Everyone who helped slow down TransCanada's "Keystone XL" tar sands juggernaut -- rural farmers and ranchers, Native Nations, organized labor, elders, faith leaders, youth, environmentalists and others who protested at the White House this summer and fall -- should be proud of what we have accomplished. By bravely standing together and uniting our voices against Big Oil, we forced President Obama to react to our demands. His decision to delay a decision on the pipeline until after the 2012 election is a testament to the power of the people.
But let's not kid ourselves: opponents of Keystone XL have "won" nothing, save more time to organize. Now is not the time for victory celebrations, but for redoubling our efforts to beat back this lethal energy scheme. When you have your opponent staggered and against the ropes, you don't back off and let them recover their strength. You keep on coming until you've landed the knock out punch.
President Obama's punt on Keystone XL needs to be called out for what it is: an act of political cowardice. This deeply cynical political ploy was designed to placate both his environmental base and the oil lobby. He shrewdly calculated that throwing environmental groups a bone in the form of more studies would be enough to win back their support. Since when did we start giving presidents a pass on making tough decisions until after Election Day?
Alternatively, the President's announcement gives hope to TransCanada that he will deliver their tar sands pipeline if they will just wait until after the election, when the political pressure is off. Of course, the other message to Big Oil is that should he lose the election, the next Republican president will almost certainly approve Keystone XL. If I'm TransCanada, I like my odds.
We must demand a decision from President Obama on Keystone XL before the 2012 election.
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On the day of President Obama's announcement, CNNMoney reported TransCanada's CEO remained confident Keystone XL would ultimately be approved. Here in Lincoln, where the Nebraska Unicameral convened a special session in response to deep concerns over threats to the Ogallala Aquifer, the legislature used President Obama's announcement to craft a deal with TransCanada that may end up fast tracking the pipeline through Nebraska, the one place in the country where resistance to Keystone XL was the strongest. The smiles on the faces of TransCanada representatives at a press conference last week telegraphed their heady confidence that they will ultimately get their pipeline. Now they're saying they think it is "definitely doable" to start laying pipe from Oklahoma to Texas as early as January.
During the past five weeks, the Keystone XL "Tour of Resistance" has traversed 1,000 miles of the proposed pipeline route, meeting with farmers, ranchers and indigenous leaders along the way. The people on the front lines of this fight want TransCanada's presidential permit denied, not delayed. The other message we are hearing is the urgent need for America to begin the transition away from polluting fossil fuels and towards green, renewable energy.
Ironically, the day before President Obama's delay announcement, the International Energy Agency warned that humanity will lose the chance to halt irreversible climate change if we don't take bold action to cut fossil fuel emissions in the next five years. Yes, Keystone XL must be blocked, and tar sands exploitation must be halted. But that is not enough. President Obama needs to develop a green energy plan that puts unemployed Americans back to work leading a worldwide green industrial revolution. It is time to turn the rust belt into the green belt by building the solar panels, wind turbines and electric cars needed to power the 21st Century. A president with the vision to call for a green energy moon shot for America is a president worthy of our support.
This calls for all sectors of society, not just the President, to lead boldly and courageously. Turning the tide of the climate and economic crises will require all hands on deck, from Capitol Hill to City Hall, from CEOs to NGOs, from Main Street to Occupy Wall Street. The American people have shown they are ready to take back their power. Now who is ready to lead?