Open letter to President Obama: please veto the Keystone XL pipeline -- for future generations

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I ask you – I implore you – to resist those pressures, and use your veto power to stop this plan from going forward. If you have to use your veto power a dozen times to block this ill-advised and strictly unnecessary project from going forward, then I implore you to do use your veto power a dozen times. You are the last and the only person in the United States who can morally and legally stand up to the vested interests that, for their own narrow reasons, desperately want this pipeline to go through.

The forces arraying in favour of this pipeline are vociferous and relentless – but they are also questionable.

For one thing, my Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has invested much time and many taxpayer dollars in relentlessly and aggressively promoting this venture, and he and his senior ministers continue their campaign to this day.

You should know, however, that Mr. Harper is steadily losing the support of even some of his staunchest and most loyal supporters, including members of his own political circle, as he advocates for Keystone. He is losing their support because of his close personal links to the Tar Sands and the fossil fuel industry in general, but also because of a growing recognition, among Canadian voters, of the strikingly undemocratic ways he is behaving. 

The credibility of his position is declining, too, as awareness grows, by leaps and bounds, of the direct link between fossil fuel use and global warming. Coupled with the built-in volatility of the fossil fuel market, and the damaging effects this volatility is currently having on the Canadian economy, Mr. Harper’s position is increasingly recognized as unhelpful.

But the locus of the most aggressive and at times outrageous advocacy for the Keystone XL pipeline has arisen within the borders of your country. Most of it is tainted by unmitigated and sometimes deliberately camouflaged conflict of interest.

The infamous Tea Party, created solely by the tobacco industry and the Koch brothers, and a dominant force in the Republican Party, has led the ideological combat for the pipeline. (I’m sure you’re aware that the Koch brothers are the biggest investors of all in the Tar Sands?)  

Behind the scenes, partisan public relations consultants like Richard Berman have boasted of their skill in using millions of dollars of fossil fuel money to promote industry interests through specially created front groups, while making the sources of these dollars completely invisible.

The State Department’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone was prepared by a consultant with strong and long-term ties to the fossil fuel industry. Perhaps for that reason, while acknowledging that the project would increase global greenhouse gas emissions and hence accelerate global warming, the report did not contain any calculations of how much it would do so.

You may be interested to know that a brilliant Canadian analyst did so, and adduced clear evidence that the pipeline leads straight towards a 6 degree rise in global temperature, and conflicts squarely with the goals you and your staff have set out for a safe climate future for Americans and for all of the planet.

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