Aware of the growing and visible opposition to the 1,700-mile Keystone Pipeline, much of it organized by writer Bill McKibben and his colleagues at 350.org, the White House today blinked. In a statement, the administration said it would evaluate a new pipeline route from Canada to the Gulf Coast, one that presumably takes it away from sensitive wetlands in Nebraska. Protests there have been so strong that even Nebraska’s Republican Governor Dave Heineman announced his opposition.
I’ve written extensively about tar sands and the Keystone Pipeline, which its proponents consider vital to the energy economy and security of the U.S. It is intended to transport oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the Midwest and Gulf Coast. Its opponents attacked the $6 billion proposal as a threat to wetlands and water (from leaks), a useless drain on economic activity designed to wean the nation from oil, and a threat to the climate because of all the greenhouse gases it will release during mining, processing, and use of tar sands-generated oil.
Next month I head out to the Pacific Northwest and northern Great Plains to report on several more big facets of this story — the fight over shipments of big equipment from Idaho and Montana to Alberta, and the expanding oil and gas fields of North Dakota. Make no mistake about what’s happening in American energy development. The United States is diligently perpetuating the drive-through fossil fuel economy. The struggle over building the Keystone Pipeline is a clear indication that Americans are paying attention to the consequences.
– Keith Schneider