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Keystone XL will be the singular factor that decides Obama's record on climate change and the environment.

It's true that Obama has supported policies that help in the battle against climate change.

• A $3.4 billion Smart Grid Investment Grant (part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), which would affect 49 states and has the potential to reduce electricity use by more than 4% by 2030,[3]
• The launch of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) project under the Department of Energy and in collaboration with the Department of Defense, modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency,[4]
• A new report on how the federal government can help create a "self-sustaining home energy efficiency retrofit industry"[5]
• New efficiency standards for home appliances,[6]
• A new National Fuel Efficiency Policy that will apply to cars from model years 2012-2016 and will ultimately require cars to have an average fuel efficiency of 35.5 mpg by 2016,[7]
• Three measures to increase the production of biofuels: a renewable fuels standard, biomass crop assistance program, and a biofuels working group. The President has also created an interagency task force to help create a federal strategy for carbon capture and storage, and[8]
• A new Environmental Protection Agency ruling (called the Mandatory Reporting of Greenhouse Gases Rule) requiring the reporting of greenhouse gas emissions by major emitters in the United States.
Obama has made many public commitments to battling climate change.
In doing so, he acknowledges that he understands the consequences of not doing everything in our power to reverse it.
We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.  Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms.

He now has the opportunity to make probably the most significant decision of his Presidency, with regards to climate change. While it is true that the Keystone XL would not had advanced this far without Congressional approval, President Obama now has sole discretion over whether or not Keystone XL goes any further.

The result of those visits (and of the fossil fuel industry flexing its political muscle) has been a nonbinding amendment to the budget voted on by the U.S. Senate 62-37 in favor of building the pipeline, and the U.S. House also voted 241-175 in favor of HR-3 a similar bill. However, the decision whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline rests entirely with President Barack Obama.
President Obama was willing to publicly address climate change as recently as his last Inaugural Address. Meanwhile, he has not publicly stated whether or not he would approve Keystone XL. If he was not 100% willing to prove his commitment to combatting climate change by rejecting Keystone XL, he should never has mentioned it in the first place.

Had he not made public commitments to climate change with Keystone XL in the works, he would not be risking a fracture in the alliance between activists who actually want to see meaningful action on climate change and the rest of the Democratic Party. He would not be making the most visible statement that his administration belongs to corporate donors and lobbyists and not the grassroots organizers and door knockers who engineered back-to-back popularly-supported elections. He would have a bit more political room to maneuver on Keystone XL. Whatever his public commitments to climate change were, so long as he rejected Keystone XL, he would have come out with immense environmentalist goodwill no matter what. However, if he ultimately approves Keystone XL, his public commitments to climate change action make his betrayal all the more noteworthy, concrete, and without room to maneuver. He will have lost the trust of a valuable and loyal group of Democrats.

Obama's climate change victories pale in comparison to the impact Keystone XL would have, environmentally and politically. James Hansen, one of the most famous scientists to have spoken out about climate change, makes clear what the green lobby will think of Obama if he approves this.

If he chooses the dirty needle it is game over because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction.
Among his own party, Keystone XL will be treated as a larger scandal than all the fabricated scandals the GOP could ever hope to pin to Obama.

Obama's success at the polls, and likely many of the Democrats' who rode his coat-tails, depended significantly on his support for addressing climate change during the presidential elections. Losing this group of voters, no, stabbing them in the back, could potentially cripple the party in the elections following Keystone XL.

Obama has failed in some of his campaign promises already, for example, on promising that his administration would be the most transparent ever. It didn't take very long for us to see where the shoe dropped on that one.

All his other failed promises, however, were mostly a disappointment to the base as a whole, and knowing that the alternative of McCain or Romney on these issues would probably not have been any better tempered much of the backlash within the party.

However, unlike these other failures, Keystone XL would be a middle finger to valuable Democratic support, leading to some problematic primaries in the next couple elections, possibly even losing people outright to a party that can possibly even apply political pressure from the left.

Obama deserves a lot of credit for the policies he's supported that aligned with the Democratic ideology, but he also gets away with a lot of betrayals of the ideology. If there's one time he should be held accountable by the Democratic party, it should be on Keystone XL. Because many signs indicate that if the party doesn't hold him responsible, the voters will hold the party responsible.

