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Boardman writes: "The widely distributed AP report all but dismisses 'climate change,' using the phrase only in the context of suggesting that the pipeline would be 'a source of much-needed jobs,' which it's not, and 'a step toward North American energy independence,' which it's not."

Secretary of State John Kerry will oversee the review of the Keystone Pipeline. (photo: Getty Images)
Secretary of State John Kerry will oversee the review of the Keystone Pipeline. (photo: Getty Images)

Kerry Misses the Keystone Point

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News

12 February 13


he same day that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was promising a "fair and transparent" review of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada, to the Texas Gulf Coast, the CEO of the company building that pipeline, TransCanada's Russ Girling, was reported as saying that his company's "Plan A" was finishing a different pipeline that would take the same tar sands oil to Canada's east coast.

TransCanada's plan to establish a pipeline to the Atlantic coast has received little attention since CEO Girling's February 6 interview on Bloomberg Television and Bloomberg's later report:

"Canada's second-largest pipeline company proposes to ship oil 3,000 miles (4,825 kilometers) to the Atlantic Coast, allowing producers to send it by tanker to the Gulf, Girling said yesterday in an interview at Bloomberg's New York headquarters.

"While he expects U.S. passage of Keystone 'very soon,' the East Coast route makes sense in any event because of rising production from Alberta, Girling said."

TransCanada presently has about $22 billion worth of pipeline projects underway, of which Keystone XL represents about a third of the total. Asked if an East Coast pipeline was a fallback plan in case Keystone is blocked, Girling said: "It's not a Plan B, it's a Plan A, and it will go if the market supports it, along with Keystone…. Once you get on tidewater, you can get anywhere, and you don't need a presidential permit to bring oil into the Gulf Coast."

That the head of a pipeline company is more interested in getting tar sands oil to market than he is in what it may cause after that is perhaps not surprising. Girling isn't a climate change denier, he just sees change taking decades, during which TransCanada will try to make the transition to non-fossil fuels, which is why the company built three large wind farms in 2011.

Keystone Needs Presidential Permission to Proceed

But there may not be decades, there may be no time at all, according to a long National Journal story on February 7 with the headline: "The Scary Truth About How Much Climate Change Is Costing You" – costing you now, the sub-head emphasizes: "While policymakers fiddle, the threat of economic harm posed by rising sea levels, devastating storms, and drought is growing every day."

On January 22, Greenpeace released a 60-page report called "Point of No Return," dealing with "massive climate threats we must avoid," while giving little reason to think we will avoid them:

"The world is quickly reaching a Point of No Return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change.

"With total disregard for this unfolding global disaster, the fossil fuel industry is planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US, and delay action on climate change for more than a decade.

"Continuing on the current course will make it difficult – if not impossible – to prevent the widespread and catastrophic impacts of climate change…."

In the United States, pressure is building for the president (or the secretary of state) to deny a permit to Keystone. That demand is at the heart of plans for "the largest climate rally in history" on the Mall in Washington February 17, sponsored by the Sierra Club,, and the Hip-Hop Caucus. The promoters of the event assert:

"The first step to putting our country on the path to addressing the climate crisis is for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. His legacy as president will rest squarely on his response, resolve, and leadership in solving the climate crisis."

Making much the same argument with much greater detail on February 10 on, Hampshire College professor Michael Klare analyzes three possible pipeline routes that would enable Alberta tar sands oil to reach world markets. The first is Keystone, first proposed in 2008, which is still at least two years from being operational. The other two go in opposite directions -- west, where resistance is already high, and east, where a substantial amount of pipeline is already in place. Klare analyzes each alternative in detail, arguing that:

"… the only pipeline now under development that would significantly expand Albertan tar-sands exports is Keystone XL. It is vitally important to the tar-sands producers because it offers the sole short-term - or possibly even long-term - option for the export and sale of the crude output now coming on line at dozens of projects being developed across northern Alberta.

