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Archive for the ‘Keystone XL’ Category

tar-sands kill caribou, government kills wolves

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North American wildlife rarely outshines the wolf. Wolves are just, simply, awesome. I don’t know how else to put it. They’ve been on the recovery in the US, removed from protection here and there, are even being hunted in some states. All signs of a successful recovery.

TRC doesn’t have a strong opinion of these hunts (we lean towards: Probably not, but if so they should be highly managed by DNR. And no more prosecution of farmer’s protecting cattle), but we absolutely love wolves, and thus do not like to see stories like this:

Tar-sands development pushes Canada to poison wolves. Yes. It appears that the tar-sands development is causing a decrease in the caribou population. No surprise, since the habitat loss from this project is simply mind-boggling. If fewer caribou are around to prey on, then apparently the solution is to have fewer wolves. How? Poisoning, obviously.

It would seem to TRC that restoring the caribou population, to provide prey for a species makes more sense than killing wolves because we have killed too many caribou. But what do we know. We are not the NWF:

Rather than killing wolves, he should be stopping the habitat destruction and restoring habitat associated with tar sands production. Without healthy habitat, the decline of caribou is inevitable, no matter how wolves are managed.

Just one more self-evident display of why the development of the Canadian tar-sands needs to end.


Written by Christopher ZF

February 7, 2012 at 10:34

Do you really think the Quakers are wrong on Keystone?

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In a piece at Politico on the lobby reports for Keystone XL, there is mention of a Quaker lobbying group and their involvement in Keystone efforts.

That caught my eye. So I checked out the Friends statement on the Keystone XL, and must say, I was warmed to think that TRC’s position is the same as that of the Quakers. Isn’t it always better to be on the side of the Quakers?

The over-arching concern with the Keystone project is that it represents an immense investment in dangerously dirty technology and backward thinking. Not only would the pipeline promote greater production of and access to fossil fuels, but it would take us further in the wrong direction in a time when our energy economy and the infrastructure that supports it should be undergoing fundamental change.

If you want to support the dirty, dangerous pipeline, you’re going to have to argue with the  Society of Friends. And why would you want to argue with a group whose message is peace, equality, justice and simplicity?

Written by Christopher ZF

February 6, 2012 at 13:49

Posted in Keystone XL, Politics

Tagged with ,

The most dangerous climate argument: Look at the Numbers, then Just Give Up.

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Robert Samuelson can’t see the forest because he’s only looking at the oil (that was a boreal forest/tar sand joke). In an op-ed at the Washington Post, Samuelson has decided that Obama’s decision to reject Keystone XL is insane. Actually, that it was an act of “national insanity.” His arguments are unconvincing, or at least unoriginal, but worth spending a second or two on. Here are the four key arguments:

1. “Getting future Canadian cooperation on other issues will be harder.” Seriously? You think Canada is suddenly going to spur its allied relationship with the US? Somehow, I doubt that.

2. “It threatens a large source of relatively secure oil.” How? You just said that this oil will be developed, so, not really.

3. “Combined with new discoveries in the United States, [this oil] could reduce (though not eliminate) our dependence on insecure foreign oil.” Probably not. Anytime there is an oil-based argument for reducing our dependency on foreign oil, it’s not going to happen. History is very clear on this. The only solution to reducing foreign oil consumption is reducing oil consumption.

4. “Obama’s decision forgoes all the project’s jobs.” I guess I can’t argue with this. But can continue to ask, at what cost are we willing to take jobs? That’s not a decision, but it’s an important question.

These, though are the small potatoes in comparison to the dangerous defense of Keystone XL that Robert Samuelson makes. The above arguments are just the easy Republican talking points that flutter in the breeze of political rhetoric. Here is the real danger in arguing for Keystone XL:

First, we’re going to use lots of oil for a long time. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that U.S. oil consumption will increase 4 percent between 2009 and 2035. The increase occurs despite highly optimistic assumptions about vehicle fuel efficiency and bio-fuels. But a larger population (390 million in 2035 versus 308 million in 2009) and more driving per vehicle offset savings….Second, barring major technological breakthroughs, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, will rise for similar reasons. The EIA projects that America’s CO2 emissions will increase by 16 percent from 2009 to 2035. (The EIA is updating its projections, but the main trends aren’t likely to change dramatically.) Stopping Canadian tar-sands development, were that possible, wouldn’t affect these emissions.

