Alberta tar sands
In a letter
to President Obama Wednesday, a bipartisan group of 53 senators, nine of them Democrats, urged approval for the new route of the Keystone XL pipeline. The controversial conduit would carry diluted bitumen from the tar sands of Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast where it would be refined into oil and its derivatives. During their political careers as far back as 1999, those senators have taken an average of $551,000 from fossil fuel companies in campaign contributions, a total of $27 billion.
The letter was pushed by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana and Republican Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota:
On March 22, 2012, you directed federal agencies to accelerate approval of vital energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL Pipeline. We strongly urge you to direct the State Department to accelerate the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) and quickly complete the National Interest Determination. [...]
Some constituencies have called on you to deny the pipeline and the jobs and energy security associated with it. Because the pipeline has gone through the most exhaustive environmental scrutiny of any pipeline in the history of this country, and you already determined that oil from Canada is in the national interest, there is no reason to deny or further delay this long-studied project.
We ask you not to move the goalposts as opponents of this project have pressed you to do. We urge you to choose jobs, economic development and American energy security. It is vital for the country that you promptly finalize the SEIS and the National Interest Determination and approve the pipeline.
The state department announced this week that it will complete an environmental impact statement on TransCanada's new request for a construction permit by the end of March. That means, after required responses are compiled and answered, that Obama would likely make a decision on whether to approve the pipeline sometime in May at the earliest.
Critics, hundreds of whom have been arrested in civil disobedience protests and appear ready to expand those protests, argue that the pipeline would threaten the giant Ogallala Aquifer with contamination, would encourage use of tar sands oil that is at least 15 percent dirtier to extract and refine than other sources of oil, wreck Canada's boreal forests and not provide anywhere near the number of temporary and permanent jobs the builder, TransCanada, has previously claimed. They also say that exploiting the tar sands is a bad move because it cuts against taking action to fight climate change.
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Supporters say that the tar sands will be mined and oil exported and burned whether the Keystone XL is built or not. Some of them, like Washington Post editorial writer Steven Stromberg, argue that opposition to the pipeline is a distraction and that climate change activists should focus instead on policies, like carbon taxes, which wean nations off fossil fuels to dry up demand for them.
Critics also complain that many elected supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline are in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry.
Of the nine Democratic senators who signed the letter to Obama, all but newly elected Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota have received substantial campaign contributions from fossil fuel sources, including oil companies. As compiled from public records by The Price of Oil, they are: Max Baucus of Montana: $677,792; Mark Begich of Alaska: $208,155; Joe Donnelly of Indiana: $81,000; Mary Landrieu of Louisiana: $1.222 million; Joe Manchin of West Virginia: $1.02 million; Mark Pryor of Arkansas: $322,204; Mark Warner of Virginia: $234,620; Kay Hagan of North Carolina: $47,300.
As usual in politics, money talks, and corporate money swears.