Dear State Department: #NOKXL

There are only a few more days to submit comments to the State Department regarding its draft environmental impact statement on the latest version of the Keystone XL nightmare pipeline. Following the closure of the comment period, the state department may make revisions to its currently flawed assessment of the pipeline, which will ultimately be used to make a recommendation to the president.

[For those folks who are not deeply mired/versed in this debate already, this article, this archive and this video are some places to start. Bonus: If you pause the video at 2:29, you can see me in my white linen protest suit and Panama hat getting arrested in front of the White House.]

The pipeline is a focal point for environmental protest because its construction would be devastating to any attempt to stave off extreme climate change. As NASA climatologist James Hansen has said, the pipeline would essentially be “game over.” I won’t belabor the well established point that tar sands oil is particularly noxious. Suffice to say: We need to stop the pipeline.

Anyone concerned can submit comments on the impact statement to keystonecomments@state.gov. You can also send letters with suggested text via 350.org’s Stop KXL campaign or through other outlets, such as The Nation.

My own comment (which anyone can use):

I oppose Keystone XL because it serves neither our national interest nor the planet’s. The pipeline only returns profits to TransCanada (which has lied about facts and spun the story to suit its ends) while bolstering the incredibly destructive tar sands industry. This extraction is particularly bad for our planet (and hence our nation) and will only deepen our path dependency on an economic mode that cannot and will not survive in the long-run. If we are to transition to a post-carbon economy — which is the only option if we value the future and don’t simply discount all coming generations — we must take concrete steps to move beyond oil. Any economist worth her salt can explain that concept; adjust the discount rate, extend the time horizon a generation or two and there’s no way this pipeline is “in our national interest.”

More importantly, this is no longer just an economic calculus. The president’s “all of the above” energy strategy may be politically expedient and may (but still probably doesn’t) make sense in the very short-run. But expediency doesn’t equal morality, and this is not only an economic decicision. It is also a moral one. Some forms of energy — in this case, tar sands crude — are simply incompatible with a just and right future.

As such, blocking this pipeline is the only moral course of action.

— Adam Jadhav, April 14, 2013

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Dear Mr. President…

The President is now apparently waffling on the latest attempts to lay a new pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. The administration last month announced it would review the pipeline again for additional social and environmental concerns. Those of us opposed were thrilled; the delay of more than a year would likely kill the pipe. If approved, the pipeline very well could be game over for the battle to stem climate change.

Then the John Boehner-led U.S. House decided to tack a pipeline rider to a tax cut extension. This has become a political wedge and word has it that Obama may now try to use pipeline approval to win other short-term economic aid.

Cough*bullshit*cought

I recognize that while writing a letter feels incredibly empowering it’s still almost entirely symbolic. But I write to the president nonetheless. I’d encourage anyone else who cares about this to do the same.

Mr. President:

I was the 1,253rd person arrested protesting outside your house late this summer. That made me the final person to be cited for civil disobedience — officially failure to obey a lawful order — as we called on you to stem our planet’s addiction to dangerous oil and, in particular, dirty crude from the Athabasca tar sands. Our nation’s foremost climatologist James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “game over” for the battle to slow the tide of climate change.

Note: I’m not just a fringe tree-hugging hippy. I was a legal and political reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, raised in small-town middle America (central Illinois). I covered your campaign in 2008 as well as your efforts on behalf of others in 2006. I voted for you in your presidential run and your senate bid. I’ve followed you since Springfield and the state senate. I pay my taxes.

And I ride just left of center, politically.

Or at least I did. But the condition of our planet has convinced me to shed my neutral observer hat and don the fighting gloves an activist. That’s why I’m in grad school at American University, researching global environmental policy and issues. That’s why I was happily arrested in September for this cause. That’s why I was shouting “Show me what democracy looks like!” outside your house again in November. And that’s why I expect you to keep the promises you made when you were elected.

Sir, we need a fighter today; yes, the country is in dire straits economically, but you know as well as I do that short, myopic time horizons — the ones that set up the false environment-jobs dichotomy — only cause more problems in the future. Compromise is laudable to be sure, but how far will you bend?

You are a man of faith and morals; you and I pray our creator for the safety of those we love. Well, I believe that if we’re truly made in God’s image then we have a duty to look after our brothers and sisters and the lilies of the field as well. I heard you tell the world that we are our brothers’ keepers. Well, sir, addressing the environmental destruction of our planet is part of fulfilling that responsibility. By helping to look after the planet, you help to look after all its inhabitants.

Please, stop thinking about what Boehner or Fox News pundits will say about you tomorrow or next month. Please, stop worrying about a future date with Mitt or Newt or Rick. Please, instead start thinking about what kind of a world Malia and Sasha and (some day) my children will need.

Respectfully but urgently,

Adam Jadhav

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People against pipelines… for the win!

Yes we can!

Activists and ordinary people across the country claimed a victory yesterday as the Obama administration has postponed a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, pending further reassessment of the economic benefits and untold environmental consequences.

In case, you’re wondering, this is kind of a big deal.