The people who are actually trying to make a difference on climate change deserve an ally who isn't just paying them lip service, the Democratic Party deserves a candidate who does not abandon the Democrat ideology for which they nominated him, and the American people deserve a President who will not compromise their interests and futures in exchange for corporate goodwill.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If there is any moment of opportunity to show that (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pierre9045

    he can overcome the D.C. BeltwayThink by citing over a million public comments against it, and in so doing reinforce his own ostensible stance on reversing human-induced climate change, this is indisputably that opportunity.  

    This is also an indisputable can't-both-have-and-eat-one's-cake situation.  If he approves the pipeline, he doesn't really believe what he says about combating climate change.  It seems clear that the OFA strategy is shifting responsibility for action onto Congress, & asking us to pressure Congress.  Congress DOES have major responsibility for addressing climate change, but not for KXL.  That would indeed be the Obama Tar Sands & Climate Doubletalk Pipeline.

    It's time to start letting sleeping dinosaurs lie, lest we join them in extinction by our consumption of them.

    by Leftcandid on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 09:18:13 AM PDT

  •  There is a 100% Chance The Tar Sands (5+ / 0-)

    Will be extracted.  And there is a 100% chance they will be transported.  I suppose as arbitrary lines in the sand go, this one is fine.  If you're asserting that the route of transportation will have the singular biggest impact on climate change out of all the possible issues facing the Obama administration, I think that's dubious... but I'm supportive of Obama stopping Keystone because of the environmental risks pipleines have more or less proven over and over again to be.

    Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

    by TooFolkGR on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 09:22:49 AM PDT

    •  Indeed, Keystone is symbolic (and a bad one!) (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ManhattanMan

      but that's about it.

      To me the most damning thing he has done energy-wise is to sponsor US Companies to go to China to teach them how to frack for Natural Gas.

      That opens up a WHOLE NEW source of carbon-based emissions that might have gone untapped .. . .

      •  well that (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        and opening up offshore oil drilling, pushing drilling in the arctic in the teeth of opposition from his scientific community and pushing for expansion of coal mining in the Powder River Basin, yeah that'd be the worst.

        This is pretty much Obama's last chance to prove he isn't a greenwashing Quisling.

        Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

        by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 12:46:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Sure, but most of that stuff was "in the offing" (0+ / 0-)

          and probably was going to go ahead no matter what.

          But this one came right out of left field (or is it right field? go with which ever one is more unlikely!):

          From last December: Obama to Help Thriving 'Fracking' Industry Set Up Shop in China

          And for whatever it's worth, the initiative seems to be working (from 4 months later): The “Fracking” Revolution Comes to China

          Leaving environmental considerations aside, this is double plus stupid because it negates perhaps the one redeeming feature of fracking in the USA - namely the ~750,000 jobs supported by our cheap NG.  Well kiss those good-bye - they'll be ending up in China too any day now.

          •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

            The lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling was out of the blue. So too the big push for arctic drilling.  As for the powder river basin, there ha Sven mining for a long time, but Obama has over seen a significant expansion of leasing.  None are compatible with a political stance of taking climate change seriously.

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

            by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 02:02:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  100% chance? (0+ / 0-)

      James Hansen, #1 US climate scientist says if this happens then it is all over for the climate.

      So you don't think that there will be a learning curve that as climate collapses they will change course?

      Even if tar sands extraction continues, I think that mankind will realize the folly of their ways before they get all of the oil out

      Australia is the driest continent and they will have to face the issue soon, and their coral reefs are worn away by acid in the ocean from carbon

      •  That's poetic justice for Australia, what (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Kimball, TooFolkGR

        with their massive coal exports (less good for the coral, itself, of course!).

        As far as the tar sands go - if all recoverable tar sands oil is recovered - that will add about 0.06 C worth of carbon to the atmosphere (or about 1% of the projections that range up to 6 C).

        Of course that should be stopped, but in the larger scheme of things it is not the problem

        Demand for carbon based fuels is.  Which renders the tarsands as absolute small potatoes in the global scheme of things - for example, read this: What If We Never Run Out of Oil?

