Obama Connects Keystone XL & Climate: Rejection Now a Must

In a landmark speech on climate change, President Obama made a bold statement that he would not approve the Keystone XL pipeline if it will significantly exacerbate the climate problem.  This is a huge step towards rejection of this pipeline, as virtually all analyses show that it is the linchpin for major tar sands fuel development in Canada.  Tar sands is an extremely dirty, carbon intensive fuel source that is refined into transportation fuel and a low-grade, high-carbon waste product known as petroleum coke, or petcoke, that is burnt as coal.

As scientists have said, tar sands development is a climate disaster.  As industry has said, it needs Keystone XL to propel major tar sands development plans to reality.  Put two and two together, and it is clear that building Keystone XL is a major carbon emissions driver, or, as the President said, will significantly exacerbate the climate problem.

A New Development in a Long Struggle

This is also a watershed moment for energy development.  After forty years of Presidential talk about ending our addition to fossils fuels, we finally have a President explicitly say in the context of a major fossil-fuel development project that, if the project is a driver of climate change, he’s going to say to no.  That has never happened before and its importance cannot be overstated.  It is a sign of Presidential leadership and the grassroots groundswell that is demanding climate action

NWF staffers (left) joined compatriots from other organizations to rally around climate action in Washington today. Photo via Flickr.
NWF staffers (left) joined compatriots from other organizations to rally around climate action in Washington today. Photo via Flickr.
Of course, the critical moment will come when a decision occurs. The State Department, which nominally will make the pipeline decision, put forth an initial meek analysis indicating that it believed tar sands would be developed anyway.  The EPA and financers like Goldman Sachs are skeptical or disagree, as do most industry observers.  State Department’s study is preliminary, in the minority, and nearly impossible to defend with a straight face.  It was also the product of consultants with ties to the tar sands industry.

Things have already changed since this initial study.  Today the President doubled down on his commitment to addressing climate, we have a Secretary of State that has a built a record as a climate leader, and the need for action, as described by NWF CEO Larry Schweiger, couldn’t be more urgent:

Cutting the pollution that’s fueling global warming is critical to protect not only the communities, infrastructure and economy that support our livelihoods, but the wildlifebirds and fish that sustain our spirits.

America’s economy is growing at a time when our carbon emissions are falling. That’s proof we don’t need more dirty energy to fuel our economy—we need more of the clean energy and efficient technology that’s already creating jobs and saving families money.

Today’s announcement was a significant step in turning away from dirty fuels and towards clean energy.  Keystone XL is a climate, safety and wildlife disaster and not in our national interest.  Today’s momentous event has set the stage for its denial and hopefully signals a major turn towards making energy decisions our children and grandchildren will be proud of.

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