This argument is numbers based, and sounds reliable and hard to dispute. But don’t be fooled, this is scary business. It acknowledges that there is a reason to worry about greenhouse gas emissions, but disregards that worry because it is all inevitable. Variations of this argument are everywhere, and they cast aside climate change with a simple brush of the hand. It says, simply, “you cannot do anything about emissions, so do not try; instead, since we are already knee-deep in the muck, why not sink up to the neck.”

And such carelessness needs to be identified. Especially when, on the same day, the scientists are telling us how bad it is.

Written by Christopher ZF

January 20, 2012 at 13:42

A note from TRC on the Keystone XL Decision

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TRC tends to think that when most people are confronted with a difficult decision, they will weigh the options and choose what they think is the best. If they don’t, that’s what they should be doing.

And I think that’s what President Obama and his team did when they decided to reject the Keystone XL Pipeline today. I like to think that Obama and his staff looked at the benefits and the risks, weighed them, and came to a decision based on the evidence. That isn’t to say that someone could not do the same, and come out on the other side. But it is to say that Obama took the decision seriously, and chose with care. This is what I hope.

The pros of the Keystone XL pipeline, the only talking point there is for this project, is jobs. It creates jobs. It’s shovel ready. If you oppose the line, you are an extremist who does not put American jobs first. Look at the GOP responses already compiled, only hours after the decision was made public.

  • “His decision today is a victory for the few extreme environmental activists who have lined up to protest Keystone and a defeat for the tens of thousands of Americans who are lining up to find a Keystone job.” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.)
  • “How long does it take for President Obama to put the needs of America’s workers ahead of his political interests?” Dick Lugar (R-Ind.)
  • “I would note that under the law the president signed, the decision to claim that these jobs are not in the national interest is his alone. The president is the only one who can make that determination and block the jobs. ” Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • “President Obama is about to destroy tens of thousands of American jobs and sell American energy security to the Chinese. The president won’t stand up to his political base even to create American jobs.”  Brendan Buck, John Boehner’s spokesman.

Jobs are an important argument. One of the most important arguments when trying to recover a depressed economy. But it is not the only argument, and it is not the most important argument when making policy, especially when making long-term decisions for the health of a nation. We need to create jobs. But we should not be obsessed; we should not create ANY jobs just because they are jobs. Instead, we should create 21st century, forward-looking, nation-improving jobs. Which  TRC believes, and hopefully the Obama Administration agrees, are not oil-pumping, greenhouse gas emitting, boreal forest destroying jobs.

And in this light, Texas Gov. and GOP Presidential nominee Rick Perry’s response is particularly telling: “The president’s focused more on the next election than on the next generation.”

This is exactly wrong, Rick Perry. The people of Nebraska who oppose this pipeline, and the people of the Western US who require the Oglala Aquifer for their drinking water, the environmental community and those who prioritize the long-term health of the US and its resources are more concerned about the next generation than they are the this election.

And at least on this decision, so is President Obama. If President Obama were only concerned with the 2012 presidential election, he would have approved this pipeline. That seems fairly safe to assume. Approving the pipeline is more politically expedient than denying it.  Because jobs are the word. If you can’t say JOBS in this political atmosphere, you are losing the battle.   If you think that the Obama base is appeased by this one action, and thus will boost him in the 2012 general election, you fundamentally misunderstand the liberal voting base.

Regardless of how this action will be taken, TRC is happy to see President Obama make a decision that provides a voice to the future health of this country and its future citizens. TRC  is happy Obama can see beyond this moment in January 2012, and make the right choice for January 2212. Because the American citizens of 2212 have the same right to clean drinking water we do. If you can’t look beyond the current predicament, and provide for the future, even in difficult times like these, then you should not be making long-term decisions that will impact the lives of millions of Americans.

This decision now made does not end the Keystone story, nor does it end an all of the above energy agenda including coal, nuclear and gas that the President has always confirmed he supports. But it is a good decision for today. Nice work, Chief.

