Labor Day outside the White House in Washington D.C. ended a two week protest against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline project to bring crude oil from Canada’s oil sands to the refineries of Houston.
There were over 1000 protesters arrested over the two weeks including some high profile actresses such as Margot Kidder and Daryl Hannah. Other luminaries such as the Dalai Lama, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and other Nobel laureates have sent an open letter to President Obama reminding him that he campaigned to fight climate change and promote cleaner energy sources.
“You spoke of creating a clean energy economy,” said the laureate’s letter. “This is a critical moment to make good on that pledge and make a lasting contribution to the health and well being of everyone of this planet.”
The protesters want President Obama to block the legislation to move forward with the pipeline project. The President is expected to decide on the fate of the pipeline by the end of the year.
At issue for the protesters the enormous amount of greenhouse gas produced to refine the oil sand for transportation and the potential damage to fragile eco systems if the pipeline suffered an accident or attack.
The laureate’s letter offers some political advice for Obama, “Your rejection of the pipeline provides a tremendous opportunity to begin transition away from our dependency on oil, coal and gas, and instead increase investments in renewable energies and energy efficiency,” it said.
Supporters of the pipeline argue that the gas produced from the crude is needed to keep the United States price competitive in the volatile market of fossil fuels. Making the U.S. less depended on foreign oil is a necessary step to keep the U.S. economy independent and secure.
Supporters also argue that there is an immediate economic stimulus by providing much needed jobs to thousands of workers in both Canada and the United States.
The proposed 7 billion dollar pipeline will run from the Canadian province of Alberta through six western American states before arriving at refineries in south Texas.
Canada’s newly elected Conservative majority government and the Oil Companies have both been applying strong pressure on President Obama to approve the pipeline project.
Canada’s new government has acknowledged that while environmental concerns are important they shouldn’t always stand in the way of economic development.
The U.S. State Department recently released an environmental impact report which stated that the Keystone XL pipeline project would not release more greenhouse gases into the environment than could be normally expected. The report asserts that greenhouse gas production is inevitable because the development of the oil sands is inevitable.
Besides weighing the pressure of economic development and environmental impact the Obama administration has to consider the national interest. National security and dependence on foreign sources of fuel supply are serious issues in the balancing equation that the White House has to consider.
The protests will continue until a final decision is reached by the President later this year.
A major march is planned for Sept. 26 in Parliament Hill in Canada’s capital Ottawa.