'/> Uncommon Hours: February 2013
Blogging on culture, politics, and the environment since 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

'Forward on Climate' rally: More than 35,000 strong march on Washington for climate action

Washington, D.C., Feb. 17, 2013 – Today, during President’s Day weekend, more than 35,000 people are marching to the President's doorstep to support immediate action to contain climate change. People from more than 30 states across the country whose land, homes and health are being threatened by the climate crisis, as well as students, scientists, indigenous community members and many others are participating in this largest climate rally in U.S. history.

"For 25 years our government has basically ignored the climate crisis: now people in large numbers are finally demanding they get to work. We shouldn't have to be here -- science should have decided our course long ago. But it takes a movement to stand up to all that money," said 350.org founder Bill McKibben.

Rally participants are calling on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and put limits on dangerous carbon pollution from the nation's dirtiest power plants. Much of President Obama's legacy will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in fighting the climate crisis. Rally participants are looking for him move forward on his recent State of the Union address declaration when he said, "For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more to combat climate change."

"Twenty years from now on President’s Day, people will want to know what the president did in the face of rising sea levels, record droughts and furious storms brought on by climate disruption," said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club. "President Obama holds in his hand a pen and the power to deliver on his promise of hope for our children. Today, we are asking him to use that pen to to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and ensure that this dirty, dangerous, export pipeline will never be built."

Saturday, February 16, 2013

New tar sands pipeline will be longer and even more dangerous than Keystone XL

The struggle for a stable climate comes home

Guest post by John Kurmann

While TransCanada's Keystone XL project has rightly attracted a great deal of activist and media attention, the Enbridge corporation has quietly been pursuing its own, even more dangerous project to bring diluted bitumen - “dilbit” - from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Enbridge's executives seem to have learned from the firestorm TransCanada has been engulfed by. They've proposed to expand two of their existing pipelines in order to bring dilbit from Alberta into the US rather than proposing to build a new pipeline across the Canada-US border as TransCanada did, which forced TransCanada to apply for a Presidential permit. Those existing pipelines would only get the dilbit as far as Flanagan, Illinois, however, so Enbridge still has to get it from Flanagan to the Gulf Coast - and that's where Missouri and Kansas come into the picture.

If built, Enbridge's proposed Flanagan South pipeline would run southwest from Flanagan to Cushing, Oklahoma, crossing the Mississippi River into Missouri at Quincy, Illinois. It would also cross the Missouri River and would span 11 Missouri counties, including Cass County, which is in the southern part of greater metro-Kansas City. It would enter Kansas in Linn County and pass through 5 more Kansas counties before crossing the border into Oklahoma on its way to Cushing, where it would connect to Enbridge's existing “Seaway” pipeline, which runs to Houston, Texas.

So, why is this Enbridge project more dangerous than the Keystone XL? We'll get to the details of the pipeline itself below, but perhaps the biggest reason Enbridge's proposal is more dangerous than TransCanada's is that it hasn't attracted much attention, and it also has fewer regulatory hurdles to clear. Because most of the pipelines that would make up the entire project already exist, Enbridge only needs to get approval from regulators to expand those sections. It doesn't need to acquire new rights-of-way across private and/or public land, and it's also proceeding as if it doesn't need a presidential permit for the expansion of the “Alberta Clipper” segment that crosses the national border on its way to Superior, Wisconsin. The National Wildlife Federation argues it does need to apply for such a permit, but it's unclear how that will play out in the regulatory arena or the courts.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Environmental activists engage in civil disobedience at the White House

Photo by flickr user tarsandsaction
Julian Bond, Bill McKibben, Michael Brune, and others arrested in front of White House in call for action on climate

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- This morning, 48 environmental, civil rights, and community leaders from across the country joined together for a historic display of civil disobedience at the White House where they demanded that President Obama deny the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline and address the climate crisis.
Among the notable leaders involved in the civil disobedience were Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club; Bill McKibben, Founder of 350.org; Julian Bond, former president of the NAACP; Danny Kennedy, CEO of Sungevity, and Daryl Hannah, American actress.

After blocking a main thoroughfare in front of the White House, and refusing to move when asked by police, the activists were arrested and transported to Anacostia for processing by the US Park Police Department.

“The threat to our planet's climate is both grave and urgent,” said civil rights activist Julian Bond. “Although President Obama has declared his own determination to act, much that is within his power to accomplish remains undone, and the decision to allow the construction of a pipeline to carry millions of barrels of the most-polluting oil on Earth from Canada's tar sands to the Gulf Coast of the U.S. is in his hands. I am proud today to stand before my fellow citizens and declare, ‘I am willing to go to jail to stop this wrong.’ The environmental crisis we face today demands nothing less.”

“We really shouldn't have to be put on handcuffs to stop KXL--our nation's leading climate scientists have told us it's dangerous folly, and all the recent Nobel Peace laureates have urged us to set a different kind of example for the world, so the choice should be obvious,” said 350.org founder Bill McKibben. “But given the amount of money on the other side, we've had to spend our bodies, and we'll probably have to spend them again.”

“For the first time in the Sierra Club’s 120-year history, we have joined the ranks of visionaries of the past and present to engage in civil disobedience, knowing that the issue at hand is so critical, it compels the strongest defensible action,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “We cannot afford to allow the production, transport, export and burning of the dirtiest oil on Earth via the Keystone XL pipeline. President Obama must deny the pipeline and take decisive steps to address climate disruption, the most significant issue of our time.”

If approved, the Keystone XL pipeline would boost carbon pollution tomorrow by triggering a boom of growth in the tar sands industry in Canada, and greatly increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has estimated that this tar sands pipeline will boost annual U.S. carbon pollution emissions by up to 27.6 million metric tons – the impact of adding nearly 6 million cars on the road.

However, new research by Oil Change International (OCI) shows that the government’s estimates of the carbon emissions associated with Keystone XL underestimates the full impact of tar sands because a barrel of tar sands produces significantly more petroleum coke than conventional crude, which is more carbon-intensive than coal. The research can be found at: http://priceofoil.org/2013/01/17/petroleum-coke-the-coal-hiding-in-the-tar-sands.

OCI’s research shows that Keystone XL will produce enough petcoke to fuel five U.S. coal plants. The emissions from this petcoke have not yet been included in climate-impact analysis of the pipeline or the tar sands industry and OCI shows that it will raise total emissions by at least 13 percent.