Keystone XL an "unholy nightmare" for Obama, Grist's David Roberts says

Photos by Jenny Uechi

"Keystone XL is a hellish political issue for Obama. It's awful all round," Grist environmental blogger David Roberts said on Sunday at the Social Change Institute at Hollyhock.

Saying that the pipeline is "broadly popular" in U.S. polls, Roberts says that in 2014 Senate elections, "a lot of centrist purple state Democrats are vulnerable this round.

"So if Obama is anti-pipeline, if he just shuts it down, Republicans will take the Senate and it would be an unholy nightmare for two years. Obama is in a lose-lose situation."

"My advice to people involved in Keystone is to think about what you will do if he does approve it," Roberts said.

"There will be a lot of attention, a lot of emotion in the air, and it will be a turning point. But more than half the battle is not just blocking the old status quo, but also painting the new world economy emerging and what we're supposed to be fighting for, and what 100 per cent fossil fuel free energy world would look like."

"I'd like a lot more focus on the positive side. It's not just policy."

One good example happening today is around energy -- who uses it, who gets to control it, and how the people are beginning to take  energy into their own hands. Roberts has just finished a popular multi-part series around energy and utilities -- a dry, policy-heavy topic which he enlivened through humour and cute exotic animals such as quokkas and slow lorises. 

"If you think about the local food movement, more self-reliance, more independence, more community and relationship building and more pride in community and place," he said.

"All those same benefits are true in terms of generating your own energy, storing your own energy, in terms of generating and storing and managing your own energy within your own neighbourhood.

"All of us are totally dependent on large, distant, corporate entities that probably don't have our best interests at heart."

Rather than blasting Obama over pipelines that are increasingly beyond his control, people should be paying attention to the steps that the president is politically capable of doing, Roberts said.  

"Back in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that carbon dioxide could be considered a pollutant under the Clean Air Act. So there's this process of figuring out how the Clean Air Act would apply to carbon emissions. Several things were triggered. One was, you had to regulate mobile sources, and that's what the new fuel economy is about."

The second is regulating new power plants.

The big piece is regulation on existing power plants, which are the biggest source of carbon emissions in the US, he added.

"The EPA can make the regulations as strong or as weak as it needs. It can be meaningless or incredibly significant. I worry that this key issue is getting skewered by a lot of other debates."

"This is an under-the-radar thing that Obama absolutely can do, Congress cannot stop it, and it would take a substantial chunk out of US carbon emissions."

More in Environment

Pavlof Volcano erupting in Alaska on March 26, 2016.

Flights cancelled in and out of Regina, Yellowknife after volcano in Alaska

VANCOUVER — More flights have been cancelled after a cloud of ash spewed from a volcano on the Alaska Peninsula. WestJet spokeswoman Lauren Stewart said the airline cancelled three flights from...
Canada geese mating ritual

Egg addling program shakes up Canada geese population in Okanagan

VERNON, B.C. — Airborne flocks of Canada geese can be symbols of beauty and freedom, but the mess they leave behind on landing can quickly foul parks and beaches. The Okanagan hosts large numbers of...
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.