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Redford writes: "Despite what we might be hearing in industry spin, the environmental report released by the State Department Friday confirms that tar sands crude means a dirtier, more dangerous future for our children all so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. That's right, overseas markets, which is where the majority of this processed oil will end up."

Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford. (photo: Contour/Getty Images)
Actor and environmental activist Robert Redford. (photo: Contour/Getty Images)

New Environmental Report Lays Ground for Keystone XL Denial

By Robert Redford, Reader Supported News

04 February 14


he more people learn about the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, the less they like it. Despite what we might be hearing in industry spin, the environmental report released by the State Department Friday confirms that tar sands crude means a dirtier, more dangerous future for our children all so that the oil industry can reach the higher prices of overseas markets. That's right, overseas markets, which is where the majority of this processed oil will end up. This dirty energy project is all risk and no reward for the American people.

You'll remember that the president said he won't greenlight a project that raises the dangers of climate change. The State Department report makes it clear that this is exactly what Keystone XL would do. Bottom line: the tar sands pipeline fails the president's climate test. It's a bad idea. It needs to be denied.

When it comes to climate change, we know we have to do things differently. As the president said in his State of the Union address, we have to "act with more urgency -- because a changing climate is already harming western communities struggling with drought, and coastal cities dealing with floods." Climate change hits us at home: hurting our health and our children. How does this translate into everyday decisions? We need to stop approving dirty energy projects that will only drive us further into the climate danger zone.

The president has the chance to get it right on Keystone XL. Whereas past State Department reports didn't even bother to look at the climate pollution from tar sands, claiming that they'd be developed with or without Keystone XL, this report is different. In this report, the State Department acknowledged that Keystone XL will drive tar sands expansion and climate change if we see low oil prices and other pipeline and rail projects don't move ahead.

But that is already the reality today with fierce opposition to tar sands pipelines and a glut in the current tar sands market. We've certainly seen plenty of honest comments from industry saying that if they don't get added pipeline capacity from Keystone XL now, they will scale back plans. That means those carbon emissions would be scaled back too.

So even though the State Department continues to downplay clear evidence that the Keystone XL pipeline would lead to tar sands expansion and significantly worsen carbon pollution and the very real harm to our health, it has, for the first time, acknowledged that the proposed project could accelerate climate change.

In any case, this report is not a decision. Next up is the national interest determination process. And here the evidence already shows that Keystone XL isn't a plan to help the country. It's about big profits for Big Oil.

Keystone XL would pipe some of the world's dirtiest oil through the American breadbasket to be refined on the Gulf and shipped overseas. That puts our farmers and ranchers at needless risk while not serving our energy or economic interests. I wouldn't call that national interest.

Here's what the State Department report confirms: the tar sands pipeline is a bad idea. It fails the president's climate test. It puts our farmers and ranchers at risk. It needs to be denied.

And we need to move, as a country, toward cleaner, safer, renewable sources of power and fuel. your social media marketing partner


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+73 # MEBrowning 2014-02-04 12:07
Big Oil claims that Keystone XL will mean jobs, jobs and more jobs. Yes, jobs are critical. But those kinds of jobs — the kind that will almost certainly accelerate climate change and pave the way for more oil-soaked environmental disasters — we don't need.
+56 # brux 2014-02-04 12:24
It's a pipeline ... there are no significant jobs, and those there are will be for people who disrespect the environment and because of their jobs will work even harder to do so.
+3 # mighead 2014-02-06 07:09
My understanding is that there will end up being 27 jobs created for the pipeline.
+38 # mjc 2014-02-04 15:05
Many of those jobs will go to the Chinese and their freighters carrying the oil away from Texas ports. Except for clearing leaking tar sands off the prairie and perhaps repairing pipes, there will be only a few jobs for Americans or even for Canadians.
+35 # Holy Cow 2014-02-04 18:56
And, while we are saying ABSOLUTELY NO! to pipelining, we, at the same time, must also say ABSOLUTELY NO! to fracking.

Up to Denver I went yesterday afternoon, to address the Admin. Law Judge hearing, joining with an amazing number of pro solar folks from across the state, demanding that we say no to fossil fuels, and reward v. penalize all those who are now going or are about to go the 'clean up our environment' solar m.o..

The 'fossil foolers' are doing anything and everything they can, to keep their profits flowing in from continued use of their dirty and then some fossil fuel. It's a ray of hope to see how many folks of all and no pol. persuasions come together to reject XCels's push to turn usage of solar panels into a penalized vs. rewarded venture.

