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Tar Sands Opponents Mobilize to Thwart Senate Keystone Push

- Common Dreams staff

A decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to allow floor votes this week on a number of amendments to the federal transportation bill, have opponents to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline mobilizing to ensure the amendment goes down to failure.  The vote on Keystone could come as early as today, but may take place Thursday or Friday.

Keystone Activists Take the Message to DC. This Keystone amendment, sponsored by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) and attached to the pending transportation bill, "is bad for government process and worse for America’s national interest," NRDC president Frances Beinecke said today.

An action alert from Sustainable Business today also notes, "There are other provisions that would be approved too, including forced expanded oil drilling and repealing EPA's crucial clean air boiler rule. There are so many reasons to reject the pipeline. The only reason to accept it are the millions of dollars big oil is piping to politicians to push it through.

"Another week and another attempt by the oil soaked Senate to revive the Keystone XL pipeline," said Jamie Henn of 350.org which, along with NRDC, is one of the main environmental groups opposed to the pipeline. "Right now, Senators are considering a couple different amendments designed to expedite approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. This morning, 350.org volunteers in Washington, DC took to the streets with a model of the Keystone XL pipeline and a banner reminding Senators of the 800,000 messages concerned Americans sent to the Hill opposing the project."

Allowing the Senate to force approval of the project would undercut President Obama's rejection of the project which was guided by an environmental impact and "national interest" review conduct by the State Department. Such a move, according to Beinecke, "would bypass our nation’s long-standing environmental review process and give Congress the unprecedented authority to hand out permits on massive projects."

"Make no mistake: the Keystone XL pipeline will not be built. And this movement to take on the fossil fuel industry is just getting started." --Jamie Henn, 350.org

Beinecke takes on the pipeline's proponents main arguments for the dirty oil project in a blog post today, taking specific aim on the claim that the pipeline would help eleviate high gasoline prices for consumers:

The company behind Keystone XL, TransCanada, has admitted the pipeline would increase the price Americans pay for Canadian oil by up to $4 billion a year. It’s no wonder oil companies want to build it.

In 2009, TransCanada told the Canadian government that Keystone XL is meant to relieve the oversupply of oil in the Midwest. By diverting oil to ports in the Foreign Trade Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, the pipeline would cause oil prices to rise in the Midwest which will likely mean consumers will pay more at the pump for their gasoline.

In other words, in addition to all the other forces driving up gas prices—tensions with Iran, supply disruptions in Libya and Sudan, a tripling of cars in China in the last five years—Republican lawmakers support a project that could increase gas prices even further for millions of Americans.

Importing oil from Canada has never helped America get off the oil price rollercoaster.  Over the last 11 years, the amount of oil we bought from Canada increased 50 percent, yet gas prices have tripled over that same period, with ups and downs along the way.

America cannot control the long-term price of oil; it is set on a global market and shaped by global forces. But we can reject a dirty pipeline that would increase oil prices in the Midwest. And we can shield ourselves from future price hikes by embracing real transportation solutions.

Proven solutions like cleaner cars, sustainably grown biofuels, bus rapid transit and light rail systems, bike and pedestrian-friendly policies, and other transit options can end oil’s monopoly on our economy and put money back in our pockets.

Smart policies can achieve that. President Obama has raised fuel economy standards to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.  Within 20 years, better-performing cars will save drivers more than $80 billion a year at the pump while cutting our oil use by more than we imported from Saudi Arabia and Iraq in 2010.

Climate change, pipeline oil spills, contamination of drinking water. This tar sands pipeline has grave implications that warrant careful consideration, not hasty political decisions.

President Obama already determined that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline needs more review. The Senate must oppose any amendment to approve the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Congress must stand for accountability to public safety and the environment, not for higher profit margins for oil companies.

The 44 Senators who are co-sponsoring the amendment have taken over $20 million dollars in total from the oil industry, which critics see as a clear indication of how profoundly big oil money has corrupted the Senate's approach to energy issues.

In an action alert, 350.org, suggested there were two easy ways for citizens to take action against the move in the Senate:

One, you can make a call - just click here to get your Senators' phone numbers.

TwoYou can use Facebook and Twitter so that everyone knows they’re getting the message. Senate staff monitor these accounts closely, and they show the public how a Senator's constituents feel about the pipeline. We set up a tool that connects you with your Senators' Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, where you can leave a note about stopping the pipeline: Click here to send them a message on Facebook and Twitter.

"Make no mistake," said Henn, "the Keystone XL pipeline will not be built. And this movement to take on the fossil fuel industry is just getting started."

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