It seemed like the afterthought in the payroll tax cut extension fight, a small consolation prize to the Republicans on what should have been the easiest of bi-partisan votes. But the two-month clock is now ticking on whether Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada’s environmentally disastrous tar sands.
If we want him to make the right decision and deny the permit, maybe it’s time to Occupy Exxon, with creative protests at local Exxon/Mobil stations. Of course we need to keep pressuring Obama. The bill’s deadline precludes anything close to the kind of comprehensive environmental review that he called for after rallies and civil disobedience at the White House led him to delay approval for a year. But why not also go after the oil companies whose influence led the Republicans to hold the rest of the unemployment and payroll tax bill hostage to the fast-track requirement. Exxon/Mobil has long been the dirtiest of the dirty among these companies. This makes them a logical target.
In a week heralding news of melting Arctic methane beds, and a year of record global temperatures and billion-dollar weather-related disasters, demanding Keystone’s approval is a stunning exercise in denial. But that’s the deal that passed. So our challenge is not only to get Obama to reject the pipeline. We also want to make this raw power grab backfire on those who insisted on it by turning at least part of the national conversation back onto oil company greed.
The more we do this, the more political room we create for Obama both to block the pipeline and to act more forcefully on climate change in general. So just as Occupy Wall Street has got us talking about predatory banks, Occupying Exxon would get Americans thinking about destructive fossil fuel interests — whether they’re fighting for the pipeline, convincing the Republicans to block proposed cut-backs to their massive tax subsidies, or paying nothing in federal income taxes, as Exxon did as recently as 2009. Targeting Exxon links an issue most Americans may have barely heard of with a company known as an embodiment of greed. It also links Exxon’s lobbying for the pipeline with their long-time backing of climate change denial. Using strategies, scientists, and PR firms borrowed from the tobacco industry, Exxon contributed $16 million between 1998 and 2005 to groups denying human-caused climate change and spent over $55 million to lobbying, at a time when even BP and Shell were beginning to acknowledge the reality. Exxon claimed they’ve now cut this funding, but continue to back institutes and support politicians who promote denial. Read the rest of this entry →