Many good arguments were made re. all the great, environmentally protective jobs that will come via replacing our source of dirty energy with clean solar.
+21 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-04 20:55
What an excellent post!

Some months ago, Obama stated in the House Chamber, "and we have the technology to do it." He was referring to fracking. I thought, "for Christ's sake, you took a large amount of campaign money from the 'clean' coal industry. This is another joke, fracking." And told of the 'Fairy Dust' story about burning 'clean coal,' co2 capture and hiding it, storing it in caves. Where? On Mars? And I thought Obama had courses in science. Where the hell is his wisdom?
+17 # Cailleach 2014-02-05 16:41
Fracking causes a rise in the damage we do to the earth's crust. Result: small earthquakes become more and more common, especially right now in the upper southeast. In Wyoming, north of Colorado, lies Yellowstone, and under Yellowstone is the biggest volcano in the Northern Hemisphere. I think it may be larger than Krakatoa. My mother told me that when Krakatoa blew in Indonesia, it was "the year without a summer" in the entire Northern Hemisphere, from the ash filling the whole sky. The ash from Yellowstone is predicted to cover at least a thousand miles in every direction from the volcano. My point--lets stop ANY fracking. NOW, BEFORE IT CAUSES A MONUMENTAL DISASTER THAT WILL TAKE HUMANS SEVERAL EONS TO RECOVER FROM, IF WE DO AT ALL!
+7 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-05 23:25
Keep on posting. The movement needs well informed people like you.
+4 # mighead 2014-02-06 07:11
Sorry to say...Obama talks a great game...and doesn't play it...
+31 # Wolfchen 2014-02-04 12:17
Many among us loudly proclaim that we're made in God's image and as such are guardians of our earth and its inhabitants. How many of us live up to such responsibilitie s?

Do you know of any who, while wearing the garments of lofty rank in the halls of government and temples of worship, are practicing what is preached? Soon a decision will be made on the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

When we look at our current and future generations, will we be proud of the decisions made by those we've elevated to positions of influence and power?

There's still a very short period of time for us to make our opinions known. We mustn't let political party and religious denomination affiliations make us vapidly inane gargoyles...aka insipidly stupid.
+57 # wantrealdemocracy 2014-02-04 12:59
There is another issue up before Congress that is as important as this one. The Trans Pacific Partnership Act. Ever hear of it? It is on the fast track to implementation and it will mean the END TO THE SOVEREIGNTY of our nation. This 'Free Trade' act will set up a corporately appointed Tribunal to evaluate all the laws and regulations we may pass in this nation and ERASE THEM if they cause the transnational corporations not to get their EXPECTED profits. This is the New World Order of corporate control of our nation. Tell your 'rep' that to vote for this bill is to commit TREASON.
+36 # Wolfchen 2014-02-04 14:03
Yes...I agree with you...the TPP is a race to the bottom via corporatism (aka fascism) on a worldwide scale. Whereas the Republicans and Libertarians knife us in a frontal assault, the right of center democrats knife us in the back.

To reverse this betrayal, we must change the playing field by electing only those who will protect the citizenry at large and our environment. Autocratic Wall Street economies must be successfully opposed!
+4 # mighead 2014-02-06 07:33
The TPP will give Corporatocracy the legal right to do whatever they want, to whoever they want, wherever they want.

It gives corporations total sovereignty over the world. Their tribunal courts are above all world courts including the US Supreme Court; and they're secret.

Can't believe any politician would give this much power away.

Just for starters: Baffin Bay, Alaska: where a Canadian Gold company wants to ruin the world's largest salmon fishing grounds. The gold mining plan is an ecological disaster which would devastate the salmon industry and the livelihoods of the entire population of the area. The EPA is trying to stop it.

Here's a story from a similar trade deal where a Canadian mining company wanted to mine gold in El Salvador. The local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for their vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. Their victory was very short term. The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits.

From this you can imagine the price Alaska and the EPA would have to pay the Canadian company to stop it from devastating Baffin Bay if this treaty went through.

