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Sierra Club, the Keystone XL Pipeline and the illusion that Obama cares

March 8, 2013

Earlier this week, MLive ran a guest column from the Sierra Club’s State Director for Michigan, Anne Woiwode.

The article focused on the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline and why is would be bad for Michigan, the country and our collective environmental future.beverly-luff_sarah-reid_gary-stuard

Woiwode made solid points about how the Keystone Tar Sands Project is the dirtiest form of fossil fuel being proceed anywhere in the world. She also made it clear that the realities of Climate Change are becoming too apparent to ignore and the urgency of Climate Change requires “drastic changes.”

The Michigan Director for the Sierra Club states in the first paragraph, “Our country needs a solid economic boost, but not one that comes with the risk of poisoned drinking water and a massive contribution to climate disruption.” This is sound commentary, but beyond the obvious of why the Keystone Tar Sands Project is a disastrous idea, the Sierra Club spokesperson is just plain naïve and even wrong on some critical aspects of this issue.

The first naïve notion is that President Obama made the right decision last year by not approving the Keystone XL Pipeline. Obama was working an election year and didn’t want to unnecessarily alienate environmentally minded voters, so he backed off from the Keystone XL Pipeline, which is different than denying it, as Woiwode suggests.

Secondly, the Obama administrations, like all administrations since fossil fuels have become the primary energy source, is beholden to the fossil fuel industry. Woiwode mentions people going from Michigan to DC to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline, but where was the President that weekend? Obama was out of town playing golf with oil executives.

Third, the Sierra Club Director for Michigan seems to think that Sen. Carl Levin would be an advocate against the Keystone XL Pipeline. I’m not sure how she draws this conclusion, since Levin is the Chair of the Armed Services Committee and a staunch defender of US militarism, which is one of the most fossil fuel dependent and environmentally destructive forces on the planet. (see Barry Sander’s book, The Green Zone)Enbridge tar sands map in MI

Most importantly, it is naïve to think that the President is going to stop the Keystone XL Pipeline from happening, especially since it is already being built around the country and in Michigan. The excellent work of the folks at LineB6 Citizen’s Blog, has been tracking the construction of the Enbridge tar sands pipeline in Michigan for over a year, with regular postings and pictures of the new pipe that is being laid.

What this really means is that the Keystone Pipeline is a done deal, unless people decide otherwise and engage in direct action to stop it from becoming a reality. This is not really a choice, since as Dr. James Hansen has said over and over again, if the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline is completed it will be a death sentence for climate. When groups like the Sierra Club to continue to put stock in the safe and ineffective strategy of lobbying for change, they send a message that the political system in the US still works. More importantly, they send the message that there is no real urgency on this issue, since they are not calling on people to put their bodies and their lives on the line to stop this madness.

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