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Obama’s Keystone Rope-A-Dope Strategy and the Left’s Self-Inflicted Powerlessness

By: PlainsEdge Sunday November 3, 2013 9:34 am

The war against the fossil fuel industry is precisely that: a war. Biosphere versus combustion. One side wins, and the other side loses. If biosphere wins, we might just be able to keep living on this green-blue orb for a few more generations yet. If combustion wins, death and extinction are the inevitable result.

At this stage of the war, combustion continues to win. Sure, from time to time, wrinkles crop up in the plan to burn it all – a spill here, a train-wreck there, a small college divesting its endowment. But industrial, fossil-fuel based civilization has a lot of momentum, and it’s not going to slow down voluntarily. This is the bleak situation that defenders of Gaia find themselves in, and there’s no time to spare.

When going into any fight, it is generally a bad idea to be passive. As long as you keep your wits about you, better to be the aggressor and make the other side react to you. Get the first punch in and you’re already winning. Poker players who don’t push the action rarely come home up for the night. When going into a meeting, those who bring the agenda are most often able to set the agenda.

For the past few months, Credo Action and have been training local groups to stage nonviolent resistance if and when the State Department announces their approval of Keystone XL. Over 40,000 people pledged to conduct civil disobedience should this occur. At the training I attended last month, people were fired up (though very few in number). Yes, people were fired up, but we were then told to wait. Wait for the State Department to conclude its National Interest Determination; wait for the State Department to respond to our comments on the EIS and produce a new document; wait for the State Department to determine whether ERM violated conflict-of-interest rules.

Meanwhile, public opinion, based on disinformation, continues to support Keystone XL, despite the public’s growing concern about climate change. But Credo and 350 seem not to be interested in changing public opinion. Where is the campaign to inform the general public? Nowhere to be seen.

For all the bluster coming from the biosphere side, this “strategy” is strangely passive. If this truly is a do-or-die situation, and every ton of CO2 and methane counts, why in the world would we let our opponents set the time frame for our action? We know that continuing business as usual is lethal to the biosphere, but we say we won’t act until the other side – in their own good time – announces a decision on the one issue of our focus, while the world keeps burning? It’s madness.

Traditionally, in environmental circles, project-by-project delay has almost always been seen as a good thing. Delay that nuclear plant and it gets more expensive and less likely to be built. Delay that coal gasification plant and it gets more expensive and less likely to be built. And so on and so on. We used to sing, to the tune of “The Lone Ranger”, “Delay delay delay delay. Delay delay delay delay. Delay delay delay delay. Delay…delay delay.”

But we face a different situation today. Delaying one combustion project might be helpful, but we now know that we really need to stop them all. We need a systemic change to undercut all the combustion dreams of the fossil-fuel crowd and their enablers. As long as the fossil fuel status-quo continues, instead of being our friend, delay is now our enemy.

We can see the wrong-headedness of our traditional strategy by watching the actions of our opponents. True, the Administration’s slow-playing of this issue won’t get the northern leg of the Keystone pipeline built, but it distracts us from the bigger picture, thereby letting the rape of the biosphere continue unabated. How long does it take for State to look at the documents and determine that ERM lied about its conflicts? That judgement could have been reached within days. Better to string it out, if you’re pro-Keystone. You may not win the battle just now, but you still haven’t lost it, and you keep winning the war. Especially since your opponents have graciously told you that they won’t go crazy until you announce a decision. Talk about giving up strategic and tactical advantage.

So, Obama hangs out on the ropes, absorbing what punches he must from the biosphere crowd. In the face of Keystone hecklers, he says jocularly, to the Democratic crowd’s delight – “This is the wrong rally. We had the climate change rally back in the summer.” Exactly. Wait for the EIS; wait for 2015 in Warsaw. Wait. Delay now works in the combustors’ favor and they know it – they keep making outsize profits while the biospherians cool their heels and wait for the day that our masters decide to let us show what we’re capable of.


Three Scenes From My Week Of Climate Activism

By: PlainsEdge Monday April 29, 2013 7:47 am

Sometimes you’re just living your life and things happen. You don’t think too much about them at the time.  But then a similar thing happens again, and again, and you begin to wonder if there’s a pattern to them.

Activists in hazmat suits block a roadway.

A recent blockade organized by the Utah Tar Sands Resistance.

That’s what I experienced last week as a climate activist.

Scene Number One:  Climate activists have come from Denver to Grand Island, Nebraska for the State Department’s one Keystone XL hearing. We get into town in time to go to Jim Tarnick’s farm for a Bold Nebraska BBQ with the farmers and ranchers, and the prayer circle led by Faith Spotted Eagle.

Next morning, we’re in our motel lobby eating the ‘continental breakfast.’ As soon as we get downstairs, three police show up in the lobby and hang out at the front desk. They don’t seem to be on much of a mission, just chatting up the desk clerk. When we leave to go the hearing, they leave too.