Under this treaty, you can't stop ANY corporation from doing ANYTHING IT WANTS TO...ANYWHERE IT WANTS TO.
+28 # PABLO DIABLO 2014-02-04 12:19
We'll see whose side Obama is really on with this deal.
+16 # brux 2014-02-04 12:23
I fear the environment is like Redford's last movie ... "All Is Lost" :-(
+23 # MEBrowning 2014-02-04 15:56
“We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.” – Howard Zinn
-14 # MidwesTom 2014-02-04 12:49
As our company is a supplier to parts of the energy industry I read a lot of government, industry, and environmental publications. The trend in most of those publications for the past few months has been that the XL may never be built because rail loading capacity is increasing and is projected to more than double over the next 12 to 18 months. A new pipeline to delver the required butane blending liquid to the tar sands has just come on line thus allowing expanded conventional railcar shipping. They also are now using heatable rail cars which eliminates the ned to dilute.

Producers prefer using rail because they can deliver to almost any refinery in the country by rail, while pipelines are limited to just those refineries that are connected.

The only question left in regards to the XL is whether it is safer to ship by pipeline, or by rail. So far there have been four major rail derailments with fires and explosions and lost 49 lives. Rail volume will double within 18 months. With rail the tar sans oil is being hauled though cities and towns and spread all over the country, while a pipeline avoids metropolitan areas. The tar sands producers are now making more money using rail than they would if limited to pipeline attached refineries.
+46 # wantrealdemocracy 2014-02-04 13:04
WRONG!! The question of the continuation of life on earth is important. Burn the oil and kill the planet. Is this what we want? Are there any values over corporate profit?
-12 # MidwesTom 2014-02-04 13:30
My point is that stopping the XL will not stop the mining of the tar sands, the only question is how they are to be shipped; and by any account rail is more dangerous than pipelines. If Redford wants to stop the tar sands he will have to fund another way to do it, than stopping the XL, which economics will probably kill anyway.
+20 # mjc 2014-02-04 15:08
Let the Canadians ship them from Vancouver or Pacific coastal towns/cities. They already have a very vocal group NOT interested in having anything to do with tar sands.
+21 # Seadog 2014-02-04 15:22
Its NOT OUR ( America's) problem. Let the friggin Canadians find some other way to ship their dirty product to where ever. I and most American's just don't want it shipped over or under our land.
+3 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-05 23:31
Think lots of people misunderstood your comments.Especi ally, the last sentence. "....he will have to (fund) another way to do it, than stopping the XL, (which economics will probably kill anyway?)"
-8 # Douglas Jack 2014-02-04 13:33
Robert Redford & MidwesTom,
A meta-view has us ask fundamental questions about our mega-use of resources. Tar+Sand for example has a huge market to fulfill in roofing, housing & road-surfacing almost exactly as it can be mined. Presently & previously we've taken good oil materials & massive energy resources in order to inappropriately concentrate oil to tar. The chemical, energy & biosphere consequences of the right material used in the wrong way or place are no longer sustainable.
Appropriate use of our resources in the right form & place undoes major planet biosphere threatening chemical & energy refining problems. In order to guarantee that such corporate-hiera rchal idiocy doesn't continue, its important to restore multi-stakehold er human governance. 1st Nations should be recognized their sovereignty over these resources & supported as the primary developers.
The built human environment is awash with energy, just waiting to be put in the right place & time. By channelling this energy, not only do humans stop damage but as well clean-up the environment.
+13 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-04 13:51
Well there you have it. We need the tar sands product because we need new and more roofs.
+3 # Douglas Jack 2014-02-04 14:32
Eldon, With slowing population growth rates, we don't need huge areas of new & more roofs. We can greatly reduce our ecological footprint just replacing existing degraded/deprec iated roofs, building & road surfaces.
70% of us live in multihome (apartment, townhouse & village) connected housing in proximity, which uses 1/3rd the building materials & operates at 1/3rd the cost compared to detached nuclear home suburban homes. Such a preferred strategy of planned intergeneration ally close multihomes can further save us mega-watt use of energy & embodied materials. Structures & spirit of collaboration can employ everyone & reduce our present energy use even more.

