Keystone XL: The Choice is Clear

tarsandsWe live in a capitalist country – a place where those who can, provide services to those who can’t. This is a place where growth and progress are valued, and where innovation and technology are not only valued, but respected. It seems only natural then that one might think newer innovations in how we access our energy technology should be welcomed with open arms in this country.

In the case of the tar sands oil slated to be pumped through TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline, however, nothing could be further from the truth, nor should it be.

Innovation and technology, though important to our cultural identity, are not the only things that count, nor are they the only things that mark our character as a nation. Pristine natural offerings like the gushing geyser basins of Yellow Stone National Park, and the throng of migratory birds and wetland wildlife who find a home in Florida’s Everglades also underscore important considerations of our society.

Once looked to as a beacon of light willing to lead the world in matters of freedom, charity, and equality, the United States has suffered some severe blows to its reputation over the last few decades in regard to choices in foreign and domestic policy. We can again become forward thinking leaders of the world stage, however, if only our president and State Department are willing to listen to leading climate scientists and environmental experts speaking on the issue of the Keystone XL pipeline.

James Hansen, NASA’s longtime expert of climate science, in no uncertain terms told us a year ago in a New York Times editorial that if we approve this project it will mean “game over for the climate.”

In an atmosphere where 350 parts per million or less of carbon is what is considered compatible with life as we know it on this planet, we now see levels as of this past April of over 398 ppm, according to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration. We need to ask ourselves then why the idea of continuing to develop carbon emitting fossil fuel sources is even considered innovative at all at this point.

In a recent letter to the State Department the Environmental Protection Agency cited tar sands oil as “significantly more GHG [(greenhouse gas)] intensive than other crudes.” This is a sobering thought for those worried about the steadily rising carbon output infiltrating our atmosphere.

Among the dirtiest of all sources of energy on the planet, the wealth of tar sands oil sitting beneath Canada’s boreal forest, one of the Earth’s largest and most vital carbon sinks, if tapped to capacity, will add an estimated 120 ppm of carbon to our atmosphere while simultaneously stripping us of a vital defense system in the carbon cleansing vegetation of the boreal forest.

If we want to recapture the status of not only celebrated world leaders, but of truly innovative technicians of the future, we are going to need to abandon last century/millennium thinking on this issue and embrace as well as bolster our development of cleaner, safer, greener sources of energy.

If it’s innovation and technology we want, there’s a nearly untapped, endless resource in green energy just begging at our fingertips. If the future we’re leaving our children is of any consequence, the choice is clear.

-Sass Linneken

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Photo Credit: www.wisconsin.sierraclub.org

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