Several former presidents, including President Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, have made public declarations of support for White House approval of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline that would deliver tar sands crude from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries.
However, former President Jimmy Carter jumped into the fray this week stanchly against approval of Keystone. He was a co-signer, along with nine other Nobel Peace Prize laureates, of a boldly worded letter to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry this week, encouraging the disapproval of the pipeline.
Opening paragraph of Carter's letter against Keystone:
You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate. We stand with the 2,000,000 voices who submitted their comments in the national interest determination process rejecting the pipeline and ask you once again to stop Keystone XL.
In view of 2 million comments against the pipeline cited by Carter, polls like The Washington Post-ABC News one claiming a majority of Americans support Keystone appear misinformed and grossly misleading.
Nonetheless, a handful of Senate Democrats, many facing tough re-elections, sent their own letter last week encouraging Obama to approve the pipeline by the end of May. The senators facing challenges were Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, John Walsh of Montana, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Warner of Virginia, according to an ENS Newswire report.
On the other hand, Senate Democrats Barbara Boxer (Calif.), chairwoman of Committee on Environment and Public Works and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) co-authored a letter to Kerry on Feb. 26 urging a comprehensive health study be conducted before any decision on Keystone is finalized.
“I am extremely concerned about the impact of tar sands oil on our people, wherever they live in this nation,” said Boxer. “The issue before me is Keystone XL which, if approved, will bring a 45 percent increase in the amount of tar sands oil coming through (America) and eventually a 300 percent increase.”
In addition, 185,000 nurses from National Nurses United submitted a letter on March 13 with the same request.
Moreover, two major health organizations, the American Public Health Association and the National Association of County and City Health Officials, joined the debate against Keystone with a letter to Kerry April 11.
The $5.4 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which has already been partially constructed, would enable the initial transport of 830,000 barrels of dirty tar sands crude laden with toxic chemicals to make it thin enough to flow through the pipeline.
Approval of Keystone would ultimately result in Canada producing 300 percent more tar sands in the next two decades.
Proponents of the pipeline say TransCanada will simply construct another pipeline to export its crude if Keystone isn’t approved thereby inevitably providing more pollution to what Carter’s letter called our “shared climate.” So, they argue, why shouldn’t America be the beneficiary of jobs and added energy independence?
But environmentalists aren’t the only ones to oppose that false equivalency.
Bill McKibben, co-founder and president of the climate change advocacy group 350.org, put it this way:
Oil companies and the Koch brothers have said yes; a huge array of groups from the nurse’s union to the Nobel Peace Prize laureates, economists to climate scientists, clergy to solar entrepreneurs have opposed it, making it one of the biggest and most contentious political clashes in decades. But it’s fitting that what may be the final arguments will come from the two groups that have fought longest and most powerfully: ranchers and farmers along the route, and Native Americans on both sides of the border.
Carter wants Obama and Kerry to be on the right side of history on this issue since both claim they are dedicated to battling man-made climate change, which has been supported in a recent series of reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Therefore, giving a nod to an extraction process that is among the most carbon-intensive methods on Earth would be seen as a major conflict of such a commitment and not in America’s national interest or the world's "shared climate."