Here's our neighbourhood collaboration strategy, based in Community-Econo my softwares which we've written & are in the process of implementing for 1) Human Resource Catalogue, 2) Resource Mapping & 3) Community-Inves tment-&-Exchang e-System.
+8 # Seadog 2014-02-04 15:24
LOL! Yea its about roofs and road patches that's all. Do u write for the WSJ by any chance?
-7 # Douglas Jack 2014-02-05 18:30
Seadog, Just add up the many thousands of square kilometres of roofs & similar areas of roads across the USA & Canada. By supporting 1st Nations to own & develop this tar + sand resource into high value finished products without intensive chemical & energy refinement, the environment &, everyone wins. As a byproduct of building products manufacture, some additional oil & gas impurities are distilled-off & captured.
+3 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-05 23:47
The question is, "do we already have enough byproducts of oil refining available in this country w/o using tar sands product? I have not heard of a shortage of road asphalt, etc in this country. Road asphalt is a very poor substitute for a more suitable light reflecting material such as concrete. I used to jog(when I was much younger) on an asphalt surface. I kept noticing that my dog, who loved to jog with me would not keep up with me. He would "ditch" and sit on the side of the road. Then, I realized that in the colder months he would love to jog with me, but in the summer months the asphalt was just too damn hot for his feet. Use asphalt. OK. Yet, is there not something, a natural product, that could be mixed with asphalt to lighten it up? How about gray asphalt? And, asphalt, in those areas where there is lots of it, I realistically think, has to considerably add lots of unwanted heat in the immediate environment. Pretty hard to reflect heat from a pitch black color that by nature absorbs lots and lots of heat energy.
0 # Douglas Jack 2014-02-07 12:53
I agree with you about the health & environmental limitations of the huge amount of asphalt which we presently use & new solutions are needed.

However any analysis for improvement starts with where technology is presently. The 1st calculation is about embodied energy in materials & infrastructure & 2nd calculation about usage. Presently one can generally say that; huge 10s of 1000s square kilometres of roofing, building & road surface infrastructure draws upon high grade petroleum 'oil' production. Gray asphalt has an important role to play.

By distinguishing this present expensive oil usage & embodied energy & converting to tar + sand materials readily available, then its possible to respond to present infrastructure needs & preserve rare oil reserves. Physical manufacturing of Tar + Sand into finished products by 1st Nations living in these regions leads to environmentally responsible sustainable industry quite different from the multinational corporate-led chemical & heat extraction of low grade tar-oils presently being pursued.

The real energy answer is to sustainably harvest the Saudi-Arabia's worth of bio-digestion methane & alcohol presently found in human feces & kitchen cuttings. Everything we have & do is based presently on such enormous colonial ignorance for which most are completely unaware. Step-by-step.
+17 # Wolfchen 2014-02-04 14:06
The objective must be to boycott tar sand oil!
+12 # soularddave 2014-02-04 19:38
Word up! I think you may have defined the NEXT battle.
+6 # Jim Young 2014-02-05 01:04
I believe it is as much as 5 times more expensive to ship by rail. This, with the deteriorating EROEI getting the little spurts of productivity that drop so quickly coupled with rapid price drop in solar will make the probably short period such oil may be profitable not worth the investment in the pipeline (especially if they didn't plan to export most of it).

I believe the only way they can recover much of what they have already invested is to sucker investors in that will be left holding the bag after they are gone.

Though it will severely add further damage to the environment, it should be stopped on simple economic reality in the cost advantages of solar over gas and oil.

+2 # Cailleach 2014-02-05 16:47
I can't believe people voted down Midwest Toms comment! He is right on. Rail shipping of oil is even more dangerous than the pipeline.
+13 # seeuingoa 2014-02-04 13:30
Why is Robert Redford the only
Hollywood actor to use his name
recognition power to talk against
the XL pipeline?

Isn´t Hollywood in California where
you have severe droughts, wildfires, and worries about Fukushima?

Is Hollywood only about festivals,
party-going, and movie bottom lines?

So, next time Hollywood-guys go protesting for survival of the planet, don´t forget to bring a whistle so we can all be whistle-blowers .
+1 # Eldon J. Bloedorn 2014-02-04 13:48
Great post! Great post! Too bad it doesn't make any sense.
+3 # James Marcus 2014-02-04 13:37
Winning Battles, but losing Wars…goes where?
Our Best Folks get lost in 'Worthy Causes', whilst The Beast carries on….megalithica lly.
How about Take Down The Dragon his Head, lest he simply Spawn More Tentacles, faster than we can cut them?
+17 # tm7devils39 2014-02-04 13:41
Personally, I say FUCK BIG OIL!! It has been screwing the American people for too
many years already.(Ecuado r, which uses the US dollar, sells gas for $1.48/gal and Diesel for $1.03/gal...and it should be that price here...and they would still make a profit.)
-4 # tahoevalleylines 2014-02-04 14:06
Unfortunate the "Condor" did not include need for rebuild and enhancement of US railway matrix to 1950 footprint in latest article....

