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The only planet in the universe, that we know of, capable of supporting intelligent life is in a deep crises.  I use the word "intelligent" with great reluctance.  No other species that I'm aware of makes it's nest uninhabitable while it needs it for it's own survival.

We should all be able to agree that we are running out of time and we need to take action NOW!  But we environmentalists have a big disagreement about where to put our limited resources in order to save the planet.  This disagreement has been laid bare in an article by Fareed Zakaria and a response by Adam Greenberg.

Below the fold are excerpts from both, and my responses.

Back on March 7, Mr. Zakaria penned an article in Time called Build That Pipeline!

One way to think about the keystone project–the 2,000-mile (3,220 km) pipeline that would bring oil from the tar sands of Canada to the Gulf of Mexico–is to ask what would happen if it is never built. The U.S. Department of State released an extremely thorough report that tries to answer this question. It concludes, basically, that the oil derived from Canadian tar sands will be developed at about the same pace whether or not there is a pipeline to the U.S. In other words, stopping Keystone might make us feel good, but it wouldn’t really do anything about climate change.


Environmental groups are approaching this project much as the U.S. government fights the war on drugs. They are attacking supply rather than demand. In this case, environmentalists have chosen one particular source of energy–Alberta’s tar sands–and are trying to shut it down. But as long as there is demand for oil, there will be supply. A far more effective solution would be to try to moderate demand by putting in place a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade system. Ideally we would use the proceeds to fund research on alternative energy.

The article is short, and I urge you to read it in it's entirety.  I posted some points I happen to agree with but there are other points I disagree with.

From Adam Greenberg, debunking Fareed Zakaria on Keystone.

Lately, we've seen one misleading and fallacious pro-Keystone XL article after another. One such recent piece in TIME magazine was, unfortunately, penned by none other than Fareed Zakaria.


The title itself is misleading: "Reducing our dependence on oil will do far more to slow climate change than blocking the Keystone Project."

Fact Check (again!): The Keystone XL pipeline will not reduce our dependence on foreign oil nor "substantially influence" our energy security, as even the State Department's inadequate Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) points out.


Mr. Zakaria also writes, "One way to think about the Keystone project... is to ask what would happen if it is never built," suggesting that if we don't build it, somebody else will. Of all the arguments for supporting Keystone, this is surely the most naive.


Furthermore, the very idea that if we don't do it, somebody else will, is a particularly dangerous false dichotomy. I've read similar arguments (espoused before my time) defending slavery, which was once viewed as the only practical way to harvest cotton.

But let's do more than that. Let's reexamine our arguments, and even reconstruct the way we think about these problems, to make sure that they are compatible with the science of today and a livable future on planet Earth.

I have to admit that I have some real problems with the way Mr. Greenberg chose to write this article.  He sets up a series of strawmen and lumps Mr. Zakaria's arguments in with them.  And the comparison of support for KXL with slavery because of the "someone else will" argument, is so absurd that it has no business being in a legitimate debate.

Mr Greenberg does not do the environmental community any good with his misleading approach.  There are plenty of good reasons to support the fight against KXL and there are plenty of good reasons to support a different approach to saving the planet.  We NEED to have this discussion, but it has to be reasonable and fact based, and without the strawmen and misleading accusations.

I have to agree with Mr. Zakaria on several points.  The oil Oligarchs that gave us fracking/horizontal drilling, deep sea drilling in water over a mile deep, who built pipelines across Alaska's arctic tundra... are absolutely going to get that tar sands oil to a market, as long as there is a profit to be made.  After we put the huge effort into blocking KXL, will we then need to put another huge effort into fighting the dozens of mile long trains crossing the Canadian border every day delivering that oil to refineries at the Gulf?  And then how about the fight to block off shore drilling, and then ANWAR drilling, and arctic drilling, and more fracking all over the U.S....

I've been fighting environmental battles for more than 40 years, we win some and we lose some.  The problem with Global Warming is, our losses are permanent, and our victories are temporary.  If the president stops KXL, the Oligarchs will sink a ton of money into Republican senatorial campaigns and use high gas prices and high unemployment, even though neither is related to KXL, as a club against Dem senate candidates and we will lose the senate in 2014, and we'll be having this same fight all over again in a few years.

The only way to stop Global Warming now, is to make Alternative energy cheaper than fossil fuels. Wind and Solar are already more economical than coal for producing electricity.  And tar sand oils are especially expensive.  

I think President Obama should approve KXL, ONLY! ONLY! ONLY! in trade for something BIG!  The Republicans take hostages all the time and every time they come up with victory.  KXL should be our hostage.  You want KXL, then we do away with the 10's of billions of dollars of subsidies for fossil fuels.  Or how about a pipeline tax, which would basically be a carbon tax in disguise, where all the money goes to ALT-E transportation research and subsidies.  This would also set a precedent for a putting a new tax on all future big fossil fuel projects.