"Without it, these projects will languish and Albertan production will have to be sold at a deep discount - at, that is, a per-barrel price that could fall below production costs, making further investment in tar sands unattractive. In January, Canadian tar-sands oil was already selling for $30-$40 less than West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the standard U.S. blend."

But Klare does not consider the different route to the Atlantic proposed by Girling, a route that could be entirely within Canada, ending at St. John, New Brunswick.

It's Not About Pipelines, It's About Tar Sands Oil

The shadow play aspects of the public posturing around the Keystone pipeline make it difficult to focus on the underlying reality that matters most: whether exploiting tar sands, not only in Canada, but in the U.S. and other countries, really will mean "game over for the climate," as NASA scientist James Hansen has said. The heart of his argument, as it appeared in the New York Times, was simple:

"GLOBAL warming isn't a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves 'regardless of what we do.'

"If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate."

The game, in other words, is not about pipelines, it's about tar sands oil. And even though cancellation of the Keystone pipeline would not be a game-changer, such cancellation would be a powerful symbol that leaves open the possibility of changing the game. And it would be a signal that there is at least some political will to change the game.

The Canadian government under Stephen Harper has been pushing hard for the Keystone pipeline, lobbying the Obama administration and responding to unsympathetic media reports in the U.S. At the same time, Canadian resistance to pipelines in both the east and west has grown increasingly intense, especially among the more than 630 First Nations governments of Canada's native people whose land would be directly affected.

Media Coverage Omits More Than It Says

When Sec. Kerry promises a "fair and transparent" review of Keystone, and media from ABC News to the Washington Post to Huffington Post report the story with the same wire service account from AP, there's not a lot of reporting going on. Sec. Kerry's comments are value-free and allow for a possible approval, especially in the context of his "great respect" for the needs of Canada's energy industry.

What AP and those who carried the report left out included Sec. Kerry's significant oil industry holdings, which create an obvious conflict of interest, although as someone who was the richest U.S. Senator till recently (net worth about $240 million, compared to Jay Rockefeller's $98 million), his oil holdings may not represent that great a conflict. And Sec. Kerry was "a steadfast proponent of taking action on climate during his tenure as a senator," according to Reuters.

The widely distributed AP report all but dismisses "climate change," using the phrase only in the context of suggesting that the pipeline would be "a source of much-needed jobs," which it's not, and "a step toward North American energy independence," which it's not.

Sec. Kerry's remarks fit a context in which the State Department carries out its evaluation and approves the pipeline, giving cover for President Obama to approve it, too, since the evaluation was "fair and transparent," or will be reliably reported that way. But Sec. Kerry also mentioned "accountability" in passing, without saying (or being asked) just what that could possibly mean. If James Hansen is right, and the climate is destroyed by tar sands oil, how will anyone in the future be able to hold a long-dead multi-millionaire accountable for his lost seriousness?

Alternatively, with the boom of "light sweet oil" coming out of Texas and North Dakota, oil that is much preferable to the "heavy sour crude" from Alberta, the president may have a practical way of sidestepping Keystone approval as no longer very useful to the United States (if it ever really was).

Disruptions Continue Along Keystone Southern Leg

The active protest and political theatre front in recent months has been along the TransCanada Keystone Gulf Coast section in Texas and Oklahoma, where early in the morning of February 11 in Schoolton, Oklahoma, a youth pastor, Stefan Warner, chained himself to construction machinery high above a local waterway, the North Canadian River.

"I grew up in a town where the North Canadian River runs right through, and we can't let the North Canadian become another Kalamazoo," Warner said, referring to the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Another giant pipeline company, Enbridge Energy, had one of its pipelines rupture there in July 2010, dumping about 900,000 gallons of toxic tar sands crude oil into the river, where the clean-up is now in its third year.

Warner acted with other members of the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, a new group that recently organized to resist the Keystone pipeline. The Great Plains web site reported the end of the action this way:

8:00AM: Direct Support for Stefan has been arrested without warning and placed in police car. Six other people on site being detained currently.

