Join the Blockade of the Keystone Pipeline

Published on ZNet, by Chris Hedges, Oct. 17, 2012.

The next great battle of the Occupy movement may not take place in city parks and plazas, where the security and surveillance state is blocking protesters from setting up urban encampments. Instead it could arise in the nation’s heartland, where some ranchers, farmers and enraged citizens, often after seeing their land seized by eminent domain and their water supplies placed under mortal threat, have united with Occupiers and activists to oppose the building of the Keystone XL tar sand pipeline. 

They have formed an unusual coalition called Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). Centers of resistance being set up in Texas and Oklahoma and on tribal lands along the proposed route of this six-state, 1,700-mile  proposed pipeline are fast becoming flashpoints in the war of attrition we have begun against the corporate state. Join them. Blockaders dropped a banner off a 40-foot-tall wall made of timber scaffolding in the path of the Keystone XL pipeline designed to delay TransCanada before they reach activists currently occupying a tree village in Winnsboro, Texas. (SOURCE: Flickr/Tar Sands Blockade)

The XL pipeline, which would cost $7 billion and whose southern portion is under construction and slated for completion next year, is the most potent symbol of the dying order. If completed, it will pump 1.1 million barrels a day of unrefined tar sand fluid from tar sand mine fields in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar sand oil is not conventional crude oil. It is a synthetic slurry that, because tar sand oil is solid in its natural state, must be laced with a deadly brew of toxic chemicals and gas condensates to get it to flow. Tar sands are boiled and diluted with these chemicals before being blasted down a pipeline at high pressure. Water sources would be instantly contaminated if there was a rupture. The pipeline would cross nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, source of one-third of the United States’ farmland irrigation water. And it is not a matter of if, but when, it would spill. TransCanada’s Keystone I pipeline, built in 2010, leaked 12 times in its first 12 months of operation. Because the extraction process emits such a large quantity of greenhouse gases, the pipeline has been called the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet. The climate scientist James Hansen warns that successful completion of the pipeline, along with the exploitation of Canadian tar sands it would facilitate, would mean “game over for the climate” … //

… Grass-roots organizing along the proposed pipeline has grown, especially as the project began to be put in place.

If completed, the 485-mile southern leg, from Cushing to Nederland, Texas, would slice through major waterways including the Neches, Red, Angelina and Sabine rivers as well as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which provides drinking water for some 10 million Texans. The southern section of the pipeline is now the focus of the Tar Sands Blockade.

The invasive extraction of tar sands and shale deposits, as well as deep-sea drilling in the Arctic, Alaska, the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico, has been sold to the U.S. public as a route to energy independence, a way to create millions of new jobs and a boost to the sagging economy, but this is another corporate lie. The process of extracting shale oil through hydraulic fracking, for example, requires millions of gallons of chemically treated water that leaves behind poisoned aquifers and huge impoundment ponds of toxic waste. The process of extracting oil shale, or kerogen, requires it to be melted, meaning that tremendous amounts of energy are required for a marginal return. The process of tar sand extraction requires vast open pit mining operations or pumping underground that melts the oil with steam jets. Tar sand extraction also releases significantly more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil drilling, meaning an acceleration of global warming. Drilling in the Arctic, with its severe weather, costs as much as half a billion dollars per well. These processes are part of a desperate effort by corporations to make profits before a final systems collapse. Droughts are already sweeping the Midwest. The battle between farmers and fossil fuel corporations for diminishing water sources has begun. Yet our ruling elite refuses to face the stark reality of climate change. They ignore the imperative to find other ways of structuring our economies and our relationship to the environment. They myopically serve a doomed system. And, if left unstopped, the cost for all of us will be catastrophic.

Weis, a former congressional staffer, expects the last section of the pipeline to be authorized by the president once the election is over.

“It is critical that people understand that completion of the southern leg of Keystone XL–which President Obama and Gov. Romney both fully support–would give TransCanada a direct line from Alberta’s landlocked tar sands mine fields to refineries in Texas for export overseas,” Weis explained. “By tapping into Keystone I, which has already been built, the southern leg of Keystone XL would open the floodgates to tar sands exploitation in Canada. At a time when the climate is already dangerously destabilizing before our eyes, I can’t believe we’re even having this conversation.”

He described Obama’s and Romney’s “failure to stand up to this corporate bully” as a “failure to defend America.”

“It is unconscionable to put the interests of a transnational corporation before the health, safety and economic well-being of the American people,” he said.

Weis sees the struggle to halt the Keystone XL pipeline as a symbolic crossroads for the country and the planet. One path leads, he said, toward decay. The other toward renewal.

There comes a time when we must say to the ruling elite: ‘No more,’ ” he said. “There comes a time when we must make a stand for the future of our children, and for all life on Earth. That time is here. That time is now.”
(full text).

Links:

Merkel’s Rival Strikes Early, on The New York Times, by Melissa Eddy, Oct. 18, 2012;

Phantom tales, on South Jersey news, by KRISTEN DOWD, Oct. 9, 2012.

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