Confronting a Senate Beholden to 'Big Oil'

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350.org

Confronting a Senate Beholden to 'Big Oil'

An update on the battle to stop the Keystone XL pipeline

After a very chaotic week on Capitol Hill, I wanted to write you with an update on what happened in the Senate on Friday.

First and foremost: the oil industry’s Senators did not manage to pass legislation that would force President Obama to build Keystone XL.

Because you — people all across the country — jumped into action this week, they backtracked and instead held a vote on a nonbinding resolution that says it would be nice to build the pipeline, but doesn’t actually do much about it. For that vote, they got the stomach-churning number of 62 Senators to vote with them. As usual, the ones who had taken the most money from the fossil fuel industry lined up to cast their votes—the cosponsors of the bill, on average, had taken $807,000 in dirty energy money.

Now, this amounts to symbolic chest thumping by the oil industry: showing just how many Senators they can get to jump when told to. It’s not the worst thing that could have happened, but it reminds everyone why, in one recent poll, congress had approval ratings lower than head lice and colonoscopies — even on the symbolic stuff, they can’t get it together to stand up to the oil industry guys cutting them checks.

In a certain way though, this vote couldn’t come at a better time. Congress is going on break, and for the next two weeks, these 62 Senators will be back in their home states, doing things like meeting with constituents — people like you.

Home states are where some of the most heroic work took place the last week — in Minneapolis, say, where 150 350MN.org activists showed up on very short notice at Sen. Klobuchar’s office in a snowstorm to tell her to vote no on Keystone (and she did, it should be added).

If you’re interested in following in the fine example of those leaders who held actions at their senators offices, you have a chance in the next two weeks.

We’re looking for people who can step up to lead, and then we’ll put the 350 network into action to get people to join you. If you want to lead an action, just click here to tell us when you’d like to do so:

Look, there are two ways to react to a democracy for sale. One is to walk away in disgust, which is what the Koch Brothers count on. The other is to stand up and say: no more. If you visit your Senator, take some pictures or some video so we can share them around. It’s time to build this broader fossil fuel resistance.

And remember, Capitol Hill is not the center of the world. Around the country last week our friends at Tar Sands Blockade have been actively targeting Keystone investors; faith groups have been hauled off to jail in front of the White House to protest the pipeline; and the divestment campaign has expanded off college campuses and into municipal and state governments.

The movement is doing amazing stuff — we just need more of it. We can’t outspend the oil industry, but we can out-organize them. In fact, we have to.

Bill McKibben

Bill McKibben is Schumann Distinguished Scholar at Middlebury College and co-founder of 350.org. His most recent book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

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