See the original of this article on the Earth Island blog.
The first wave of Keystone XL Pipeline protests – the arrests at the White House – was one for the books. At a time of crisis in the climate movement, and in the Obama presidency, the protesters managed to open a major new front in the carbon war and even to invigorate the domestic climate movement. Moreover, there’s every reason to hope that the resistance to the pipeline will keep rising. Still, a friend of mine recently asked me: “Why oppose this project and why now? Why is this an important line in the sand?”
It’s a fair question. And it’s critical to realize that the answer does not turn around the dangers of a pipeline spill, though these are real, but on the climate implications of tar-sands development. Right now, as it becomes obvious that the supply of conventional oil is not infinite (see, for example, here, and here), the future of energy is coming into play in a new way. And so it’s absolutely imperative to prevent the better possibilities from being closed down by a junkie energy policy that doubles down on fossils by targeting high-carbon, “unconventional” dregs like Canadian bitumen. In fact, allowing major investments in fossil-dregs infrastructure would be catastrophic, even in this a world of catastrophes.
Others have done rollups of the arguments against XL. See, for example, this quick briefing. But I’m going to skip right over the politics, the economics and all the other local color and head straight for the tar-sands / climate-catastrophe math. I’ll try to get it clear because, while lots of us have heard that Jim Hansen says it’s “game over” if the carbon in the unconventional Canadian fossil fuels is liberated, few of us know exactly what he means.