Why I’m going to the White House on Feb 17: A personal message

This message came to SEA from a friend of one of our members.


Friends and Family,

I just wanted to let you know that I will be headed to Washington DC this weekend to take part in the Forward On Climate March on February 17 outside the White House. The goal is to make President Obama reject the permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline to carry Canadian tar sands oil to the US Gulf Coast for processing and export.


The Keystone XL is being proposed to carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast for refining and export. James Hansen, the NASA lead scientist on climate change, said that if this pipeline gets built, “it is game over for the planet.” Just extracting the tar sands requires burning a quarter barrel of oil for every barrel of oil you get. It basically involves vaporizing a small lake, pumping the steam through the sand to melt the “oil,” running the hot sludge through a separator, and shunting the water into a settling pond. So just the extraction is a mess and a source of significant emissions. Then when you consider that it will all get burned and turned into more emissions … well, you can see why it’s “game over.”

The project must be approved by the Department of State because it comes across an international border. (It also has to be approved by the states along its route through the Midwest, but the Governors there are mostly pretty happy to approve it despite local protests. Citizens in Nebraska are now suing their State for approving it. Blockaders in Texas have been sitting in trees along the route and getting arrested for months. ) The Department of State needs approval from the President.

Last year, President Obama sent the environmental review back saying it needed some revisions to address concerns in Nebraska and other States. Supposedly those revisions have been made.


After the President’s inaugural speech, there is some hope that he will make his rhetoric real by rejecting the XL Pipeline. Or at the very least sending it back to add the impacts of climate change into it. This would be HUGE! There is no precedent right now for including climate change impacts in an environmental review. For the President to order one for the first time would be a game changer. And it would then likely apply to the coal train project here in Washington.

There has also been talk that the President will approve the XL Pipeline but would first extract concessions on other emissions related issues from Congress and industry. This would not be a good outcome, and we want to demand that the Pipeline be rejected outright as too damaging to our climate and our future.

President Obama has said (as did FDR before him), “Make me do it.” He needs a huge cry of anger and outrage to make this decision in the face of powerful fossil fuel lobbies. And that’s what this protest is all about. They are hoping to have 20,000 people show up.

So I will be only 1/20,000 of the voices needed. And even then this is no sure bet.

This is all kind of crazy I will admit. Flying across the country to stand in the cold and make noise. (I am buying carbon offsets for my trip, but still.) It is a complete outrage that this is even necessary. But I’m tired of writing letters and waiting for people to take to the streets. Now is the time.

If you want to help, there are solidarity rallies going on around the country.

Alternatively, the organization leading it, 350.org, could use some money. (For those of you who remember and participated in the march I helped organize in 2007, 350.org is the successor organization to StepItUp.org.)

In addition, write to the President. http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact in coordination with this rally. Stopping this one project would be a huge precedent with implications literally around the world.

Finally, talk about this with your friends. If you need an opening line, tell them that you know someone who is there. I am not looking for kudos here. Lord knows there is no risk or danger associated with this, and, aside from an airline ticket, no real cost. Pretty wimpy when you consider what’s at stake. But we need to talk about it. We just can’t let this be denied any longer.

I hope all is well with each of you.


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