I’ll try to keep it short: Oil industry folks — and some construction companies looking for temporary jobs — were very excited about laying a long pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, to make extraction of crude oil found in Alberta tar sands easier. Their argument: This brings more oil from a friendly source to the U.S. and would create jobs in the United States.

Those claims are at best specious and they ignore the serious harm the world would get in the bargain.

Let’s start with the “friendly energy” concept. Oil is a global commodity; prices are determined largely by world demand. Lower prices in the U.S. are not due to some charity or good will from our suppliers.

And this wouldn’t somehow supply the U.S. better. Some have actually argued the opposite, that the pipeline would make the export of the oil to the world market even easier. Plus, independent resource economists who have looked seriously at the “dependence on foreign oil” argument generally agree that price shocks from unfriendly sources are almost always smoothed by increased supply from other sources. If a country that doesn’t like us withholds, the price might rise briefly and another country will invariably give in and fill supply.

(In case you’re wondering, Cananda at present is the biggest supplier of the U.S., but that doesn’t mean we get drastically lower prices because Canucks like us so. Our discounts at the pump are largely thanks to the awesome [sarcasm] subsidies our government offers oil companies.)

Then there’s the jobs question. The U.S. economy is hurting, certainly, and proponents say the pipeline would create somewhere around 20,000 jobs. Not 20,000 permanent jobs, mind you. About 13,000 of those are job-years in construction. So maybe 6,500 one year, 6,500 another. The remainder of 7,000 is an equally dubious proposition, as it refers to secondary supply chain effects, some of which are unlikely as materials are already purchased or sourced.

So, in reality, we get just a temporary bump and then it’s back to unemployment. I’m oversimplifying, but that’s not structural economic change that leads to lasting work or better standards of living. We need a true green employment revolution, in public transport, eco-friendly energy, clean (slow) food, retooling our infrastructure across the country.

And we need an ethical change that decouples happiness and standards of living from over-consumptive growth dependent on materials (in this case, carbon).

In short, more love and bikes.

Meanwhile, the tar sands crude extraction process rips holes in the earth that are visible from space. This is the less-than-easily accessible oil; extraction is itself more energy and input intense, creating vast lakes of toxic water and vast swaths of razed forest. Due to the nature of this oil, using tar sands crude releases drastically more carbon dioxide, our not-so-friendly climate change gas. This quote has been over used, but it is worth repeating: NASA’s top climatologist, a guy who isn’t exactly political while he studies the atmosphere and space and the like, called the pipeline and full exploitation of these tar sands “game over.”

Speaking of climate change, this pipeline would have the added benefit of committing the U.S. and the world that much more to a carbon economy. It would only strengthen our “path dependency,” making structural change more difficult. Make no mistake, climate change is real and we will have to adapt to it. Despite the tirades of deniers in the U.S., we will be weaned of carbon one day; the question is whether that transition is orderly and comfortable sooner or chaotic and painful later.

That’s why 1,253 people were arrested, myself included, outside the White House gates this summer in protest. That’s why thousands of people across the country raised a ruckus. That’s why Obama was birddogged by reporters protesters on various circuits this autumn. That’s why Canadian embassies across the world were the targets of demonstrations. That’s why 10,000 or so folks literally joined arms last weekend in a human chain around the White House (I lost my voice shouting).

And let’s be clear, this was not a coalition of fringe hippies. I met students, retirees, labor, hunters, farmers, preachers, professors, lawyers, truckers and everyone in between. I was arrested with people from Vermont, Nebraska, Illinois, Puerto Rico and Canada.

To reiterate, this decision to reevaluate the pipeline is certainly a big win. Cynics will say it only punts the question until after the 2012 election, but it also likely dooms the project.

And, more importantly, it doesn’t send us careening us down the path to ever more environmental harm.

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Protests and Panama hats…

All dressed up, one place to go...

Another shot of me being lead away this weekend in a civil disobedience action against the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands crude from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. If completed, this would be, according to one of the nation’s leading climate scientists, game over for mitigating climate change.

Because I cared and was able, I was arrested Saturday in protest like others who joined the sit-ins in front of the White House for the last two weeks. Billed as the largest civil disobedience movement in a decade, the daily protests/arrests offered a unique chance to focus on a single issue — the decision on the pipeline requires only Obama’s signature — that has such international import.

I went to bear witness and be counted. I went because I could afford to. I went to observe a social movement from the inside. I went because MLK’s voice moved me to not be silent.

On the final day, I was the final person arrested. No. 244. And, as is obvious, I wore a suit, tie and hat, because when the matter is serious, perhaps it’s best not to dress like a hippie.

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This is what Democracy looks like!

And then, they were arrested...


Photo by Josh Lopez

See anyone familiar? (Look just above the second eight).

I now have an arrest record. And after two weeks, more than 1,250 people built (or added to) one, too.

There’s more to the tale coming in subsequent posts. But in the meantime, you should read in to find out the serious trouble literally coming down the pipeline.

By the ways, “Show me what Democracy looks like! / This is what Democracy looks like!” is the best call-and-response protest chant out there.

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