Will Obama Go Back to 1984 on Keystone XL?

With the clock ticking down toward midnight on President Obama’s Keystone XL decision, one of the planet’s top climate officials is calling it big, BIG news — enough that a rejection could propel action on global climate efforts:

“I think that would be an extremely strong signal [that Obama is serious about climate change action],” European Union climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, said during a briefing with reporters in Washington. “That would be a strong signal to the world.”

Hedegaard’s remarks made it clear that a yes or no will have implications far beyond our borders — the United States wields a tremendous amount of influence over future efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, and Keystone XL is the biggest climate test the White House has faced in years.

Photo: TarSandsAction
She knows, better than most, the pressure Obama is under. The Canadian government, working in concert with the tar sands industry, has mounted an intense lobbying effort to convince the European Union to relax its clean fuel standards (as part of its overall strategy to put a smiley face on the tar sands brand). The E.U.’s decision is expected in the spring, but Canada’s back-room dealings have done nothing for the country’s crumbling image as an environmental leader. And Canada’s Ambassador to the United States has spent far too much of his time recently twisting arms down in Washington, D.C., telling anyone who will listen that Keystone XL would bring “peace and prosperity” instead of pollution.

“It’s a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.”

Even without the spectacle of Canadian diplomats bending over backwards to drag the planet into the dark days of “1984,” George Orwell could have written a novel on Prime Minister Steven Harper’s machinations. In recent months, Harper has withdrawn Canada from the Kyoto protocol on greenhouse gas emissions, slashed funding for scientific agencies and muzzled government scientists, all while promoting tar sands as a healthy addition to the world’s energy mix. And the Premier of Alberta, Alison Redford, left jaws dropped across the continent this week when she proudly described Keystone XL as “responsible energy development” despite her province’s skyrocketing emissions and record of environmental destruction.

NWF’s friends at Environmental Defense Canada issued a scathing breakdown of their government’s credibility gap, including this shocker:

Canada ranks among the worst performers in the developed world on climate change. In the most recent ranking of climate change performance, Canada was trailed only by Kazakhstan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, ranking 58th out of 61 countries.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Harper calls tar sands “ethical oil.” Up is down, black is green, oil is ethical, the planet is not in danger.

State Department’s Keystone XL review expected soon

Protesters at February 17th “Forward On Climate” rally in Washington D.C. (photo: 350.org)
The Washington rumor mill is predicting that the State Department (the agency tasked with analyzing the pipeline’s impacts) will issue its review soon, perhaps as early as today, and many crucial questions still loom: has State taken a hard look at the project’s climate implications? Were Tribal nations’ concerns given the attention they deserved? What are the real dangers to the Ogallala aquifer in Nebraska? Did the agency just dress up their old review with some shiny new bangles, or did they actually factor in the new information that we’ve uncovered in the last year?

With climate champion and former Senator John Kerry in the top spot at the State Department, we hope that the answers to those questions are good news. But ultimately, the decision is President Obama’s to make, and he’ll have to pick whether to stand with the oil industry or with the millions of Americans who have spoken out in defense of our planet. As TIME’s Michael Grunwald puts it, “Now is the time to choose sides…There are many climate problems a President can’t solve, but Keystone isn’t one of them. It’s a choice between Big Oil and a more sustainable planet. The right answer isn’t always somewhere in the middle.”

Take ActionSpeak up for people and wildlife! Tell President Obama to say “NO!” to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.