9:00AM: All Six people detained now arrested. Seven police vehicles on scene. Workers have lowered side-boom in disregard of Stefan's safety and OSHA regulations, Stefan still locked to machinery but lying painfully face-down on the lowered arm. Police obscuring Stefan from view and not allowing anyone within photographing distance.

9:15AM: Another individual arrested. This person was not initially detained but was prevented from accessing her vehicle since 8am. Stefan still holding strong….

1:00PM Earlier today, Stefan was extracted. To our knowledge, Stefan sustained no serious injuries and seems to be alright.

This action is similar to protests mounted over the past five months by the Tar Sands Blockade, who started their resistance in September 2012 when they set up a tree house blockade across the right of way along which TransCanada was constructing its pipeline. TranCanada skipped a section of construction to avoid the tree houses and also took members of the group to court. That action that was settled January 25, when 19 people, also acting on behalf of 6 Jan and John Does and three organizations, agreed to a permanent injunction against interfering with Keystone people, property, or progress.

Defeating Keystone – A Victory with No Winners?

It would certainly look like a victory for environmentalists if the president denied Keystone a permit, and a low political cost would allow the political class to bask in undeserved credit – a symbolic triumph. And, at worst, an opportunity to enjoy the illusion that something meaningful was accomplished.

But the problem of tar sands oil would be fundamentally unchanged. It would remain an underexploited asset that Canadians are eager to tap. The demand from Asian markets would continue to grow. Canada would continue to face the irrationality of importing half the oil it uses while exporting two thirds of the oil it produces. The pipeline struggle would become an all-Canada affair.

A lively and slightly hysterical imagination might envision an American war with Canada, not so much to keep tar sands oil in the ground to save the climate, but to keep the Canadians from selling it to the Chinese. More likely, the United States will revert to its traditionally torpid contemplation of planetary threat, the climate will continue to warm, and soon Alberta can have a pipeline to the north, since the Arctic Ocean is open year-round. your social media marketing partner


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+14 # WBoardman 2013-02-12 18:11
From Buzzfeed, Feb 6

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that he is not worried about changing climate in Florida specifically, and declined to identify the causes of climate change in general.

"The climate is always changing," Rubio said vaguely.
+51 # brianf 2013-02-12 22:59
Of course the climate is always changing. And people are always dying. So logically, we should set all the murderers free. That is what Rubio really means. We can't blame anyone for the billions of deaths that will result from unchecked global warming. Stuff like that happens all the time. It's all a great mystery and we can't understand it, much less have any control over it.

This is nothing more than a smokescreen to shield those who value short term profits above all else, even the future of life on earth.
+39 # jussayin 2013-02-12 23:21
Quoting WBoardman:
From Buzzfeed, Feb 6

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that he is not worried about changing climate in Florida specifically, and declined to identify the causes of climate change in general.

"The climate is always changing," Rubio said vaguely.

There is one thing that doesn't change and that's the inability of congress to grasp the big picture.
+8 # 6thextinction 2013-02-13 09:43
It's not their inability to grasp the big picture; it's their fondness for getting reelected due to all the money contributed by the Koch brothers, fossil fuel industry, Republicans in denial, etc. That's the bigger picture for them.
+1 # AMLLLLL 2013-02-13 12:58
Koch Industries = the 'small business' that could.
+6 # WestWinds 2013-02-13 10:56
I live in Central Florida. I have for eight years now. Last summer was the hottest summer I've ever experienced here and this "winter" was about one week's worth of cooler weather with only a handful of really cold nights as compared to the many weeks of freezing cold winters in the past.

Right now, it is as warm and sunny as any summer's day. We haven't had much by way of rain, either. My tap has low water pressure. Considering how warm this winter has been, I can't help but thinking how extremely hot it's going to be this coming summer.