Scene Number Two: We stand in a Nebraska early morning spring blizzard for over two hours before the State Department decides to break their protocol and let us stand indoors in line rather than outside in the 40 mph wind and snow. That’s nice of them. After a sixteen hour day full of waiting in line, standing around, hearing amazing testimony from so many people in their three minute time slots, we finally crash after 1 AM. We’ve been inspired and activated by all the amazing Nebraskans, as well as folks from Mayflower, Arkansas, Kalamazoo, Michigan, the Gulf Coast, and other fossil fuel crime scenes who traveled to Grand Island to get their stories on the record. (You really should watch some of the video at the link above).

Next morning, Friday, we go out to our car to drive back to the Front Range. There is a police car parked in front of our vehicle, and a policewoman is leaning up against her car. As I unlock our car to put our bags in, she approaches us and asks for identification. “Is there a problem, Officer? Are you looking for someone?” She gives no response, looks at my license, says thank you, and leaves.

Scene Number Three: It’s now the following Thursday. Utah Tar Sands Resistance is having a teach-in, which we with 350Denver have been advertising. I get to the space a few minutes late. There are Occupy people there, and others. At least one other meeting is going on in another part of the building, as well, with kids and adults. Soon after I arrive, three people leave. The teach-in starts. About an hour in, a cry goes up from the the front of building: we’re surrounded by riot police and they’re threatening to come in. One of the building superintendents decides to let the police in rather than risk a confrontation. Five officers brandishing what look like automatic weapons come into the space and look around. There is talk that someone had made a phone call to the police about a supposed hostage situation at the teach-in. The police leave the building without more incident. But when the teach-in breaks up later, there are still two police cars, lights off, cars turned off, waiting in the dark street to monitor people and vehicles leaving.

Three scenes, one week. Coincidence or not?

Aerial Video of Mayflower, AR Tar Sands Spill

By: PlainsEdge Wednesday April 3, 2013 11:33 am has posted a five-minute aerial video of the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline break in Mayflower, Arkansas, northwest of Little Rock.

The video doesn’t have any commentary, but you can clearly see the booms that have been deployed in the wetlands, and the water isn’t looking too good.  The epicenter of the spill, as one news source says, is North Starlite Drive, which is some 3000 feet from Lake Conway, the largest reservoir made in the US by a Game and Fish Commission.  Of course, booms don’t do much for the heavier-than-water diluted bitumen which the pipe spewed.  As EPA found in Kalamazoo, this is a different animal than normal oil spills – it will mix with the sediment on the bottom of the waterways and is extremely difficult to get rid of.

On the web site of the footage, you can reflect how you are feeling.  At the moment, 88% of viewers are ‘furious.’

The Citizens Climate Lobby has tweeted that flights over the spill site have now been restricted.


Keystone Big Lie Number Whatever: Tar Sands Will Get Developed Anyway

By: PlainsEdge Tuesday March 19, 2013 10:50 am
Wisconsin Overpass Light Brigade: Block Keystone XL

The Wisconsin Overpass Light Brigade recently joined a week of action against the Keystone XL pipeline.

One of the recurring arguments you find for the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is that, whether or not Keystone XL is built, the tar sands will get developed and will find a way to market anyway.   This argument has a corollary – that this pipeline in itself isn’t really significant.  There are thousands of pipelines in America; this is just one more.  Pipeline promoters and the industry-affiliated authors of the State Department’s Supplemental EIS agree that this pipeline is just not that big of a deal.  Environmentalists have for some inexplicable reason picked the wrong fight.

Interesting argument on the surface.  When you think about it a little more deeply, however, it doesn’t pass the smell test.  It is one of the Keystone Big Lies.

If Keystone XL isn’t that big of a deal, why was it caught up in 4 years of studies that still aren’t done?

If it is not that big of a deal, why has Canadian PM Steven Harper become the chief lobbyist for the pipeline? You’d think he’d have better things to do than focus on this supposedly non-consequential infrastructure project.

If it’s not that big of a deal, why is the Alberta government wringing its hands that revenues are down from the tar sands, precipitating a budget crisis?  According to the Canadian Broadcast Company,, “Alberta Premier Alison Redford blames the province’s fiscal crisis on the so-called bitumen bubble — the difference between what Alberta can get for its heavy oil and what the world is willing to pay for Texas crude.”  According to, Alberta Finance Minister Doug Horner says

falling revenues for Alberta’s oil are at the root of the province’s financial difficulties. The price that Alberta gets for its oilsands bitumen has been well below the North American benchmark for oil, West Texas Intermediate. That has knocked $6 billion off what the province had hoped to take in.

And, if it’s not that big of a deal, why does the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, writing in their report “About Canada’s Oil Sands” bemoan the fact that “Current lack of pipeline market access costs the Canadian economy approximately $40 million/day.”  That’s $14 billion a year!  Not exactly chump change.