        For those who don't click on links - the premise of the article is that we (as a globe) are on the precipice of unlocking methane hydrates as a fuel source, which makes all other carbon based sources (including coal) look puny by comparison).

      •  No, I Don't (0+ / 0-)

        I hope Mr. Hansen is mistaken.

        Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

        by TooFolkGR on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 10:56:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Tar sands are landlocked (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sebastianguy99

      The most commercially viable way to get the tar sands to market starts with many pipelines.

      Alberta Clipper
      Trailbreaker
      Energy East
      KXL
      Northern Gateway
      Trans Mountain

      These pipelines represent about 3 million barrels a day of production.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 11:51:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  well yes (0+ / 0-)

      if everyone rolls over and kowtows to the fossil fuel industry, then it is quite likely.  However, if the US follows BC's lead and kills the transport options by pipeline, and the efforts to block shipping it by rail also make progres, then thatn 100% drops by rather a lot.

      Precapitulation is still the polticial strategy du jour I guess.

      Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

      by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 12:44:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  LOL Call it What You Want (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sebastianguy99

        But we will extract every drop of useable energy from this planet unless and until there is more corporate profit to be made in safer alternatives.  We need that energy for our cars, trucks, to watch American Idol, and to power websites like DailyKos.

        The people who will die most directly due to our poor decisions largely haven't been born yet, so we don't care.

        If I'm a precapitulator for pointing out something that history has proven a jillion times, then so be it.

        Too Folk For You. - Schmidting in the Punch Bowl - verb - Committing an unexpected and underhanded political act intended to "spoil the party."

        by TooFolkGR on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 12:51:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I'm not sure how the rail option can be (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sebastianguy99

        stopped - what with the railroads being built already and all that.

        And based on the precedent (mostly) set by the Bakken, this pdf shows that shipments can be cranked up very rapidly - e.g., by 500,000 bbl/day comparing this year with last.

        That means in just 18 months as much oil can be moved by rail as through the KXL - IOW, transport capacity can be ramped up faster.

        •  Except of course that it costs (0+ / 0-)

          Three times as much.  Less profitable means slower development.  That alone justifies the kpposition

          Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

          by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 02:08:08 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  That's what people say, but the proof is in the (0+ / 0-)

            pudding (as the saying goes) in that the cost differential (which is at most $16/bbl) hasn't slowed the development of the Bakken oil at all.  

            Like the Globe and Mail says: The crude-oil train has left the station  And why would it - heck, the oil folk would love $60/bbl profit but they're not going to turn away business at $44!

            The math is simple: 10 unit trains a day equals one Keystone XL. Importantly, the train engineer’s driving orders won’t always follow the same track over and over again, or be limited to a handful of select refineries. BNSF claims it will be serving 50 oily destinations by the end of 2014. And BNSF is only one of what half-a-dozen major railroad companies are doing. Here, north of the border, Canada’s CN and CP are well into the fray too. Producers will have a choice of refineries like never before, and vice versa.
            Bottom line - 10 trains a day isn't THAT much.  Not for railroads that have spent decades hauling considerably more coal than that.
            •  if this is true (0+ / 0-)

              why bother proposing the pipieline in the first place?

              A great many analysts seem to disagree with your analysis, suggesting that the pipeline is important

              Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

              by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 06:52:05 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Pipelines are a better option (0+ / 0-)

                cheaper, safer, etc, etc.

                But not having one isn't a dealbreaker, for sure.

                Seriously, just google what's going on with rail - I'm not making this shit up!

                For example, this: Buffett Like Icahn Reaping Tank Car Boom From Shale Oil

                Buffett’s Union Tank Car Co. is working at full capacity and Icahn’s American Railcar Industries Inc. (ARII) has a backlog through 2014. Trinity Industries Inc. (TRN), the biggest railcar producer, began converting wind-tower factories last year to help meet demand for train cars that can transport the petroleum product.
                Really, how crazy is that?

                But why are they doing that?  Simple - demand:

                American Railcar said third-quarter orders for tank cars reached 8,800 industrywide, almost double deliveries. The industry’s backlog was about 46,700 at the end of that period, making up more than 75 percent of its total unfilled orders.