Rubio's position is irresponsible and partisan.
+40 # brianf 2013-02-12 22:53
If Obama had any real understanding of the threat posed to our country by global warming, he never would have considered approving the Keystone XL pipeline, he would not have increased oil drilling and fracking, and he would not have an "all of the above" energy policy.

We shouldn't have to be begging this administration, that claims to take climate change seriously, to halt this pipeline! If they really did, the fight would not be over whether to have more drilling, more pipelines, or more coal power plants. The fight would be how quickly to shut down the existing ones.

I feel like this is all a decoy to keep us from the real fight, which is to stop the burning of all fossil fuels as quickly as possible. That is what the fight should be, and the fact that Obama and Kerry don't understand that tells me they don't understand global warming and climate change.
+20 # noitall 2013-02-12 23:58
It doesn't take a huge brain to comprehend what is known and publicized about climate change and global warming. Obama is briefed and VERY aware. He just knows who butters his bread and with these guys who really know the score, it's all about the money, which might be exactly what one needs in order to survive the climate change upcoming orgasm, the means to flee. To where? I always suspected that Reagan's Star Wars expenses went somewhere tangible and by now, I'm sure a few million dollars will buy a seat. Seriously folks, the world is THAT crazy nowadays.
+5 # WestWinds 2013-02-13 11:05
Under GWB and Darth Vader, 20 billion went missing and no one has ever bothered to go looking for it. But we have been informed that the Bush family purchased a massive cattle ranch in Paraguay which sits on the largest pure drinking water supply in the world. Go figure.
+4 # WestWinds 2013-02-13 11:02
Is it that they don't understand global warming, or is this just more Washington political theater and the truth is they know exactly what the ramifications are and will be but they prefer to run the risk for the sake of profits figuring that they will always have enough money to get whatever they want or need to survive? This is one helluva way to reduce and control population expansion!
+4 # Nominae 2013-02-13 16:42
Quoting brianf:
If Obama had any real understanding .........

I feel this is all a decoy to keep us from the real fight ...... That is what the fight should be, and the fact that Obama and Kerry don't understand that tells me they don't understand global warming and climate change.

Your frustration is not misplaced, and your "hunch" is quite accurate.

But of all possible reasons for the action/inaction of Obama / Kerry, lack in intellectual acumen doesn't even make the list.

Unlike Bush The Boy, neither Obama or Kerry have the SLIGHTEST chance of hiding behind "Stupidity". These are both highly intelligent men who know EXACTLY what they are doing, and FOR WHOM they are doing IT. Any crap they deign to feed us is simply blowing smoke up under our Kilts, and all sophisticated adults know this.

So, we waste valuable time discussing "stupid", or "lack of Understanding" in relation to THESE boys.

That is absolutely the LAST rock for us to turn over, and every second we waste questioning the relative IQ of obviously very intelligent men such as these two is time we COULD be spending turning over the rocks cunningly placed for maximum obfuscation of the REAL reasons for their seemingly insane positions !

It is what WE don't know that is going to bite us in the A$$, not what THEY don't know.

We are out here in the well-crafted fog scratching our heads while the well-oiled scam runs and hums all around us.
+10 # barkingcarpet 2013-02-12 23:09
Drill baby kill, while the drones band on
+41 # fettenberg 2013-02-12 23:12
The American people need to send a clear message to John Kerry: give a clear NO to the Keystone pipeline(s). We need to invest only in renewable energy technology. Petroleum doesn't fit into that category....per iod.
-11 # Joe Bob 2013-02-13 02:13
Kerry, once a joke, always a joke.
+1 # tm7devils 2013-02-12 23:38
"Marco Rubio" - Anagram for "Curia broom": An implement used for sweeping trash (Repugs) from the Curia (Senate house).
Keep up the good work, Marco!
+1 # handmjones 2013-02-13 08:57
Hansen is quoted. For the latest see:
+1 # WBoardman 2013-02-13 12:00
This links to Hansen's report:

This is the report's first paragraph:
Summary. Global surface temperature in 2012 was +0.56°C (1°F) warmer than the 1951-1980
base period average, despite much of the year being affected by a strong La Nina. Global temperature
thus continues at a high level that is sufficient to cause a substantial increase in the frequency of extreme
warm anomalies. The 5-year mean global temperature has been flat for a decade, which we interpret as a
combination of natural variability and a slowdown in the growth rate of the net climate forcing.