Here the facts: Current exports of tar sands from Canada to the US are about 1.3 million barrels per day.  The tar sands industry and the Canadian government hopes to ramp that up to 5.0 million barrels per day by 2030, only 17 years from now.  That is a 400% increase.  Keystone XL is designed to carry 830,000 barrels per day.  So, Keystone XL will itself allow tar sands imports to increase by 60% over current levels, on the way to the 400% increase that tar sands boosters envision.  Keystone XL accounts for about one-quarter of the additional capacity Canada seeks.  With Keystone, tar sands producers will be about 40% of the way to their 2030 goal.  Without it, they face the prospects of crossing First Nations’ land in Canada, reversing Enbridge Line 9, and pursuing other less direct pipeline pathways to the Gulf.

So, when pipeline proponents crow that Keystone isn’t a big deal and won’t have much bearing on whether the tar sands will get developed anyway, just remember, Keystone allows a 60% increase in exports on the way to the 400% increase that Canada envisions within the next 20 years.

Another way to think about how big of an impact Keystone XL would have is this: At 380,000 barrels a day for 365 days a year and at 42 gallons per barrel, if the pipeline ran for 40 years, it would have shipped 233 billion gallons of fuel.

The Keystone Supplemental EIS can be found at:

Comments can be sent to:

Obama/Kerry Drop 4PM Friday Keystone Bomb: 20 Hours Later, Liberal Websites Have Nothing To Say

By: PlainsEdge Saturday March 2, 2013 1:05 pm
John Kerry - Caricature

John Kerry - Caricature

Twenty hours after the Obama/Kerry State Department let loose the Environmental Impact Statement on the Keystone XL pipeline, declaring in the dead of Friday afternoon that it has no significant environmental impacts, I turned to the big liberal web sites to read their articles on it.  Huffington Post, nothing.  DailyKos, nothing.  Democratic Underground, nothing.

This is pretty interesting, politically.  The Dem web sites seem to be treating this as if nothing happened, because, after all, what can they say?  They are caught on the horns of a dilemma of Obama’s making.  On the one hand, they need to be seen praising Obama’s SOTU rhetoric on climate change, but now that he’s shown he’s as firmly in the hip pockets of the fossil fuel industry as any other politician, they can’t bring themselves to stand up to him, either.  The result is silence – maybe this dilemma will somehow go away on its own…

In my humble opinion, those of us who want the US to make as abrupt a turn away from fossil fuels as possible, can use this as leverage to help destroy the Democratic Party as we know it.   It’s clear that the Democratic Party has drunk the fracking fluid – some, literally, like our once-beloved Governor Hickenlooper, now bound for greater glory (fawning articles in the Harvard Business Review and a little trip to Davos for the World Economic Forum means he’ll be moving up soon) and others, only symbolically, like Dear President.  Fracking fluid probably wasn’t on the beverage list when Dear President golfed with his gas industry buddies while 50,000 mostly-Democrats rallied outside his house. But I’m sure he performed the equivalent action to get where is he now.  Gotta prove you’re a member of the club, after all, before they’ll let you in.   I wonder, too, if there were high-fives all around at the golf game when BO announced that the EIS will be released in two weeks and that you fellers will be very happy with what it says.

So, Democratic environmentally-minded voters have a choice to make: planet or party.  I hope that those of us who have made the only rational and moral choice, planet, can find an effective way to make those voters make a choice, as well.  If we can do this, perhaps we can reveal the Democratic Party for the corrupt institution it is, and reshape the politics of this country.

Obama and Clinton- Recall These Execrable Climate Representatives

By: PlainsEdge Thursday December 6, 2012 10:23 am

Amy Goodman had a very interesting exchange yesterday with US Climate Negotiator Jonathan Pershing.  The US has been criticized now for years as one of the primary obstacles to a globally binding treaty which meets the requirements of climate science.  Indeed, as one of Amy’s guests said yesterday, Obama has actually been a worse influence on these climate negotiations than Bush was.

Here is Amy’s “who’s your daddy” exchange with Pershing :

AMY GOODMAN: …Yesterday, a number of civil society groups held a news conference, and they said at that news conference—Kumi Naidoo of Greenpeace International said, “Todd Stern and Jonathan Pershing have come to Doha with their needles stuck in the groove of obstructing the U.N. process, an art they have perfected.” And he said that it is “disrespectful of President Obama to inflict on us two negative negotiators who act as if the comments he made after his election were never made. Obama should pick up the phone and tell his delegates to follow his lead, or, alternatively, call them back to Washington.” That’s what Kumi Naidoo said. Jonathan Pershing, are you following President Obama’s wishes? And how do you respond to civil society groups who are saying that the U.S. is the lead obstructor to any kind of negotiated deal here in Doha?

JONATHAN PERSHING: I have no comment on the first part of that.

Of course you don’t have a comment on that, you officious prick!  But it is obvious that you are doing exactly the bidding of your employers, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama.  So much for the meme that Obama was merely waiting until after the election to be our progressive hero.  By their fruits you shall know them, and the shite doesn’t fall far from the asshole.

Of course, it’s a fool’s errand to think we can get Clinton and Obama to recall their hand-picked negotiators at this late date, but we can let the White House know that they aren’t fooling us – that we know Pershing and Stern speak for them and that this makes Clinton and Obama some of the worst perpetrators of violence against Mother Earth.  Recall Stern and Pershing!