                The company’s own backlog of 7,630 total railcars was the largest since 2008’s second quarter and its production schedule included tank orders through the first three months of 2014,

                So, rail capacity continues to ramp up quickly.   (for context, those 46,700 rail cars represent approximately 2 KXL's worth of transport capacity - and that's just new capacity coming on line in the next year or so)
        •  Thank you for pointing this out.Fighting transport (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Roadbed Guy

          ...is a secondary battle. The primary battle is the development of tar sands. That we are down to talking about method of transport strongly suggest to me that we have lost this particular battle and pretending otherwise.

          The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

          by sebastianguy99 on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 02:22:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Yeah, I don't get why people can't do (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            sebastianguy99

            a google search for something like "crude oil transport by rail" and find out all the gory details themselves.

            To me, the goriest nugget I've come across (in a symbolic way, ha ha) is that they converted a factory in Texas that made wind turbines to make rail cars to transport crude oitl

  •  You know he could have approved (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roger Fox, sebastianguy99

    this years ago, right?  All the delay has activated opposition, given time for reality to undermine the Republican's propaganda, allowed Ontario to refuse a pipeline, called attention to the fact that none of the oil benefits us, all the pollution damages us, and the "jobs" will be temporary, with the high-pay ones going to Canadian engineers.  

    I hope he delays another year or two to solidify the opposition.  

    I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

    by I love OCD on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 11:34:36 AM PDT

    •  Thats a very cogent point, I would add (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sebastianguy99, I love OCD

      I would add that Trailbreaker pipeline was shelved in 2010 because of the poor economy. ITs now off the shelf and being proposed again, but the economy is worse now than in 2010. So they reason they brought it back is not the economy, theres a another reason. Like maybe they're getting wind the KXL will not get approved, and they absolutely need an outlet that can feed the Western EU market, via the Atlantic.

      .................expect us......................... FDR 9-23-33, "If we cannot do this one way, we will do it another way. But do it we will.

      by Roger Fox on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 11:56:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  not legally, no (0+ / 0-)

      until there's a legally adequate EIS, the state department can't legally approve anything.

      Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

      by Mindful Nature on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 12:48:18 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely, the uncertaintly associated with (0+ / 0-)

      delay is the one thing that has held things back.  For example, the railroads have held back in making a Bakken like effort (there is currently more crude oil transported out of there by rail than can be carried by KXL, and that's developed in only about 18 months) to move the tar sands bitumen.

      The second KXL is decided on way or another, it's "game on" again - either pipeline construction will commence, or the railways will pour investment $$s into infrastructure needed to transport the bitumen (they're already doing that, actually, albeit rather timidly in fear of KXL wasting their investments).

      •  So fighting the pipeline is (0+ / 0-)

        misdirection, then, the focus should be on preventing tar sands drilling and eventual refining.  

        We're actually growing alternative energy sources faster than we ever have and the controversies around KXL are making fossil fuels much less attractive, in a country that prefers cars to it's children.  That's a pretty radical shift in consciousness.  

        I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

        by I love OCD on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 05:50:40 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I'm not sure what quantitative evidence (0+ / 0-)

          you are basing this on:

          are making fossil fuels much less attractive
          on the contrary, there are many indications to the exact opposite, including:

          Huge Boost In U.S. Oil Output Set To Transform Global Market

          North American Oil Production to Dominate World Supply .

          U.S. Oil Output to Overtake Saudi Arabia’s by 2020

          U.S. Oil Production to Shock Global Energy Markets: IEA Report

          (etc etc - it's easy to find any number of these links).

          so, what's happening is that US oil output is expanding rapidly (with or without including the tarsands!) - it's definitely NOT becoming less attractive.  

          which makes you absolutely correct that fighting the pipeline is one massive case of misdirection.  I have been baffled by the whole thing for some time now and frankly despair of ever figuring it out.   I wouldn't be at all surprised if years from now the whole opposition movement was bankrolled by Big Oil so they could focus on much grander schemes without anyone paying attention . . ..  

          •  It's long term planning. (0+ / 0-)

            We've been dependent on fossil fuels since the manufacturing era began.  London's famous fogs were a direct result of coal burning for power for manufacturing.  That reality isn't going to change overnight, there's a long transition phase while green cars are improved and become more affordable, infrastructure is built for them, solar cells become more efficient and affordable, batteries the same.  The ship of fossil fuel use should have started turning under Carter.  We'd be way less worried about our future as a species if we'd been less foolish then.  

