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Ralph Nader writes: "Obama believes that those demonstrators and their followers around the country are his voters (they were in 2008) and that they have nowhere to go in 2012. So long as environmentalists do not find a way to disabuse him of this impression long before Election Day, they should get ready for an Obama approval of the Keystone XL monstrosity."

Ralph Nader being interviewed during his 2008 presidential campaign, 08/01/08. (photo: Scrape TV)
Ralph Nader being interviewed during his 2008 presidential campaign, 08/01/08. (photo: Scrape TV)

Obama's Pipeline Quagmire

By Ralph Nader, Reader Supported News

14 September 11


t was the most extraordinary citizen organizing feat in recent White House history. Over 1200 Americans from 50 states came to Washington and were arrested in front of the White House to demonstrate their opposition to a forthcoming Obama approval of the Keystone XL dirty oil pipeline from Alberta, Canada down to the Gulf Coast.

Anyone who has tried to mobilize people in open non-violent civil disobedience knows how hard it is to have that many people pay their way to Washington to join a select group of civic champions. The first round of arrestees - about 100 of them - were brought to a jail and kept on cement floors for 52 hours - presumably, said one guard, on orders from above to discourage those who were slated to follow this first wave in the two weeks ending September 3, 2011.

The Keystone XL pipeline project - owned by a consortium of oil companies - is a many faceted abomination. It will, if constructed, take its raw, tar sands carbon down through the agricultural heartland of the United States - through the Missouri and Niobrara Rivers, the great Ogallala aquifer, fragile natural habitats and Native American lands. Major breaks and accidents on pipelines - four of them with loss of human life- have occurred just in the past year from California to Pennsylvania, including a recent, major Exxon/Mobile pipeline rupture which resulted in many gallons of oil spilling into the Yellowstone River.

The Office of Pipeline Safety in the Department of Transportation has been a pitiful rubberstamp patsy for the pipeline industry for 40 years. There are larger objections - a huge contribution to greenhouse gases and further expansion of the destruction of northern Albertan terrain, forests and water - expected to cover an area the size of Florida.

Furthermore, as the Energy Department report on Keystone XL pointed out, decreasing demand for petroleum through advances in fuel efficiency is the major way to reduce reliance on imported oil with or without the pipeline. There is no assurance whatsoever that the refined tar sands oil in Gulf Coast refineries will even get to the motorists here. They can be exported more profitably to Europe and South America.

In ads on Washington, D.C.'s WTOP news station, the industry is claiming that the project will create more than 100,000 jobs. They cannot substantiate this figure. It is vastly exaggerated. TransCanada's permit application for Keystone XL to the U.S. State Department estimated a "peak workforce of approximately 3,500 to 4,200 construction personnel" to build the pipeline.

The Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and the Transport Workers Union (TWU) oppose the pipeline. In their August 2011 statement they said: "We need jobs, but not ones based on increasing our reliance on Tar Sands oil [...] Many jobs could be created in energy conservation, upgrading the grid, maintaining and expanding public transportation - jobs that can help us reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and improve energy efficiency."

The demonstrators before the White House, led by prominent environmentalist Bill McKibben and other stalwarts, focused on President Obama because he and he alone will make the decision either for or against building what they call "North America's biggest carbon bomb." He does not have to ask Congress.

Already the State Department, in their latest report, is moving to recommend approval. The demonstrators and their supporters, including leaders of the Native American Dene tribe in Canada and the Lakota nation in the U.S., filled much of the area in front of the White House and Lafayette Square. On September 2, I went down to express my support for their cause. Assistants to Mr. McKibben asked me to speak at the final rally at the square on Saturday. I agreed. At 6:25 p.m. we received an e-mail from Daniel Kessler withdrawing their invitation because of "how packed our schedule already is. We'd love to have Ralph there in any other capacity, including participating in the protest."

The next day, many of the speakers went way over their allotted five to six minute time slots. Observers told me that there were to be no criticisms of Barack Obama. McKibben wore an Obama pin on the stage. Obama t-shirts were seen out in the crowd. McKibben did not want their efforts to be "marginalized" by criticizing the President, which they expected I would do. He said that "he would not do Obama the favor" of criticizing him.

To each one's own strategy. I do not believe McKibben's strategy is up to the brilliance of his tactics involving the mass arrests. (Which by the way received deplorably little mass media coverage).

Obama believes that those demonstrators and their followers around the country are his voters (they were in 2008) and that they have nowhere to go in 2012. So long as environmentalists do not find a way to disabuse him of this impression long before Election Day, they should get ready for an Obama approval of the Keystone XL monstrosity.

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author. His most recent book - and first novel - is "Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us." His most recent work of non-fiction is "The Seventeen Traditions." your social media marketing partner


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+12 # Ryguy913 2011-09-14 11:09
The only place I can think of to "go" on election day 2012 is to the polls for Congressional races.

I live in Massachusetts, and will be turning out to vote for Elizabeth Warren for Senate.

As for the presidential race, I might just leave that one blank.
+5 # wcandler1 2011-09-14 19:52
Yes Ralph Nader (or anyone else) should run in the PRIMARY. Nader's mistake (tragic in 2000) was to run in the Presidential campaign. We need a primary Challenge. If someone stronger (Gore, McKibben, Bloomberg, Kuzinich) annaounce Ralph could quietly, and constructively withdraw. In the mean time we need Anyone But Obama.

