Canadian Bullying Should Make Saying No To Keystone XL Easy for Obama

I have a wee confession. Despite my deep concern about climate change and the state of the world, when my Sunday New York Times arrives on my doorstep (and, yes, I still prefer real newspapers, not glowing computer screens, especially on Sunday morning), the first section I pull out is the Sports section. Too often, it’s about as far as I get.

This particular Sunday, the Times had a story on the stresses faced by pro-football coaches. Coaches become so obsessed with winning that they often lose perspective, sacrificing family life and their own health.

The piece interviewed former head coach Dan Reeves, who, in the middle of the 1998 football season, had a quadruple bypass. On the eve of his emergency bypass, experiencing accelerated burning sensations in his chest and throat, Reeves asked his doctor if his checkup could be postponed until the NFL season was over.

His doctor replied that it was the dumbest question he ever heard.

Which got me thinking about other dumb questions. Take, for instance, the question currently facing the President about whether or not to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Canada certainly wants him to, but in its thirst for oil money, Canada has lost all perspective.

Tar Sands protesters via Rainforest Action Network/Flickr
Tar Sands protesters via Rainforest Action Network/Flickr
Since turning over the keys to reckless Harper Government, Canada has pursued a develop-tar-sands-at-all-cost approach, undermining policies to confront climate change. Long after throwing out its own commitment to Kyoto and climate reduction, Canada is now aggressively seeking to undermine other country’s carbon reduction efforts to make room for a larger tar sands market.

The latest example is the Harper Government’s double whammy of applauding an effort to repeal Australia’s price on carbon and turning up its attempt to bully Europe out of adopting a fuel quality directive that would make it harder to sell extremely greenhouse gas-intensive tar sands in Europe.

But Mother Nature is telling us that we simply cannot put off saying no to tar sands. Just after the anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, we are now witnessing the horror of Typhoon Haiyan. These storms are a glimpse of where continued fossil fuel reliance is taking us.

Nations should be aggressively confronting the threat of global warming, not stifling efforts to curb carbon pollution.

According to the International Energy Agency, Wall Street, the rail industry, and virtually everyone else (except thus far Obama’s own State Department), pipeline infrastructure is critical to tar sands expansion and the massive carbon pollution that comes with it. Keystone XL alone will add 1.2 billion metric tons more carbon pollution than if it carried conventional crude tons of carbon pollution into the atmosphere. These emissions are rapidly racing us towards a scary and unstable future.

Which brings me back to Dan Reeves and his doctor.  The Canadian government is not interested in the planet’s health, despite the dire warning signs. They’re too interested in cashing in on tar sands development, whatever the cost.

So when asked whether he should say yes to a carbon pollution spurring pipeline pushed by a government that is actively pushing an agenda to sacrifice the health of the planet for short term gain, President Obama’s response should be simple: “That’s the dumbest question I’ve ever heard.”

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