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The D.C. Earthquake Makes For an Alarming Case against the Keystone Pipeline

Jacqueline Marcus

The August 23rd earthquake that rocked D.C. all the way up to Martha’s Vineyard where the President is vacationing should be an alarming wake up call to President Obama on how easily a crude oil pipeline can rupture from a crushing earthquake.

It’s bad enough that this President gave the thumbs up to Arctic offshore oil drilling.  "The Arctic’s Beaufort Sea is plagued with high seas, shrieking winds, darkness, sea ice, and minimal visibility. Yet, the Obama administration just approved aggressive offshore drilling in these harsh waters—before doing a full environmental review, and without requiring reliable safety equipment or an approved oil spill response plan." (

The President still has a chance to be on the right side of history by saying NO to Arctic drilling and NO to the Keystone pipeline projectwhich threatens to poison our fragile ecology, agricultural land and fresh water aqueducts.  The pipeline is from the oil sands of Alberta and would run from Canada through Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. In addition, the consumption of this oil would be the same as setting off a “carbon bomb into the atmosphere,” as environmentalist and activist Bill McKibben put it, by intensifying global warming beyond the tipping point.

As for creating jobs—that certainly is an appealing selling point, but as the Gulf residents who lost their livelihoods in the fishing, real estate and tourism industries worth billions of dollars a year before they were swept away or lost to BP’s black tides of oil will tell you, it’s not worth the risk of employing 5 to 10,000 workers temporarily for Canadian oil that in the end will not make our gas prices cheaper because it will be sold on the international market.  Just ask the Gulf residents who were in the fishing industry what they think about more oil coming their way. Sen. Bernie Sanders is right: we can produce a lot more jobs with the creation of green energy technology.  In fact, solar and wind companies are beginning to boom and they’re doing it without the Federal government.  You can’t stop progress.

Lastly, the public has learned too many times that there’s no way to prevent oil spills. The August 23rd earthquake is an urgent red warning to the President that ruptured pipes from earthquakes and floods are happening with far more frequency and violent velocity under climate change conditions than ever before.  The rising floods that left thousands of people homeless is the reason Exxon-Mobile’s pipeline ruptured into Montana’s Yellowstone River.  By approving these dirty energy projects, Obama will be  making climate change conditions worse knowing full well that  there is no efficient way to prevent or to clean oil spills, especially in the Arctic’s turbulent and icy dark seas.  Did this President learn anything about the message of climate change when he stood in front of the tornado damaged homes in the mid-west?

Will President Obama have the good conscience or moral fortitude to do the right thing?  We’re waiting to see. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

Jacqueline Marcus

Jacqueline Marcus is the author of Close to the Shore (Michigan State University Press). She taught philosophy at Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo, and is the editor of

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