*UPDATE: Here is the President Obama’s release on the decision:

As the State Department made clear last month, the rushed and arbitrary deadline insisted on by Congressional Republicans prevented a full assessment of the pipeline’s impact, especially the health and safety of the American people, as well as our environment. As a result, the Secretary of State has recommended that the application be denied. And after reviewing the State Department’s report, I agree.
 In the months ahead, we will continue to look for new ways to partner with the oil and gas industry to increase our energy security — including the potential development of an oil pipeline from Cushing, Oklahoma to the Gulf of Mexico — even as we set higher efficiency standards for cars and trucks and invest in alternatives like biofuels and natural gas.

The decision allows TransCanada to reapply for a permit to build the pipeline, which the company immediately signaled it would do.

Written by Christopher ZF

January 18, 2012 at 15:17

To President Obama: Be the Climate President I thought you would, please.

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I planned on waiting to write this post until closer to the November election, but it’s on our mind now, and the with the Keystone XL decision due on February 21, it’s seems appropriate.

So, to President Obama: Hello. I’m a supporter. I’m a faithful liberal democrat, whose vocational concern is mitigating climate change, and who places climate and environmental policy as one of the top 3 issues in my political worldview. If we don’t put the Earth at the top of the list, well, we are doing a disservice to our species’ survival. Not a politically popular position, but as important a value as there is.

When you made the change from Candidate Obama to President-Elect Obama, I wrote the following:

It’s starting to feel more and more like what happens with the Keystone XL will reflect whether that impulse was right. I know I wasn’t the only one who had such an impulse. It seem’s so optimistic now, but after the campaign, that is where you led us environmental folks.

And then, you did not push on Nancy Pelosi’s energy and climate legislation when you had the opportunity. Instead, health care reform was prioritized, and passed. I get that. But was pretty bummed. I doubt you could have known health care was going to take the entire time you had the super-majority. But you missed a lot of opportunities while getting that watered-down health care bill passed.

It is true, though, you have been a pro-environment President. To pretend otherwise is to miss the facts, to obscure the forest for the trees. Even yesterday your administration made an important decision to protect the Grand Canyon by banning uranium mining. You have increased fuel-efficiency standards, protected and enhanced the Endangered Species Act, and overseen many environmentally friendly decisions in the three years you’ve been in office.

But climate change mitigation is not the same as protecting the environment. Environmental decisions are critical and necessary. But that’s not good enough. The continued permits for exploring in the Gulf after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the continued mountain-top removal, the failure to move climate change mitigation to a policy level priority through the legislature, these are climate failures.

And now Keystone looms. A Climate President, and I perhaps rashly addressed you as such three years ago, would find a way to move the nation, and the world, towards decreasing our Greenhouse Gas emissions. Because that is what is necessary to confront the actual threat of climate change. The science is clear, and you have said all along that you respect science. Not enough to put through EPA director Lisa Jackson’s regulations to hinder emissions. Not enough to choose climate change as the primary driver of your legislative majority. But still. You’ve called for clean energy, you’ve called for robust energy portfolio relying on renewables, you’ve called for serious action on climate change. And yet, we are still pumping out more CO2 than ever.

I know the system. And that you cannot just enact a series of climate friendly decisions and expect the nation to change its energy ways, stop everything and turn course. Of course not. This country is deeply embedded in a fossil-fuel energy system, and getting out of that system is going to be very, very hard. But now that it is clear that any action will have to be made in spite of the Congress, not with the Congress, maybe it’s time to take a step against the threat of climate change. Don’t worry about November, either; I agree with David Roberts: this isn’t even going to be that big of a deal come election time.

I know you recognize the reality and the danger and the scientific necessity to start somewhere on Climate Change. Hopefully, you recognize that KXL provides a pretty good staring point.

Thanks. Have a good day. The Relative Comment.

Written by Christopher ZF

January 10, 2012 at 11:51

contemporary political compromise: an illustration

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From what I can tell, both political parties are interested in extending the payroll tax cut. Which is smart politics. Who wants to cause Americans to pay an extra $1,000 during an election season? They may not agree on how to pay for the extension, but if they can agree on the what, the how can be worked out.

