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Dr. Hansen writes: "The common presumption that President Obama is going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is wrong, in my opinion. The State Department must provide an assessment to President Obama. Secretary of State John Kerry is expert on the climate issue and has long been one of the most thoughtful members of our government. I cannot believe that Secretary Kerry would let his and President Obama's legacies go down the tar sands drain."

It is crunch time on tar sands. (photo: Greenpeace)
It is crunch time on tar sands. (photo: Greenpeace)

Norway, Canada, the United States and the Tar Sands

By Dr. James Hansen, Reader Supported News

11 May 13


oday 36 Norwegian organizations sent an open letter to Prime Minister Stoltenberg expressing opposition to development of Canadian tar sands by Statoil (the Norwegian state is majority shareholder of Statoil). Signatories include not only environmental organizations, but a broad public spectrum, including, appropriately, many youth organizations. It is encouraging that Norwegian youth press their government to stop supporting tar sands development, given the fact that Norway saves much of its oil earnings for future generations and given the fact that Norway is not likely among the nations that will suffer most from climate change.

I wonder if the Norway government response will be better than their response in 2010. The gap between public preference and government policy is not unique to Norway.

Similar situations were found in other nations, as described in "Storms of My Grandchildren." Governments talk green while doing black, supporting or even subsidizing the fossil fuel industry while doing little to solve fossil fuel addiction.

The Canadian public is also impressive. Most messages that I receive from Canadians are ones of encouragement, apologetic that some government ministers speak out of both sides of their mouth at the same time. On one hand, they say that tar sands will make Canada the Saudi Arabia of oil. On the other hand, they say that the amount of carbon in tar sands is negligible.

The truth is that the tar sands gook contains more than twice the carbon from all the oil burned in human history. If infrastructure, such as the Keystone XL pipeline, is built to transport tar sands gook, ways will be developed to extract more and more. When full accounting is done of emissions from tar sands oil, its use is equivalent to burning coal to power your automobile. This is on top of the grotesque regional tar sands destruction.

There is a basis for optimism that the Keystone pipeline can be stopped and tar sands exploitation phased down before it becomes the monstrosity that oil companies are aiming for. Tar sands make no economic sense if fossil fuels pay their true costs to society via a gradually rising fee collected from fossil companies in proportion to the amount of carbon in the fuel.

Conservatives in the United States are beginning to recognize the merits of a carbon fee, which would be a non-tax, 100 percent of collected funds distributed to the public on per capita basis. The Wall Street Journal recently published an article endorsing this approach by George Shultz and Gary Becker, a Nobel prize winning economist. Such a fee levels the playing field among alternative energies and energy efficiency, providing a spur for development of clean energies.

After 10 years a carbon fee rising $10 per ton of CO2 per year would reduce United States carbon emissions by 10-11 times more than the carbon carried by the Keystone pipeline. The funds distributed to the public, 60 percent of the people getting more than they pay in increased prices, would spur the economy. The energy revolution would create millions of jobs.

So don't despair re: the tar sands. There are sensible alternatives.

The common presumption that President Obama is going to approve the Keystone XL pipeline is wrong, in my opinion. The State Department must provide an assessment to President Obama. Secretary of State John Kerry is expert on the climate issue and has long been one of the most thoughtful members of our government. I cannot believe that Secretary Kerry would let his and President Obama's legacies go down the tar sands drain. your social media marketing partner


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+20 # neohip 2013-05-11 13:59
I hope you are right, but I can only too easily envision it happening.
+14 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-05-12 08:15
As a Canadian, I am ashamed & disgusted by my present Federal government, which has done little more than function as a Big Oil lobby.
+5 # ruttaro 2013-05-12 09:52
There really is no choice but to reject the Keystone Pipeline, impose the carbon fee and begin the rapid transition to an energy platform based on renewables. 400 ppm and rising fast gives us two options: 1) begin to lower then end emissions and diverse, vibrant life or 2) continue as we are and by the end of the 21st century and face conflicts, horrific events and extinction including our own in possibly two hundred years.

What I wonder is whether we environmentalis ts, conservationist s and citizens concerned about the climoate realize the power we have with our votes? Are we willing to take a page out of the NRA's playbook and become one issue voters? If we can unite and promise not only to reject any Congress person or Senator who votes for the pipeline, for example, and then run primaries against them if they do, we just might scare the hell out of them like the NRA does regarding guns. Yes, we have many important issues and taking our cue from the NRA feels distasteful on many levels, but it works. If we can't accept this due to our feelings of superiority to the right wing, well we have to accept option two above.
I believe we find that so unacceptable that we realize we can change the course when we unite and fight with the only power we have: our vote. Let's make it known to Congress that there is a new sherrif in town and they have much more to fear then the NRA.
+4 # AMLLLLL 2013-05-12 16:43
Michael Moore said it best; "There's a lot more of us than them". This is, along with fracking; let's just say environmental issues that are deal~breakers since they are irreversible harm to us and our environment. I will actively campaign against ANYONE in office who thinks short-term gain is a legitimate rationale for proceeding with this. It isn't just a theory; it's proven to be disastrous (existing XL Pipeline spill in Battle Creek MI (2010), still a mess @ $700mn+ to the taxpayer! Wake up and smell the chemicals.
+2 # ruttaro 2013-05-12 19:33
That's right, AMLLLL! "Wake up and smell the chemicals." May I add "Feel the heat; watch the destruction!" But we need to form a coalition of voters who also proclaim loud and clear that the pipeline, fracking, etc. are deal breakers. And just as much a deal-breaker should be anyone who delays the transition to renewable energy platforms. We need to dream big and invest! If I hear a Congressperson say it is too costly - if I hear "cost" - it will "cost" them my vote and I hope yours and everyone else who feels as we do. If I hear "cost" what I'm really hearing is "not now." If I hear "cost" then what I'm really hearing is unwillingness to charge polluters and fossil fuel companies for their emissions. If I hear "cost" from a Congressperson what I'm really hearing is how much campaign contributions it will cost them if they pass legislation to tax carbon and transition to renewables!
We need to form a coalition - organize and mobilize - or they will not hear us as one voice. Instead, we will all be lone voices, our atomized existence will be manipulated, we will be distracted by "other" issues the media feels are important, they will scare us by conjuring up fears of others, and we will lose. One voice, one issue and one day very soon we will see a brighter, sustainable, cleaner future and an Earth of life, vibrant and diverse!
0 # intheEPZ 2013-05-13 06:41
Ole Skull and Bones Kerry? Ole "lets drain the swamps of the terrorists and invade Iraq who hates us for our freedom" Kerry? Ole Mr. made-millions-o n-his-war-profi teering-investm ents during-the "war on terror"-i.e. Iraq-Invasion Kerry? Ole knuckle under to the voting machine fraudsters Kerry? Backbone? Knowledge? Integrity? I'm waiting to see it.

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