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Why I’m Getting Arrested

August 6, 2011

There are a number of reasons, I suppose.

  • Get out of the house.
  • Do something useless that at least has a storyline.
  • It’s what I know how to do.
  • Trip through the mountains when I get out.
  • It’s how I fight wars.

We’ve been in this ongoing energy war since Iraq 1. Iraq 2, we got the oil contracts. Afghanistan, forward bases. Libya, supply for NATO. Sometimes it’s a shooting war, sometimes just diplomatic hegemony. With oil supplies at their peak, prices are only going to go up, along with Chinese demand. Western companies have the Middle Eastern contracts locked up, extracting the profits. What little China can get from drilling off Cuba and its own coast isn’t all that much. There are Canadian tarsand oil. It’s nasty, but there’s a lot of carbon there.

How about a pipeline from Canada to Ft. Worth for shipping it around through Panama? What to do? It’s an environmental disaster, U.S. military and industry say they don’t want it because it’s too dirty what with our clean air regulations. China buys a big stake in the Alberta mining operation, holds $1.5 trillion in U.S. debt as leverage and gets our ally Canada to threaten with NAFTA and oil restrictions in times of shortage if we don’t allow the pipeline to be built down through Nevada. Nice move China. Beating America at its own game. But it’s going to be crunch time soon, isn’t it? Either we blink or we shoot. What to do?

Thankfully, I don’t have to decide. I just have to get arrested in a vain attempt to point out what a bad idea all of this is. So… here’s the PR.

Beginning on August 20th, a coalition of environmental groups will begin a two week period of staged arrests outside of the White House in an attempt to convince President Obama not to grant a permit to construct the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline from Albert Canada, across the pristine reserves of the Western U.S., through the Oglala Aquifer, and down to the Gulf Coast of Texas.

I will be one of those arrested.

The environmental reasons to be opposed to this mammoth project are many. Most of the good, sound, scientific reasons are contained in a letter recently sent to the President by 20 leading scientists urging him not to grant the permit. Those scientists said “When other huge oilfields or coal mines were opened in the past, we knew much less about the damage that the carbon they contained would do to the earth’s climate system and to its oceans. Now that we do know, it’s imperative that we move quickly to alternate forms of energy — and that we leave the tarsands in the ground.”

Because this pipeline will cross national borders, it will be – at least in theory – the President’s sole decision as to whether to live up to his campaign promises and to do the right thing, or not.

  • Tar Sands are the dirtiest, most environmentally destructive sources of carbon, far greater than conventional oil.
  • Tar Sands oil extraction is the most costly to mine and refine.
  • The Keystone XL (Xtra Large) pipeline will carry 900,000 barrels of toxic sludge across vital waterways and aquifers.
  • The environmental impact of mining tar sands is as bad as mountaintop removal for coal, if not worse.
  • The Alberta Tar Sands project has been rightly described as the world’s largest ‘carbon bomb’ which, if consumed, will doom any effort to limit global warming
  • We need to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels, not increase it.

Yes, the environmental reasons to oppose Keystone Xtra Large are many. But there is another reason to oppose Keystone. It’s not strategically good for the U.S. economy or U.S. jobs. Why? China.

This project is being driven not just by the desire by oil companies for profits, it’s being driven by the Chinese government in its worldwide quest for energy dominance. In his recent trip to China, Canadian Foreign Minister Baird said Canada has “a strategic partner, whether it’s on energy, natural resources, international affairs”, referring to China. The Chinese government-sponsored PetroChina has already invested over $2 billion in the Alberta Tar Sands operation, giving it a 60% stake in the operation. They plan to produce up to 35,000 barrels a day by 2014, and eventually up to 500,000 a day ( from Alberta and up to 900,000 barrels through the pipe at full capacity. The evidence is overwhelming, the plan straightforward. A surrogate spokesperson for the Canadian government, Peter Burn, even threatened that Canada would retaliate by withholding Canadian oil from the U.S. in times of shortage if the pipeline were not approved.

It is clear that U.S. territory is nothing more than a conduit for Chinese energy, from Alberta, down through sacred Western Lands, across the Ogallala Aquifer, to refineries and ships berthed in Texas. From there it will go through Panama to the Chinese mainland, where it will fuel Chinese industry and undercut our own. This may sound anti-Chinese; it is not. It is anti-industrial expansion using dirty oil. It wouldn’t matter whose industry it was.

This is a bad idea every way you look at it, and President Obama has the power to stop it. For the good of the environment, for the good of the people in its path, for the good of American industry and jobs and for the survival of the planet, the President should deny this permit.

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