This past Sunday, I drove down to Washington, D.C. for a protest against the Keystone XL Oil Pipeline. Proposed in 2005 by TransCanada Corporation, the pipeline has been a hot-button issue for environmentalists and political leaders alike. They argue that its construction will cause irrevocable environmental harm — both by increasing “dirty” carbon emissions and through likely oil spills — and that it will reduce American energy security.
These concerns stem from the fact that the pipeline will transport oil from tar sands deposits — from which extraction is mostly carbon and water intensive — a poor track record of response to spills and leaks, and the under-publicized fact that the oil will largely be exported. To this end, critics contend that the U.S. will be exposed to high risks without reaping the majority of economic benefits produced by the pipeline. Proponents argue that the pipeline will create jobs — principally in construction and maintenance — and that the environmental threats are overhyped.
Over the past three years, the Obama administration has postponed approval of the pipeline multiple times, stating the need for better environmental impact surveys or simply more time to gather relevant information. A few portions of the pipeline were approved and are already under construction, but the President has the final say over whether the project reaches completion.
President Obama must not approve the Keystone XL Pipeline. It is a pet project of Big Oil, and will serve select business interests at great physical cost to the general public. Estimates for job creation range from a measly 500 to 2,000 jobs, many of them temporary. Much of the oil would be exported to China and other irresponsible polluter nations, serving to exacerbate the already insurmountable problem of anthropogenic climate change while doing little to increase American economic viability.
The president has spoken continuously of improving American energy independence through development of sustainable sources and reduction of fossil fuels. Should he sign off on the pipeline, he will lose all environmental credibility and force an increasingly climate conscious public to face the fact that their government does not serve their interests. Not that this is anything new, of course, but Obama’s 2012 reelection brought a growing progressive coalition into the spotlight, and it would be a great mistake to ignore this freshly tolerant group.
When your campaign slogan is “Change,” your constituency rightfully expects you to be firm in your commitment to combat the the status quo, which has long profited special and elite interests while relegating the true agents of democracy to nothing more than votes to be cajoled and lied to every four years.
Sunday’s demonstration was advertised as the largest environmental protest ever. Reports place attendance between 35,000 to 50,000. We gathered under the Washington Monument in freezing weather to show our fellow citizens and our government representatives that we will stand together in the face of moneyed adversity, that we will follow in the democratic tradition of peaceful advocacy for the good of the people.
It is the responsibility of humans alive today to provide their descendants with a healthy environment. If we continue to act without foresight, we will reduce the standard of living for centuries to come. Extreme weather, loss of ecological services and physical health defects like asthma and certain types of cancer will continue to plague our world, and could eventually threaten the basic tenets of societal construction.
I urge my fellow students and peers to take action against the Keystone XL Pipeline. Write your congressperson, make your voice heard on social media, show that you are among those who understand that more is at stake than the next paycheck.
Exercise your responsibility as citizens of the most powerful country on earth — a global leader at risk of losing what moral authority it has left — and as a member of the human race. Say NO to Keystone XL.
Nicholas DePaul is a senior Sustainable Globalization major from Los Angeles, Calif. He is a staff writer for The News-Letter.