Of course, agreement is not actually a political position these days. It is not possible for the Republicans to agree with Obama on any proposal without feeling like they are capitulating with the enemy. So in order to make this agreement into a full-on fight, the GOP are searching for some way to gum up the works. For some, that gum is the Keystone XL Pipeline. To Obama, the GOP said: we won’t pass the payroll tax cut, even though we want to extend the payroll tax cut, unless you attach approval of Keystone XL. To which President Obama said: if you attach Keystone XL, I’ll veto the payroll tax cut and the pipeline. To this GOP said: We’re prepared to fight this out. To which Obama said: I’ll take away your Christmas vacation. You get the idea.

In case you were wondering what this kind of compromise looks like, and how it compares to normal interaction, here is a diagram to illustrate:

Written by Christopher ZF

December 8, 2011 at 13:13

Posted in humor, Keystone XL, taxes

The Keystone XL Choice is complicated. Seriously.

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I am not envious of the position of the President of the United States. Making decisions as the chief-executive means at least one consistent reality: Somebody, probably a whole lot of people, will be very, very upset no matter what you decide.

This dynamic will never be more clear than with President Obama’s decision to re-study (read: punt, delay, cave, etc) the Keystone XL pipeline route. TRC’s opinion of this decision has previously been discussed and is unchanged in the past 10 days or so.

Since the President made his decision on this, TRC has read more than a few “editorials” that laid out what choices the President faced. The context of making a decision to run an oil pipeline from the earth’s dirtiest extraction project, through a valuable aquifer, and across the entire country makes any decision grave, and difficult. That’s the bottom line. I oppose that pipeline, but it’s not difficult for me to see why people want it. There are economics and jobs considerations, environmental concerns, geopolitical and ideological ramifications, national security worries, constitutional questions regarding the nature of federalism, etc. etc. etc. But to read the ideologues, one might have no idea that these are delicate matters to weigh. To these folks, KXL is a not a sensitive policy question, with real consequences. It is obvious, and there is clearly only one choice. In case you wondered what it is, here’s the decision, as they see it.

(Note that these are just 2 of hundreds of such articles written since Obama decided to delay the project. I selected these two at random; most of them make a variation of these 2 arguments.)

Kenneth Green, AEI: But the Keystone decision shows the reality of the Obama energy agenda: stifling all forms of fossil fuel production, acquisition and use in favor of replacing a small fraction of that energy with expensive, intermittent renewables constructed by crony corporations like Solyndra, General Motors and General Electric.

Choices: the happy world of fossil-fuels vs. the energy policy of cronyism and corruption.

Marita Noon, Energy Makes America Great (nice): First, we all know that the President is fundamentally opposed to all carbon-based fuels (think Solyndra, et al)—so the pipeline’s approval was a longshot… With less than twelve months until the 2012 election, both the unions and the environmentalists will be buying—oops, I mean vying for—his favor. While some are calling his punt indecisive or a debacle, it could be the most brilliant fundraising tactic as both sides over-donate in support of their positions.

Choices: fossil-fuel wonderful goodness or pure political acumen to place influential constituencies in the pocket of the President, while keeping the poor out of work.

Why else could anyone disagree? Oil is good. Environmentalism is a sham, and disagreement points to an anti-American worldview. In the world of these writers, the decision could not be starker: Help America by choosing the pipeline, or  continue to destroy America for purely political gain.

I know this is low-hanging fruit. That these are people who are going to oppose President Obama anyway, who are solely in the interest opposing any 21st century energy policy, and who are fundamentally tied to the pursuit of fossil-fuel consumption and exploration. It is not a surprise that such articles are floating about the conservative corners of the internets.

But that doesn’t make the need to counter such claims any less necessary. Policy decisions are always hard, people. And energy policy is particularly complex and sensitive. The consequences of bad energy choices can be felt for centuries, in some cases. And as the election cycle gears up, and Keystone XL continues to be used to browbeat the President, it remains important to call out the carelessness of casting decisions like KXL in such a shallow manner. It is as difficult, and important, a decision as any the President is likely to face.

Written by Christopher ZF

November 21, 2011 at 11:00