So lets not demonize different approaches to saving the planet from Global Warming, we don't have time for that.  But we have to use our very limited resources wisely, and we need to have a reasonable discussion about how to do it.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't think KXL should ever be built (0+ / 0-)

    And if there's an effort to go west with a pipeline it should be fought with every tool available.

    Make the damn thing financially unfeasible due to "security" costs.

    People over profits.

    How do you stop someone who will stop at nothing?

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Sat Mar 30, 2013 at 08:38:28 AM PDT

    •  neither do I, but (0+ / 0-)

      the question isn't whether the pipeline should be built, the question is, is putting such efforts in fighting the pipeline and the dozens of other fossil fuels projects coming at us, the best way to stop Global Warming?  I don't think so.

      The cost of solar and wind is dropping so fast, all we need is to make an ALT-E transportation system cheaper than oil, and all the pipelines, all the deep wells, all the tar sands and all the shale deposits in the world will become obsolete overnight, and we win.

      But it will take research and implementation money to get there quickly, and if we can trade KXL for the money to make fossil fuels obsolete, it's well worth doing.

  •  You make a good argument (3+ / 0-)

    I haven't followed this issue very closely, but it does seem inevitable that the pipeline will eventually be built, even though it won't create a whole lot of jobs and will certainly harm the environment.  

    •  the oil will get to market one way or the other (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gary Norton, sebastianguy99

      as long as there is profit to be made.  The pipeline may get delayed until gas prices get a little higher and the American public buys into the cheap tar sands lie.  Until then, they'll ship it by train or look for other paths for a pipeline, and in the meantime we'll be fighting fracking and Arctic drilling, and deep water drilling, and new refineries...

  •  What to get in exchange (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollwatcher, sebastianguy99, chimene

    In the current US oil boom there has been a huge increase in "flaring off" natural gas.  When oil comes out of the ground it can come out with large volumes of natural gas.  When there is no ready means to collect and transport the gas the well operator just burns off the gas on site in huge gas flames.  These flames are so common and large, they are quite visible from space (see  

     Releasing the gas without burning would cause safety problems and releasing methane would be far worse for climate change than the resulting co2 from burning.

    Present this flaring as a waste of US natural resources as well as increasing CO2 without sufficient benefits.  Pass a law heavily taxing the flaring of natural gas so operators will have the incentive to invest in collecting the nat gas and making it available to market.  Phase in the tax over 3 years, so operators have time to build.  Make the tax very high as the goal is not tax revenue but capturing the nat gas.

    The reduction in CO2 from this will likely be far greater than what KXL will cause.  Doing this would also result in tens of thousands of very good paying jobs (many union) in oil fields, construction, making pipe, equipment and steel.  So this would be strong for jobs in many states not just oil states.

    The most important way to protect the environment is not to have more than one child.

    by nextstep on Sat Mar 30, 2013 at 10:53:42 AM PDT

    •  It drives me crazy to see that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You are exactly right, it should be taxed to the point where it's more expensive to burn it than to capture it.  When future generations are suffering under the devastating effects of Global Warming, I wonder what they'll think about pictures of flaring.

  •  Symbolic fights are not always productive. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    KXL is a symbolic fight. I would suggest that our fellow citizns sense this and have not been convinced that this project is worth much bother even though some people are chaining themselves to the project.

    The pipeline battle was lost long ago when the price of crude made it feasible to extract from tar sands. We've known for a long time about tar sands yet some act as if they are something newly discovered. That we were not prepared speaks volumes about how we are waging this essential fight.

    I think, at a minimum, we need more effective messaging on climate change. I read too many fatalistic pronouncements from our side. At some point if you tell people we are at "the tipping point" enough they are going to believe you, shut down, and not change because there is no point in doing so.

    I think we best focus on jobs and quality of life as the means for persuading people to demand lessening our dependence on fossil fuels. Zacharia was right about the focus needing to be on the demand side rather than supply.

    Transitioning to cleaner fuels is going to take time and is not going to happen in the short amount of time that many of of wish it to be. It must be done, but we  have to marry goals. We have to connect the dots for people and not just rely on shocking them into change. Most people do read white papers with the latest data.

    If we can't craft an urgent message using plain, persuasive language, demonstrating how disruption to people's lives and livelihoods would be not as great as they are told, then we're really do have problems. Americans in the U.S. are vulnerable to slick marketing. It is time we used that conditioning to our advantage.

    "There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.".. Buddha

    by sebastianguy99 on Sat Mar 30, 2013 at 01:08:03 PM PDT

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