environmental impact

Keystone XL: Ambiguity is the Enemy of Progress

Photo by Liz Schmitt / Sojourners

Photo by Liz Schmitt / Sojourners

The U.S. needs to quit its crude oil habit. TransCanada needs to see the individuals whose health is directly threatened by Keystone XL. The president and legislators alike need to act for the welfare of not only this generation but for the generations to come, if we indeed want to see the flourishing of future generations. We need to admit to our addiction to oil and identify its harmful ecological impact for what it is.

As a person of faith, I want to see our landscapes, waters and skies restored to wholeness. I am compelled by the love I’ve received from God and God’s people to work alongside others for the common good of all. Having experienced the crisp June evenings of Minnesota as well as the asthma-inducing smog of Hong Kong, I know both the beauty of fresh air and green spaces and the dullness of pollution and gray skies. The chances of enjoying the former are quickly dwindling at our current rate of oil consumption, but we still have time to prevent further environmental degradation, if not for future generations then at least for those of us who still look forward to the rest of their lives, no matter our age.

Nebraska Lawmakers Approve $2M Study on Keystone XL Route Through State

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Pipe is stacked at the southern site of the Keystone XL pipeline on March 22, in Cushing, Oka. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty)

The Nebraska state legislature on Wednesday approved a bill (LB1161) that will allow Nebraska to proceed with a $2 million study to find a route for TransCanada's proposed Keystone XL tar sands pipeline through the state. Gov. Dave Heineman is expected to sign the measure into law. But what does this mean?

It means a couple of things. First, it means that the global “people power” movement against the Keystone XL pipeline beat back the energy and oil industry in January when President Obama and the State Department denied TransCanada’s transnational permit. Our “united we stand” organizing strategy was effective. It forced the TransCanada to switch tactics. Now the oil industry is pushing a “divide and conquer” tactic. Its strategy is to break the pipeline up into state-sized parts and negotiate on each section. In Nebraska, new proposals to route the pipeline away from the environmentally sensitive Sandhills has removed a key political organizing tool from those of us who are working against the pipeline, especially in the Midwest.

Second, it means that Nebraska needs cash and will move forward to get it. Since the oil industry lobbyists have convinced the Obama administration to allow new routes to be proposed, Nebraska has leapt into the maneuvering space – in part to keep filling the state’s depleted coffers with funds from the TransCanada cash cow. The bill approved today will re-start the pipeline “review” process on the state level. And, the bill requires TransCanada to reimburse the state for the route study.

Western Canada Tar Sand Pipeline Decision Delayed Until Late 2013

While citizens across the United States have been demanding President Obama deny the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadians and First Nations folks have been organizing as well.

One question I’ve been asked repeatedly during the Tar Sands organizing is: “If we stop the mining and oil company from building a pipeline from Alberta to Texas, won’t they just a build one from Alberta to the Pacific and ship the oil to China?”

The companies were only too happy to have us buy their logic. But the truth was that our job in the U.S. was to keep the pipeline out of our backyard, and trust that the Canadian movement would do the same. Well, it turns out they have. First Nations folks pledged to block construction with their bodies and widespread public concern has forced the Harper government to review environmental concerns.

Isn't the Keystone XL Pipeline in Our National Interest?

Won't it reduce our dependence on Middle Eastern oil? Won't somebody else develop the Alberta tar sands if the U.S. doesn't do it -- someone like China, perhaps?

I've been wrestling with many of these issues as I contemplate risking arrest as part of two weeks of sustained protest by leading environmentalists, climate scientists, and faith-based groups at the White House forth to pressure the Obama Administration to block the Keystone XL Pipeline. This pipeline project will connect Canadian tar sands -- containing the second largest and dirtiest oil reserves on the planet -- with the oil refineries in Texas.

Wal-Mart's Big Green Claim

Well color me happy (as the saying goes): Wal-Mart just released a big claim to be greening up its act. But what does their claim really mean and how do we define what corporate green looks like anyway? Especially since lately, corporate green seems to grow everywhere, at times fertilized by a healthy dose of corporate greed.