A battle is raging in the US over whether we use our resources to benefit the haves or to protect those who don't have as much as the most wealthy among us. We see this where tax cuts for the millionaires are required in order to continue giving unemployment benefits to the out-of-work. It took place around the attempt to reform Wall Street. We see it in cuts to education, and attempts to bust unions. The latest battle over whom our country chooses to protect goes straight to the heartland, in the form of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, currently under review by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline deals with what is called "dirty oil" tar sands. Tar sands production carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher that those of conventional oil. The amount of oil Keystone XL would carry is equal to the pollution level of adding six million new cars to our roads. Tar sands mining operations involve a vast drilling infrastructure, open pit mines, and toxic wasteland ponds up to three miles wide. The extraction process involves strip-mining and drilling that injects steam into the ground to melt the tar-like crude oil from the sand and requires a massive amount of energy and water.
In addition to pollution and harm to the environment, Keystone XL directly puts at risk the land of families across a full stretch of our country. The pipeline would cross through six states and several major rivers, in addition to the Ogallala aquifer, which supplies clean water to two million Americans. The present Keystone pipeline has already experienced seven leaks, making the question when, not if, Keystone XL will also have a disastrous spill.
As if all of that wasn't reason enough to call this a bad idea, Keystone XL is actually expected – by its operating company's own admission – to raise the prices of oil in the Midwest, and not bring it down in the rest of the country.
Whenever such a harmful project is en route to approval, it needs to be asked who stands to benefit from it. Unsurprisingly, two of the key people best placed to benefit from this pipeline are the Koch brothers. As As David Sassoon of Solve Climate reports, via ClimateProgress:
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"The Keystone XL pipeline, awaiting a thumbs up or down on a presidential permit, would increase the import of heavy oil from Canada's oil sands to the US by as much as 510,000 barrels a day, if it gets built. … A SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records, shows that Koch Industries is already responsible for close to 25% of the oil sands crude that is imported into the United States, and is well-positioned to benefit from increasing Canadian oil imports.
"A Koch Industries operation in Calgary, Alberta, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers. Flint Hills Resources Canada also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline."
Keystone XL is only the latest political fight where the Koch brothers hope to keep secret their involvement and financial interest. And now they're going after Midwest land, the property passed down through generations of family, and the safety of our drinking water and air.
This Monday, the House energy and commerce committee Republicans held a hearing on the pipeline, in an attempt to push through approval even more quickly than the present process allows. This act of political theatre is another attempt by conservatives to push through the pipeline's approval, against the wishes of American homeowners, farmers and ranchers. Those in the pipeline's path have criticised the rushed nature of the state department's review process for approving the pipeline. Hearings have not been held on the department's latest draft analysis.
Just last week, environmental and ethics groups sued the state department to gain access to possible communications between a lobbyist for Keystone XL and the state department. The TransCanada lobbyist in question is Paul Elliott, who formerly worked as the national deputy director for Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign. The state department initially refused to fulfill a freedom of information request concerning his role; while reversing that decision, they have still delayed releasing the information since.
What happens next rests with Secretary of State Clinton, who has said that a final decision will be made on Keystone XL by the end of 2011. Brave New Foundation has made the above video to raise attention about the issue. We need to keep the pressure on and get the word out. Secretary of State Clinton, the country is watching: please say no to the Koch brothers and big oil, and protect the livelihoods and interests of ordinary Americans who can't afford lobbyists.