A Letter to the President: No on XL

Dear President Obama,

arkansas_spill

The news today had several stories about meetings you held with major supporters in which you (so the news goes) indicated support for the Keystone XL pipeline. Please do not do this, and stick to your earlier opposition. Sometimes democracy fails us when the majority acts against the interests of others. We have many safeguards against the tyranny of the majority; this was a major concern that shaped the basic institutions of our government. This is just such a case. I hear you arguing that the economic benefits of jobs that will be created will out weigh the costs we will incur during the building and operation of the pipeline. Public opinion is said to support the project, but I doubt, giving the poor quality of the information the public has, that their support is solidly grounded.

From the start, economics is a faulty calculus. It is just as faulty as all the arguments made in support of slavery, stemming from economic criteria. No. Slavery was simply wrong. So would be the building of this pipeline. It adds to the unbearable shackles we have already put on Nature. Any “rational” argument you and others can muster would be little more than an arbitrary case shaped by the hegemony of economics over any other reasons for action or non-action. One key factor you must consider is that the pipeline, if built, will break at some point, as have most other “fail-safe” means of bringing petroleum products to the market. If you haven’t viewed the pictures of the latest pipeline failure in Arkansas, you must look at them before you take any action. We are quick to recognize and grieve over the tragedies brought by humans on other humans, but not so for tragedies wrought by humans on nature.

There is no inevitability to building the pipeline, as some have argued claiming that we “have to” exploit every conceivable source of energy we can wring from the earth. But this is wrong-headed. It is true that, without asking fundamental questions about our culture, we must find the energy sources that fuel our greedy, modern, industrial economies. Wrong again, the only source we can count on in the long run is not to be found in the Earth. Clean energy is not the solution. Solar energy is. In any case, this project can’t be considered clean energy by any stretch of the imagination. The extraction of bitumen from tar sands is the most energy inefficient and environmentally damaging way to power our society using fossil fuels.

I realize that my arguments here are nothing new. You must know in your heart that this project is simply wrong. It’s not worth it. Stop listening to those with a large economic stake in this. Find a quiet moment and listen to Mother Nature. Listen to the voices of the future who will pay the costs hidden in the justifications being made today. Now would be a perfect time to show us that you are a President for both now and the future.

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3 Comments

David M Carter said:

A beautifully written letter, John! I hope you sent it to Mr. Obama. Perhaps the NYT, Globe, or Times would be interested in publishing it as an educated guest piece.

Rick Yoder said:

Global warming is real and its effects on our climate are accelerating much faster than we thought. Your stand against the Tar Sands Pipe Line will draw attention to the seriousness of Climate Change in a major way. We need an honest national public discussion on this.

Peter Quigley said:

Hi John
Just got your book yesterday looking forward to it.
On Kansas it occurs to me that one aspect of sustainable systems is the increase in efficiency by the strategic elimination of waste. Given the nonsense that passes for sustainable thinking perhaps Kansas is ahead of the curve on this one.

Best regards
The ever hopeful, Peter