Keystone XL Opponents’ Political Campaign: Full of Aggression, Devoid of Facts

– Without the facts on their side, Keystone XL opponents are resorting to intense, aggressive political pressure campaigns.

 – Meanwhile the facts are clear: 

  • Keystone XL is environmentally sound and a safe means to transport Canadian energy resources;
  • It will create thousands of American jobs;
  • It will help the United States achieve energy security; and,
  • If Keystone XL isn’t built, Canada will still develop its oil sands and oil sands will find another way to the Gulf coast.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry vowed that he would make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline based on facts, not politics.  As State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement:

“Secretary Kerry has a long history as an advocate for environmental issues and the State Department takes all input very seriously which is why we had a public comment period. The secretary will make the decision based on the facts and after the department has completed the established process.”

We hope Secretary Kerry will keep his word and stick to the facts – especially since it’s obvious that Keystone XL opponents have done exactly the opposite.  Without facts, opponents have nothing but empty rhetoric, often crossing the line into the absurd.  Remember when they compared President Obama’s Keystone XL decision to President Lincoln’s resolve to end slavery?

These and other comical tactics bring to mind the famous legal adage: “If the facts are on your side, pound the facts; if the law is on your side, pound the law; if you have neither on your side, pound the table.”  And so it is with Keystone XL opponents, who are, as Politico put it, retooling themselves for the “flash-mob age – and showing and increasingly aggressive edge.”

In fact just yesterday, the anti-Keystone group, “All Risk, No Reward” teamed up with former EPA Region 1 Administrator Mindy Lubber to launch an ad pressuring Secretary Kerry on the pipeline, saying that because of his “support of science” he should oppose it.

Then, there’s 350.org, an activist group responsible for organizing multiple demonstrations in front of the White House, and whose director, Bill McKibben, has been arrested several times for the cause.  The hyper-aggressive nature of their pressure campaign is clearly stated on their website, which reads: “If President Obama is serious about tackling climate change, he needs to reject KXL once and for all. And we’re not going away until that happens [emphasis added].”  As a spokesman for 350.org told Reuters, “350.org has been contacted by thousands of people willing to risk their bodies to stop the pipeline, and the group will train them in civil disobedience.” The same tactics are being employed by the Sierra Club.  As Politico also reported, the group’s “top leaders and 46 other climate activists zip-tied themselves to the White House gates to protest the proposed Keystone XL oil pipeline. The organization called it the first time it had suspended its decades-long policy against club-sanctioned civil disobedience.”

Obama’s donors are also joining the fray: according to the Washington Post, billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer wrote an open letter to President Obama pressuring him to stop the Keystone XL pipeline or “face an organized rebellion from some of his most loyal supporters later this month.”

And it’s not just the White House and Administration that Keystone XL opponents are targeting: several Democratic members of Congress are also feeling the heat.  A political action committee known as NextGen Action founded by Tom Steyer has targeted a number of Keystone XL supporters: it spent $880,000 against Representative Stephen Lynch (D-MA) in his Senate primary race against Representative Ed Markey (D-MA); it also spent $241,000 targeting Gabriel Gomez, Markey’s general election opponent.  And, of course, “All Risk No Reward” also recently launched a political campaign that “targets Democratic base on Keystone XL.”

These are not the actions of people who feel confident about their position.

Here are just a few facts on Keystone XL:

  • Keystone XL is environmentally sound.  Time and time again, the State Department has found that Keystone XL would have a minimal environmental impact.  It also said that the risks associated with shipping Canadian oil sands crudes are the same as conventional crude oils – they do not pose a unique threat to aquifers or pipeline safety.  All U.S. pipelines must operate under Maximum Operating Pressure limitations administered by PHMSA: Keystone XL, is going above and beyond those requirements by adopting 57 extra safety measures, leading the State Department to declare that the project would “have a degree of safety over any other.”
  • Keystone XL will enhance our national security.  The International Energy Agency (IEA) has released a report showing that the rising dominance of North American oil production is sending “shock waves” through global markets, slashing U.S. imports from OPEC.  Importantly, oil sands play a large role in this “shock wave.”  According to IEA, North American oil sands supply will grow by 3.9 million barrels per day from 2012 to 2018, and, as Greenwire noted, “The report predicted a burst of production from Canadian oil sands by 1.3 million barrels per day, increasing production to 5 million barrels per day by 2018…”  Keystone XL would help bring more domestic and Canadian oil to U.S. markets, with U.S. refiners adding value, turning it into gasoline, diesel and other products.
  • Keystone XL will create thousands of jobs. The State Department has found the pipeline would “make a significant contribution to the U.S.’s continuing economic recovery” and would “support approximately 42,100 average annual jobs across the United States over a 1-to 2-year construction period.” Thousands of new jobs would come immediately, and even more would be created long after the pipeline is constructed.  According to the Canadian Energy Research Institute, oil sands development linked to Keystone XL could support more than 100,000 jobs by 2035. We’re already seeing the jobs from the southern portion of the pipeline.  As the Associated Press reported, “Nearly 4,000 workers in Oklahoma and Texas are aligning and welding a 485-mile section.”
  • The Canadian oil sands will be developed regardless of whether Keystone XL is built. The State Department’s report found that Keystone XL pipeline won’t impact global warming because Canada’s oil sands will be developed regardless of its construction.  A March 4 Washington Post editorial, Environmentalists are fighting the wrong battles, supported that view, stating that the State Department’s 2,000 page analysis “dismantled the case that nixing the Canadian pipeline must be a priority for anyone concerned about climate change.” The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Canadian crude oil production will more than double by 2030, primarily due to oil sands development.  According to the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, oil production will reach 6.7 million barrels a day by 2030, up from 3.2 million barrels a day in 2012.
  • The Canadian oil sands will be transported regardless of whether Keystone XL is built.  The State Department also found that even if Keystone XL isn’t built, Canada will still transport its oil sands, either by other pipelines or by rail to refineries in the Gulf.  As the report states, “Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, of the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the U.S.  Limitations on pipeline transport would force more crude oil to be transported via other modes of transportation, such as rail, which would probably (but not certainly) be more expensive.”
  • Americans overwhelmingly support building the pipeline. As a new poll conducted by Harris Interactive reveals, 83 percent of Republican voters, 69 percent of Independents and 63 percent of Democrats want Keystone XL to be built.  It found that 85 percent of people agree Keystone XL would help strengthen America’s economic security; 81 percent of people agree Keystone XL would help strengthen America’s energy security; 77 percent agree that Keystone XL would help strengthen America’s national security; 75 percent agree that Keystone XL would benefit the U.S. military by increasing access to oil from Canada.
  • Dozens of newspaper editorial boards from communities across the country called on President Obama to approve the pipeline.  Surprising  support came from the Washington Post editorial board, Nature magazine, USA Today, and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson.
  • Union and trade groups including the AFL-CIO, the Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the International Union of Operating Engineers support the construction of Keystone XL.

With each passing day, the reality of Keystone XL becomes clearer to all who are watching: it has gone through an intensive, years-long environmental review; it is the safest way to transport Canadian energy resources; it will create thousands of American jobs; it will help North America achieve energy security; and, if Keystone XL isn’t built, Canada will still develop its oil sands.  With so many facts working against them, it’s no wonder opponents are using rank aggression and intimidation to try to get their way.

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