Rush to militarize Middle East in the 1970's was defensible in large part because railway demolition in North America was well under way. Israel shall go largely unnoticed as the well fleshed armies of Mohammedanism proceed to implode as they settle their feuds.

Thank you rubber tire nation for oil money funding. Sum of worst fears is memory loss amid countries round about Israel... Meltdown is imminent and there will be no stopping fossils development in North America.

Where are the purveyors of peace when it comes to engineering SOLUTIONS not obstructionism? Renewables tied to railway propulsion is important basis for backing off Middle East Oil as well as, over development of homeland reserves. Inclusion of water resource engineering solution (NAWAPA) to recharge breadbasket aquifers is necessary partner with North American energy & food security.

Redford, Chomsky, Cole et al have the native intelligence to promote these engineering components of environmental and demilitarizatio n solution set. Why do they share the same blind spot???
+15 # giraffee2012 2014-02-04 16:19
We hear of all the bullies in our schools and programs to stop bullies from exploiting weaker students. MY point: Our government (aka corporate America or corporate world) is the bully that must be stopped.

Call your reps repeatedly (no matter what party they belong to) and make sure they know you will fight heir re-election if they vote for (be specific) any OIL, BANK, etc (corporation's profit) over your right to breath, drink water, and grow uncontaminated food (etc)

Just call them on anything that gives to the rich and anything that takes more away from the less fortunate (like unemployment insurance....)
+17 # fredboy 2014-02-04 18:22
Keystone puts at risk a huge portion of the region's fresh water supply. Protecting that water has got to be top priority. If it's not, it's a signal that the future's fresh water supply is in play by profiteers.
+13 # MSS 2014-02-04 22:34
Well said: Robert! Thank you for being an advocate to protect our place we refer to as our home. If we allow this to happen I fear we will
leave 'our home' in such a dreadful way. We all must become good stewards of this world. We must all shine our light beyond our own backyard.
+6 # guyachs 2014-02-05 10:13
TransCanada has stated that pipeline construction would create 20,000 direct construction and manufacturing jobs in the U.S.17 The Cornell Global Labor Institute (GLI) examined data TransCanada
submitted to the State Department. GLI estimated between 2,500 to 4,650 temporary, direct jobs would be created per year by pipeline construction
over a two-year span. The State Department’s evaluation of Keystone XL’s job-creation potential produced similar results. TransCanada’s claim that 7,000 U.S. manufacturing jobs would be created by the construction of the pipeline is unsubstantiated . The project’s main material input is steel pipe, and as of September 2011 TransCanada had manufactured
approximately 50 percent of the pipe in India and Canada. TransCanada also states that Keystone XL would generate 119,000 “person years” of employment, which includes direct, indirect, and
induced jobs.21 GLI estimates that construction of Keystone XL would create between 33,000 and 44,000 person years of employment.
This is between 30 and 40 percent of the job numbers estimated by TransCanada. The State Department’s Report to Congress in January 2012 following the presidential denial of the permit also concluded that TransCanada’s numbers
were inflated.
+7 # mjc 2014-02-05 10:34
TransCanada has no reason in the world to show anything to the Americans (US) EXCEPT stats that THIS administration and country want to, jobs, jobs. TransCanada will be very happy to offer jobs laying pipe to their fellow countrymen and perhaps leaving the repair work to the Americans...aft er the spill/leak. If Obama falls for this...and one just cannot believe that it will be a "fall" will solidify the impression that even the first black president, a Democrat, has corporate interests at heart, not our environment or country's.
+1 # mighead 2014-02-06 06:59
Re: State Dept Report on Keystone

According to Friends of the Earth, "The report was written by a dues-paying member of the American Petroleum Institute that lied on its conflict of interest disclosure form."

I have emailed a dozen senators to check this out...

If true...hopefull y it will taint the deal so badly the American people won't let it happen...
+7 # mighead 2014-02-06 07:02
Canada has $2T interest in this deal...

they also have the power of Eminent Domain...

So they need to pipe this sludge and refine and ship it to China in their own country.

They already have 73,000 square miles of mercury contamination surrounding the Tar Sands site...what's a few more pipeline explosions and a little more refining pollution to them...

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