There are rising concerns that if the government approves the Keystone construction, it will cause a surge in greenhouse gases, vast environmental and community degradation.
Obama, confronted with his election-night promise to tackle climate change after Hurricane Sandy, must now make a decision on whether to approve the pipeline that he delayed and is meant to readdress after the 2012 elections.
The demonstration, led by Bill McKibben of 350.org
, had about 3,000 people rally at the Freedom Plaza outside the White House, before they moved to protesting on the streets. They carried a 500-foot, black pipe with the writing, “Stop the XL Pipeline,” while chanting, “Hey, Obama! We don’t want no climate drama.”
The protesters claim that the pipeline will increase the environmental destruction to the once green forest of Alberta that boasted trees and animals, but now is left with pools of toxic waste spanning 31 square miles each and can be seen from space, according to an Environmental Defense (ED) report
. It is considered to be one of "the most destructive projects on earth,” says the ED. To extract oil from the tar sands, twice the amount of fresh water that the entire city of Calgary utilizes in a year must be used and enough natural gas in a day to heat 3 million homes is consumed, according to the report. Additionally, producing a barrel of oil from the oil sands produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than a barrel of conventional oil, according to National Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
Proponents of the Keystone argue that the protestors are exaggerating their claims. A 2010 assessment of a US Energy Department study found that the pipeline would "not appreciably increase" global life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. These findings are reinforced by the final environmental impact statement from the State Department in August of 2011. Overall, it will simply be a drop in the bucket relative to global supply, the statement claims.
"The larger debate [...] is whether we need to wean ourselves off of oil in the near term, period. And that is a debate worth having. But so long as we’re an oil addicted economy, the tar sands I think can play an important role in the world oil market," says Brad Carson, the director of the National Energy Policy Institute, in Living on Earth on June 2011.
The Keystone XL project will transport oil from Alberta to Nebraska and Texas. Its proponents are pushing Obama to move forward with the pipeline. A bipartisan group of eighteen senators, headed by Republican John Hoeven of North Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana, delivered a letter
to Obama on November 16 that urges the president approve the project.
Mass protests have been further planned to push Obama to stop the Keystone pipeline construction. On Monday, protesters locked themselves to machinery in east Texas to prevent the equipment from moving along the proposed pipeline’s path, and several arrests were made. 350.org, the Sierra Club, NRDC and other environmentalist groups also have mass rallies planned, including a nationwide campaign to encourage the public to stop supporting fossil fuel companies and a major protest on Presidents Day in Washington, D.C.