            I'm not looking for a love that will lift me up and carry me away. A love that will stroll alongside and make a few amusing comments will suffice.

            by I love OCD on Wed Jun 05, 2013 at 08:36:34 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  My opposition to Keystone XL... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sebastianguy99

    ...is not based on climate change, believe it or not. Why the hell does Canada need to pipe their dirty tar sands oil to our ports for shipment to other countries? I tend to look at KXL from a economic nationalist standpoint rather than a climate impact standpoint. (although James Hansen has declared KXL "game over" for the world climate if it's built)

    "It's not enough to be in the majority, you have to stand for something." -Russ Feingold

    by DownstateDemocrat on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 12:50:16 PM PDT

    •  That's a tricky argument to make (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DownstateDemocrat

      considering that the tarsands oil is coming to the US anyways, just a different part of it.

      For example, have you seen those giant piles of petcoke that have accumulated in Detroit since they've started refining the bitumen there?  And presumably using the refined product in the USA . . ..

      And about the Texas refineries slated to refine the Canadian tar sands - there seems to be no good evidence that they will shut down if they don't get the bitumen.  Instead they'll continue to import crude from SA (or where ever), refine it, and re-export how ever much isn't used domestically.  

      I suppose that's beneficial for the Nebraska wetlands, etc, that at risk from KXL but from a global climate change perspective solves nothing (which, admittedly, you noted you agree with).

  •  Legacies are written over long periods of time. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Roadbed Guy

    I have always marveled at the arrogance of people who believe that presidential legacies are established so soon and on the perceptions of critics.

    For all we know,  his support of Tesla, or some project now being researched but turns out to be revolutionary could be what we and future generations consider his environmental legacy.

    The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

    by sebastianguy99 on Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 02:28:54 PM PDT

    •  I'm not seeing it with a timid step here or (0+ / 0-)

      there, what with all the giant leaps backwards at the same time.

      He would have at least have to have come up with something like this: China's 863 Program, a crash program for clean energy  (and I say "at least" because China too is racing ahead with development and fossil fuels, but they seem to be taking "clean energy" just a tad more seriously as well!).

      •  Your opinion doesn't equal his legacy. (0+ / 0-)

        Neither does mine. To those who are activists on this issue he will never measure up and shouldn't try to.

        Ultimately, it will be the people, not the politicians who will decide the pace and scope of change. Those that believe that President Obama has the power to end our country's, or the world's overdependence  on fossil fuel do not truly understand the challenge we are faced with in saving the planet.

        That doesn't mean we set the bar low for him and other pols, but it does mean that we are never going to be able to make the investments required without the public's blessing and insistence. China doesn't have to worry much about the public's blessing and they hardly an exemplar of what we need to do with environmental policy and regulation in this country.

        The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

        by sebastianguy99 on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 12:26:36 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, I am absolutely aware that my opinion doesn't (0+ / 0-)

          amount to much.

          Just saying, if others - whose opinion * might * be important enough to matter -  start to poke around, and see things like the first two graphs at this link - any chance of him have a "clean energy" legacy faces an uphill battle.

          •  The public-millions and billions of them is who we (0+ / 0-)

            ...should worry about. It is also time to stop pretending that showing people infographics or the latest white paper full of dire warnings is going to make a difference.

            Frankly,if people approached energy and environmental policies rationally, then we would not still be using as much dirty energy as we do. We would have made large changes back in the 70's and kept at them. Obviously the public has got to be approached in a different way if we are to avoid doom.

            It is damn hard to get people sitting on top/around of lots of coal to ignore the stuff. It is equally hard to convince people that we shouldn't be developing tar sands and deep-sea drilling for oil while we are still importing oil from places they do not like.

            You and I know, and I believe President Obama does as well, that those domestic sources of dirty energy are bad news for the future of the planet. Not enough of the public yet shares our urgent concerns enough to demand immediate changes that are both costly and disruptive. It is going to take more than a POTUS to bring them along.

            The politicians may be bought, and the system corrupt, but it is our duty to fix these things.

            by sebastianguy99 on Tue Jun 04, 2013 at 01:35:59 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

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