(Looking at the past decade as a time of "stable" temperature is as accurate as looking at it as a rime of the "hottest years on record -- neither is particularly comforting since the long term trend is still "hotter" and the impact period is likely measured not in decades but centuries.)
+6 # Quickmatch 2013-02-13 10:18
The Alberta fossil (about 1% of all oil used)will come to market regardless. The natural gas from fracking, which has lowered N.gas prices AND electric prices in the midwest to decade lows, will continue to increase. Off-shore methane-hydrate gas is next on the horizon, though at a cost some ten times that of fracked gas. The only thing that will relieve the production of fossil fuels and the release of CO2 is the development of renewables. Doing that in good time requires government support, which in turn requires deficit growth. Not with the GOP in control!
+5 # Helen 2013-02-13 11:05
Our nation's leading climate scientists have told us the Keystone Pipeline is dangerous folly, and all the recent Nobel Peace laureates have urged us to set a different kind of example for the world. If Kerry and Obama are half as intelligent as we are led to believe, the choice should be obvious.
+1 # reiverpacific 2013-02-13 11:40
"Kerry promises a "fair and transparent" review of Keystone---" [quote from article].
This carries about the same sincerity quotient as Fox's "Fair and balanced" claim but at least hardly anybody takes this seriously any more.
He was, after all, a member of the recent "bi-partisan Supercommittee" which accomplished exactly------nothing.
As for Rubio -well y'all have already drawn your own conclusions; reminds me of the old Mad Magazine's icon Alfred E. Newman's slogan "What, me worry?"
+4 # tbcrawford 2013-02-13 12:07
Tax carbon and put all those unemployed folks to work building a modern energy grid and painting all flat rooftops lighter colors. Repairing roads and bridges, building high-speed rail lines, and other infrastructure improvements crucial. Deny further credits to big agriculture and support organic practices to curb the pesticides being spread throughout the country. Protect our drinking water! Projects to improve our future are endless and can easily be funded if we have the will. If we don't it's over for homo sapiens.
+1 # jky1291 2013-02-13 20:08
Humanity has the potential to transcend ignorance and superstition. But, all current indications are that ignorance and superstition will imminently lead to our extinction.
0 # Henry 2013-02-13 13:20
I wrote to Greenpeace about a confusing quote from their "Point of No Return" report:

""With total disregard for this unfolding global disaster, the fossil fuel industry is planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US ..."

It was unclear what period of US emissions they were trying to compare. Their answer, for any readers who wondered about this:

"When we say in the Point of No Return report that the new CO2 from the 14 major projects in 2020 would be as much as the entire US, we are comparing the emissions that would be created during the year 2020 with the annual emissions of the US in 2010.

"In 2010, US annual CO2 emissions were 5,369 million tonnes, according to the IEA, and the projected emissions from the 14 projects in 2020 are 6,314 million tonnes per year."
+3 # patmonk 2013-02-13 15:58
Actually he got it, and Obama reinforced it. One of the three priorities in his "Fix-It-First" program is "modern pipelines to withstand a storm". Game over, unless we stop playing.
+1 # Anarchist 23 2013-02-15 15:34
Tar sands mining='Game Over' I just finished reading the book that covers this, although the doom is not the tar sands. Read Margaret Atwood's 'After the Flood'-a very perceptive prediction of a near future. Although, given the two large objects from space that just passed by-one of which exploded over Russia-our 'game over' might take other forms as well. But it could not hurt to try to prevent this doom!

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