Rejecting Tar Sands Key Step in 'Decarbonizing' World's Energy Economy

Published on
by
Common Dreams

Rejecting Tar Sands Key Step in 'Decarbonizing' World's Energy Economy

Economists, scientists send joint letter calling for rejection of Keystone XL pipeline

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer
(Elvert Barnes / Flickr / Creative Commons license)

(Elvert Barnes / Flickr / Creative Commons license)

Over one hundred concerned scientists and economists urged President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry to say no to the Keystone XL pipeline in a letter sent to the White House and State Department on Monday.

In the letter, the scientists outline the dangers of extracting what has been called the world’s dirtiest fuel within Canada's tar sands fields—in particular, the drastic consequences of burning the carbon intensive reserves for the world's present and future climate crisis.

"As scientists and economists, we are concerned about climate change and its impacts," the letter states. "We urge you to reject the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline as a project that will contribute to climate change at a time when we should be doing all we can to put clean energy alternatives in place."

As the letter's authors point out, fuels produced from tar sands produce the most greenhouse gas emissions over their lifecycle than any other fuel produced from conventional oil. The development of the Keystone XL pipeline, which will run from Canada to Gulf Coast refineries for tar sands export all over the world, would cause "sizeable expansion" of tar sands production and thus a drastic increase in this greenhouse gas pollution.

Former NASA Scientist James Hanson called this scenario “game over” for the climate. 

The letter continues:

As you both have made clear, climate change is a very serious problem. We must address climate change by decarbonizing our energy supply. A critical first step is to stop making climate change worse by tapping into disproportionately carbon intensive energy sources like tar sands bitumen. The Keystone XL pipeline will drive expansion of the energy intensive strip mining and drilling of tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, increasing global carbon emissions. Keystone XL is a step in the wrong direction.

Annual emissions related to the pipeline equate to more than what is emitted from seven coal fired power plants combined.

"The letter comes at a critical time when President Obama and Secretary Kerry are in the process of making their determination about whether the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is in the national interest," notes Elizabeth Shope at the Natural Resources Defense Council.

The recent release of the State Department's Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) of the Keystone XL pipeline "chose an inconsistent model for its 'most likely' scenarios," the letter states, "using business as usual energy scenarios that would lead to a catastrophic six degrees Celsius rise in global warming."

"Six degrees Celsius of global warming has no place in a sound climate plan," the experts warn.

The letter follows more than 2 million public comments sent to President Obama and Secretary Kerry calling for the rejection of the pipeline.

The Obama administration has continuously put off the decision on the pipeline and, as reporting at The Hill suggests Monday, is weighing the political implications for such a move ahead of this year's midterm elections.

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