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NY Times Editorial Makes The Climate Case Against Keystone

Tar sands oil (Photo credit: Water Defense)The March 11 editorial in the New York Times says the overriding reason President Obama should reject the Keystone XL pipeline is climate change. [New York Times]

“The State Department’s latest environmental assessment of the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline makes no recommendation about whether President Obama should approve it. Here is ours. He should say no, and for one overriding reason: A president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that — even by the State Department’s most cautious calculations — can only add to the problem.”

It goes on to say that the assessment

“… fails to consider the cumulative year-after-year effect of steadily increasing production from a deposit that is estimated to hold 170 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered with today’s technology and may hold 10 times that amount altogether. It is these long-term consequences that Mr. Obama should focus on. Mainstream scientists are virtually unanimous in stating that the one sure way to avert the worst consequences of climate change is to decarbonize the world economy by finding cleaner sources of energy while leaving more fossil fuels in the ground. Given its carbon content, tar sands oil should be among the first fossil fuels we decide to leave alone.”

India’s breakneck pace of industrialisation is causing a public health crisis with 80-120,000 premature deaths and 20m new asthma cases a year due to air pollution from coal power plants, a Greenpeace report warns. [UK Guardian]

API and the Chamber of Commerce will be coordinating rallies and running “grassroots” campaigns across the country following the draft State department review of Keystone. [The Hill]

A new study finds that climate change is causing seasons in the Arctic to be more like those in southern regions. [Ottowa Citizen]

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, Chief of US Pacific forces, said significant upheaval related to the warming planet his biggest worry.[Boston Globe]

Wonkblog asks ‘Can the world fight climate change and energy poverty at the same time?’ and finds the two goals are in tension with each other, but can be done. [Washington Post]

Two years after the Fukishima accident, the Union of Concerned Scientists has issued a report saying nearly one in six U.S. nuclear reactors experienced safety breaches last year, due in part to weak oversight. [Wall Street Journal]

Global climate change means portions of the Antarctic have less ice, which in turn means there’s less food to eat for Adelie penguins. [NBC News]

A study looking into the effectiveness of different batteries has found that the environmental savings from switching over may be negligible until better storage technology is developed. []

A report in Nature Geoscience looked at rainfall data between 1979 and 2010 and found that the wet seasons were already clearly getting wetter while the dry seasons became drier. [Climate Central]

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Pieter Siegers's picture
Pieter Siegers on Mar 12, 2013 9:10 pm GMT

We know all that the report written by the DOE was a scam:

Now what is your opinion about this?

John Miller's picture
John Miller on Mar 13, 2013 12:22 am GMT

Did you mean the NY Times Editorial makes a vague, general case against climate change?  The connection directly tied to the Keystone pipeline appears to be missing from the Editorial.  What does weak Indian coal power plant stack emission environmental standards, poorly designed Japanese nuclear plant emergency power backup systems, existing and growing Arctic/Antarctic climate impacts, and ineffective EV programs have to do with the Keystone XL pipeline project?  Completing the Keystone pipeline into the U.S. may increase world carbon emissions by 5 MMT/yr. beginning 2015 while world projected total carbon emissions will be 33,500 MMT/yr.  The impact of the Keystone is negligible compared to the coal power plants China and other Developing countries add each year.  Even if President Obama blocks the project for whatever reason the oil will still flow.  Re. WSJ article March 12, 2013: “U.S. Refiners Tap Canadian Oil by Rail”.  This reported 200,000 barrels per day rail shipments is only the beginning.  So what will blocking the pipeline project accomplish other than directionally missing out on an opportunity to improve U.S. energy security and continued support of our most important trade partner, Canada?

Pieter Siegers's picture
Pieter Siegers on Mar 13, 2013 3:42 pm GMT


The point that you are really missing that it is time to leave behind our addiction to fossil fuels and that includes action of all countries on this planet and yes that also includes cancelling whatever project (even if it's tiny in your eyes) which will contribute to further worsening the problem.

I am curious do you ever think beyond your nose's length?

Do you have children?

Are you being paid maybe by those who maintain the big oil cartel? I wonder... what is your real motivation?

Anyways, the project should be cancelled because it is not tiny, it is actually internationally a BIG (political) issue now and well it is simply a very bad idea.

And Canada disappoints even more - or should I say better Alberta? - they should be ashamed of themselves - they better focus on using renewables because on the long run these energy sources will be beneficial for everybody and not only those who are part of the 1% most wealthy persons or families in this world. That is where the real problem lies. But the more they fight to keep their money making machines intact the more they will be digging their own grave.

Pollution now has a very high price on the long run.

I think you should be ashamed of yourself writing like this.



James Thurer's picture
James Thurer on Mar 13, 2013 5:39 pm GMT

Proposing to combat climate change by blocking the XL pipeline is like treating a skin cancer by applying a cosmetic lotion and covering the sore with a bandage.  It is worse than doing nothing, because it gives the impression that treatment is being applied, while in reality the process is ineffectual.

There are several policies that the global community, and the U.S. particularly, could and should be enacting right now that would be far more effective in reducing greenhouse gas emissions than blocking the pipeline.  A partial list includes the following:

1)  Convert transportation fuel use to natural gas (either cng or lng) as much as possible. 

2)  Replace baseline electrical power generation by coal and natural gas with nuclear and biomass burning.

3)  Reduce the release of nitrous oxide by minimizing the use of nitrogen fertilizer in agriculture.  This would include replacing the corn ethanol mandate by cultivating perennial grasses to use as a feedstock for biomass burning and by encouraging the production and importation of sugarcane ethanol; encouraging the production of grassfed beef (as opposed to corn fed), and promote the cultivation of gmo crops that are capable of fixing their own nitrogen.

4)  Discourage excessive fossil fuel consumption for transportation by greatly increasing excise taxes on fuel.  The revenues collected could be offset by reductions in other taxes or means tested increases in entitlements, so that they do not result in undo hardship on those who are not well off.

All of these things could be enacted right now, using technology that exists right now, and most of them would save consumers money.  Yet we do not pursue them, largely because of the misguided activism of self-described environmentalists.  (By the way, I have come to believe that the title environmentalist has become one of the most abused words in the English language.)

Indeed, many of these solutions are opposed by those who claim to be so concerned about climate change.

When I see the "environmental activists" start chaining themselves to the White House fence about meaningful climate policy, I will take them seriously.  Right now I don't.

Frankly, I personally don't much care if the pipeline is built or not.  I do care deeply about confronting climate change, and I wish the the self-described environmental activists would get out of the way so that the grown ups can solve the problem.



Pieter Siegers's picture
Pieter Siegers on Mar 13, 2013 7:54 pm GMT


Would you mind repeating yourself after taking out two or three contradictions? You don't care about the pipeline coming, but you care 'deeply' about confronting climate chage? You really care a lot but want to burn a lot of natural gas, lots of that? Nuclear waste means nothing to you?

I think you should re-investigate the whole energy future picture to correct yourself, and then maybe you will see that to really combat climate change it does start with cancelling projects that on the long run are adding significantly to the trouble.

It is easy to see that natural gas has been invented to let the wealthy people keep on going with their money making cows... it's the alternative to oil, but does it promise to lower emissions on the long run? The answer is a clear no.

NY Times says it here very well:

Solar and wind can easily take care of our energy needs now and in the future. They create jobs and do not pollute our air.

Fossil fuels, even the bio-fuels, are NOT needed at all, period.

Last but not least, you are talking about environmental activist being kids and not knowing about the situation? Let it be so in some cases, but don't tell me the grown-ups have done a marvelous job until now! And those 'kids' actually have woken up lots of sleeping people, including myself!


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