Will (Candler) 14/9
+15 # noitall 2011-09-14 11:18
"Obama believes that those demonstrators and their followers around the country are his voters (they were in 2008) and that they have nowhere to go in 2012."
Of all the years you pick to not run for office! We need 'somewhere to go' and Obama has NO track record of living up to ANY of his campaign promises. Lots of good excuses but lots of examples of where he could have done SOMETHING but rolled over like a puppy and begged for bipartisanship, pissed off his constituents and set the Dems up for huge losses in mid-term. "trust me now" is that his new campaign slogan? I'd vote for ANYONE BUT. Now's the time to run Ralph. We need a Democratic Primary this time around. One thats a good talker, of course but one with balz and integrity in whom he actually represents and is willing to trust that group to back him up in tough times. Granted Americans aren't big on putting their neck on the line for principals but the times seem to be taking us there. Is what we have on the slate (any of the positions) all that America has to offer? Now there's an argument for Public Financed Elections! Nobody rich enough to win an election has any of the characteristics needed to SERVE when elected! Are we that morally bankrupt? That was rhetorical. The People have to get off their butts, draft good people for the slate, spread the word, and VOTE! No need for big money campaigns.
+4 # Jorge 2011-09-14 13:05
Yes, noitall, Ralph should announce ASAP that he is running for Prez (this time I promise to vote for him) or help a true Progressive decide to run and stand behind him/her during the announcement of challenging Obama. We will see how long Obama clings to his distaste for Professional Liberals/Progre ssives.
-3 # noitall 2011-09-14 11:21
No problem with pipelines? We had one in my town, did you have one? It's the modern thing to do!
+2 # BobGriffin 2011-09-14 15:43
Didn't anyone check the reference?
The article at is headlined: Olympic Pipe Line accident in Bellingham kills three youths on June 10, 1999.
Rather a cautionary article if I've ever seen one.
+5 # AlexBrown 2011-09-14 11:32
The pipeline's purpose is primarily military; as long as the Democratic/Obam a White House refuses to question Pentagon policies this kind of decision is to be expected.
+16 # drush 2011-09-14 11:35
Thanks Ralph Nader for weighing in on this.
What kind of a people would ever conceive of such an abomi-nation. Ours of course. We have been toiling against the planet for the last 500 years. Now on steroids. We can stop ourselves or sooner than later the planet will put a stop to us.
+3 # propsguy 2011-09-14 12:02
he thinks we'll vote for him because we have no where else to go? hmmm, i was quite happy to not vote ever for the first 56 years of my life.
then i voted for him. i won't make that mistake again
0 # futhark 2011-09-14 20:55
Quoting propsguy:
he thinks we'll vote for him because we have no where else to go? hmmm, i was quite happy to not vote ever for the first 56 years of my life.
then i voted for him. i won't make that mistake again

"he" is a pronoun waiting definition. I can neither endorse nor condemn your statement without the knowledge of the identity of the masculine personage to whom you refer.
+5 # jwb110 2011-09-14 12:13
There should be alternate proposals to run the pipeline thru Canada to the Pacific Coast and shipping the tar sands from there, or even refining the tar sands in that area. This is not a question of available oil so much as it is a question of funneling money into Houston, Texas to keep it the largest refiner of oil in the US. Endangering a whole country to benefit a single state is a fools mission. The price of oil will not go down and their will be no appreciable increase in employment by creating a potential time bomb of tar sands.
Just as an object lesson I will point to the creation of a pipeline to bring water, the Owens River Project. The people of the state whose lives were in jeopardy because of the pipeline sabotaged it many times.
+3 # Sallyport 2011-09-14 12:15
The tactics of McKibben & followers are pure Obamaism: give away the store before you begin. The idea of identifying oneself as an Obama supporter first & foremost and THEN saying "Please don't okay the pipeline" is simply admitting that you will support him regardless. It is to validate the Rahm Emanuel-type cynicism. Simultaneously, it denigrates the importance of identifying the pipeline project as a wholly unacceptable undertaking.
0 # wrodwell 2011-09-14 14:39
Apropos Mr. McKibben and his followers, you could call them
"ObamaNation".They wore Obama-boosting lapel pins so they wouldn't be perceived as being critical of the President (oh, the horrors!) even though their intention was to criticize the Keystone XL pipeline that Obama will most likely approve. Did they think those Obama tokens were some kind of magic charm that would ward off the "evils" of arrest and jail time? Nader's article did not mention whether or not McKibben's group was eventually arrested and carted off to jail as previous demonstrators had been. Regardless, if they were or they weren't, they showed the same kind of cynical cowardice that Obama himself has demonstrated. They deserve each other.
+1 # Billy Bob 2011-09-14 19:19
Maybe they were trying to show that they had been Obama supporters who now disagreed with him about the pipeline.
+3 # Christine 2011-09-14 19:52
What McKibben should be doing is Demanding loudly outside the door of the Democratic National Committee "WE WANT CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN - GIVE US A NEW CANDIDATE!! Start a pledge circulating that we are not going to vote for Obama until he stops the pipeline. That is one thing Obama could do on his excuses on this one!

I urge all of you reading this to call the DNC and tell them that Obama does not have your support and to find another candidate! If enough people did that we might see some change.
-4 # futhark 2011-09-14 20:59
I would prefer the more erudite formulation "Change in which we can believe". Ungrammatical sloganeering does nothing to enhance the confidence the public may have in a candidate and may reveal limitations in his or her information processing capabilities.
0 # Billy Bob 2011-09-15 10:32
I'm sure that's something of which fun would not be made!
+4 # CL38 2011-09-14 21:28
The far right in this country is stark raving, certifiably insane.
+3 # RLF 2011-09-15 05:05
And so were those that joined the Nazi party.
-2 # RLF 2011-09-15 05:04
If we are going to have a Republican president...I would prefer he get into office on the Republican ticket!

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