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On the Great Plains, We Say "No" to the Keystone XL Pipeline

Nathaniel Batchelder

Nancy Zorn and Stefan Warner are two Oklahoma City activists with the Great Plains Tar Sands Resistance, arrested for nonviolently protesting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  Opposition to the pipeline and development of the Canadian tar sands is based on a long-range view of tar sands development and its threat to sustainability on earth.

A major concern is the huge contribution tar sands oil is projected to make to global warming and climate change.  Ninety seven percent of climate scientists agree that the primary cause of global warming is the rising atmospheric concentration of CO2 and methane resulting from human activities.  

NASA’s leading climate scientist Dr. James Hansen has called the Keystone XL pipeline “a fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the planet.”

Climate scientists tell us humanity must reduce the level of CO2 in the atmosphere from its current level over 400 parts per million to below 350 ppm.  Every species, every habitat, all of earth’s life systems are threatened by global warming and climate change.  

Australia’s Great Barrier coral reefs show signs of dying.  Polar ice caps and mountain glaciers around the world are melting.  Extreme weather is reported regularly.  Storms and rising seas flood coastlines where billions live.

The Canadian tar sands region to be deforested and mined is the size of Florida.  The tar sands product is a toxic substance that must be mixed into a volatile slurry to be piped through the U.S. to Texas. Leaks and spills from the Keystone XL pipeline will threaten water sources all along its route.  

TransCanada’s existing tar sands pipelines leaked 14 times in one year. In 2010, another spill dumped a million gallons of crude oil into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River.  The recent oil spill in Arkansas is yet another wake-up call. 

Unions supporting Keystone are eager for jobs.  But the pipeline crew is basically hired, and, in any case, pipeline construction will be temporary.  By contrast, clean energy jobs will be permanent, cannot be exported, and slow the warming of earth’s atmosphere.  

The implications of global warming got attention with the 1989 publication of Bill McKibben’s book “The End of Nature.”  He explained the heat-trapping quality of CO2 and other “greenhouse” gases.  He reported the average car generates its own weight in CO2 every year. 



Burning coal for electricity is another major source adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Global warming reduces worldwide food production and threatens natural systems that support life.

President Obama’s “all of the above” strategy supports all energy sources including fossil fuel production.   This must be replaced with a “clean energy now” strategy favoring development of non-polluting and eternal energy sources like wind and solar, to help shift away from CO2-producing fossil fuels.

Future generations call us to say “No” to the Keystone XL pipeline.


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

Nathaniel Batchelder

Nathaniel Batchelder is a Vietnam veteran and has been director of the Peace House Oklahoma City since 1990 – a center for public education on justice, peace and environmental issues.

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