Congress Sees Its Shadow, Tries to Destroy Winter

Tar sands and Bill Murray have something in common.

A handler holds aloft Phil the groundhog during festivities in Punxsutawney, PA. (Photo: SchultzLabs/flickr)
For those unfortunate readers who haven’t seen the classic “Groundhog Day,” please go watch it. I’m sure basic cable is airing it this weekend, and really, it’s not like you can’t spare two hours away from playing “FarmVille” or whatever it is the kids are up to these days. Anyway (spoiler alert) in the movie, poor Bill is thrown into an endless time loop, re-living the same day over and over and slowly going nuts and/or learning how to be a decent human being. Hijinks ensue. Andie MacDowell rolls her eyes a lot. It’s great.

What does any of this have to do with wildlife? Well, besides the obvious Punxsutawney Phil reference (he’s the “official” groundhog) it’s a pretty good analogy for what’s going on with the Keystone XL pipeline because, once again, Congress is trying to short-circuit environmental reviews and build the [dang] thing. This time, our old buddies Senator David Vitter (R-Louisiana) and Rep. Lee Terry (R-Nebraska) are introducing yet another pair of bills in Congress that would mandate construction of the 2,000 mile tar sands pipeline, skipping over President Obama and giving a big gift to the oil industry.

If at first you don’t succeed…

These bills mark at least the sixth (and seventh) attempts by Congress to cram Keystone XL down our throats, joining legislation pushed by:

  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) – January 2012
  • Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) – January 2012
  • Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) – December 2011
  • Senators Richard Lugar (R-IN), Hoeven and Vitter (again)- November 2011
  • Rep. Terry (again)- May 2011

All of these bills started from the same basic premise: “We’ve studied Keystone enough! Let’s put it in the ground!” This is a truly terrible premise to start from, considering the inadequacy of the studies that have been performed to date — we don’t even have comprehensive information on how much the project would raise global climate emissions, which is like rating Bill Murray’s career based solely on the awful fever dream that was the “Garfield” movie. (And speaking of career ratings, my favorite sentence of the year has to be this gem from Public Policy Polling, which found that “Congress is now less popular than root canals, NFL replacement referees, head lice, the rock band Nickelback, colonoscopies, carnies, traffic jams, cockroaches, Donald Trump, France, Genghis Khan, used-car salesmen and Brussel sprouts.)

Tar sands industrial complex in Alberta, Canada (Photo: Kris Krug)
Before Congress went off the deep end, nobody even thought pipelines were something they should or could regulate, because it’s not their area of expertise and the White House and State Department, by law, have authority over international pipelines like Keystone XL. The current process has important safeguards to make sure we make the right decisions: The Environmental Protection Agency called the original Keystone review “insufficient”due to the poor analysis of global warming impacts, which helped send the project back to the drawing board — as it should have been.

Now, nobody is shocked that Sen. Vitter and Rep. Terry are pushing pro-Big Oil policies; it’s sort of what they’re known for. But that doesn’t make it any less frustrating, because Congress keeps resurrecting the issue despite Americans’ desire to move toward a clean energy economy — in fact, a recent voter poll from the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication shows overwhelming support across the political spectrum for renewables like wind and solar, as well as the belief that the government needs to act to combat the climate crisis.

President Obama understands what’s at stake, if you take his inaugural address at face value:

We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity. We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.

It would be hard to put it any stronger, and a lot of people have been asking what that means for his decision on Keystone, which will go a long way toward shaping Obama’s climate legacy. This decision is way beyond mere symbolism: the oil industry is desperate for pipelines to export tar sands to new markets, so Keystone really is a huge factor in how fast and how large Canadian mining operations will grow.

Tens of thousands expected at massive climate rally

If Keystone XL gets built, we won’t need Punxsutawney Phil to predict the weather for us in years to come: the project would lock us into a bleak future of escalating oil consumption, degraded habitat, and a climate that is hotter and less hospitable for people and wildlife around the globe. We need Obama to stand up to Big Oil and their friends in Congress, by saying NO to the Keystone pipeline. JOIN US on February 17th to protect wildlife from climate change, when tens of thousands of Americans will rally at the White House in Washington, DC to protest tar sands and demand action on climate. RSVP HERE!

Take ActionYou can help! Tell President Obama to reject Keystone XL and dirty tar sands oil.