Can Obama Take First Step to Break Addiction to Oil? (And Win First Battle Against Big Oil?)

Sept 3 protest at white house

‘…unless river of money from Big Oil is diverted there is no way to deal with climate change’

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Aug 31, 2011 (IPS)

The United States’ biggest environmental groups put aside their differences last week to make an urgent intervention on the country’s addiction to oil. The first step on the long road to recovery, they say, is to stop the proposed construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that will “mainline” the world’s dirtiest oil from northern Canada into the U.S. heartland.

“This (Keystone) is a terrible project,” they wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama, citing dangers to the climate, the risks of disastrous spills and leaks, and the economic damage that will come from continued dependence on fossil fuel.

Oil from the Keystone XL will dump an estimated 150 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) annually into the atmosphere – more than most countries. Scientists warn that approval of the project will further fuel the extreme weather that has already resulted in over one billion dollars in damages recorded this year in nine separate extreme weather events in the U.S.

And that doesn’t include the estimated 20 to 45 billion dollars in costs from Hurricane Irene last weekend, mainly due to extensive flooding.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels do not cause hurricanes, tornados or droughts, but they do trap additional heat and water vapour that fuels those events, climate scientists have proven time and time again.

Asked about the impacts of adding another 150 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, German climate scientist Malte Meinshausen, a researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, told IPS that it will warm the planet for hundreds of years and lead to higher sea levels and “more pronounced droughts and floods”.

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Keystone XL: A Pipeline to Europe?

By Stephen Leahy *

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Aug 23, 2011 (Tierramérica)

The promoters of Keystone XL, a huge new oil pipeline from northern Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, claim that it will reduce U.S. reliance on oil imports from unfriendly countries.

But based on falling U.S. oil demand, the controversial Keystone XL pipeline may simply allow tar sands oil currently landlocked in Alberta, Canada to be exported to Europe, say U.S. and Canadian environmental activists.

The proposed pipeline could also be used to pump water from the Ogallala aquifer in the U.S. Midwest, one of the world’s largest, to the badly parched states in the arid southwest such as Texas, currently suffering its worst drought in history.

Pipeline industry officials often say pipelines like Keystone can be easily used to transport water, said Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians, a large environmental NGO.

Therefore, “Keystone XL poses a double threat to the Ogallala through contamination from a pipeline leak or by pumping water that is already being overdrawn,” Barlow said in an interview with Tierramérica. Continue reading

Welcome to Bizarro World: Canada and US Spending $billions to Create Climate Chaos

President Obama and Prime Minister Stephen Harper (left) say they’re worried about climate change, but neither the U.S. nor Canada has cut emissions.

Analysis by Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Aug 10, 2011 (IPS)

Canada and the United States are now the centre of Bizarro World. This is where leaders promise to reduce carbon emissions but ensure a new, supersized oil pipeline called Keystone XL is built, guaranteeing further expansion of the Alberta tar sands that produce the world’s most carbon-laden oil.

“It’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy – and that we leave the tar sands in the ground,” the U.S.’s leading climate scientists urged President Barack Obama in an open letter Aug. 3.

“As scientists… we can say categorically that it’s [the Keystone XL pipeline] not only not in the national interest, it’s also not in the planet’s best interest.”

The letter was signed by 20 world-renowned scientists, including NASA’s James Hansen, Ken Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution, Ralph Keeling of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, and George Woodwell, founder of the Woods Hole Research Center.  Continue reading