields in Saudi Arabia, McKibben added that the emissions created by tapping into them would have dire consequences for the environment. “In scientific terms, it’s as close to a no-brainer as you can get.”
McKibben noted on Friday in YES! Magazine that if all goes according to plan, he will be in jail by Saturday morning, along with the first wave of demonstrators. At the end of the demonstration on Labor Day weekend, McKibben noted they would “then hand it off to the Canadiens, who plan mass civil disobedience of their own in September.”
More information on the protest can be found at
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