Is it just me? Or do you detect some eco-sanctimonious hypocrisy in much of the “save the planet” anti-fossil crusading that is going around as well? Like, for example, when just weeks after the First Family deposited Air Force One carbon flight-prints between Washington and Hawaii over the Christmas holidays, the president then jet-fueled off again to practice puts in balmy Florida, while Michelle, Sasha and Malia separately greenhouse gas-emitted their way to ski Aspen slopes.
Meanwhile, as a mother polar bear somewhere wept over the desperate fate of her cubs (overpopulation), and despite the past 17 years of flat global temperatures, thousands of Keystone XL opponents braving near-freezing temperatures and biting winds, protested in front of White House gates. Although the size of the crowd was variously estimated to be somewhere between 10,000 and 30,000 people, no information was released regarding just how many of those anti-oil activists rode bicycles to the event.
Whether or not the rally was actually the “largest climate-change protest in U.S. history” as billed by organizers, it was, by enthusiastic media accounts, truly an action-packed celebrity spectacle. How often do you get a chance to see actress Daryl Hannah, environmental activist Robert Kennedy, Jr., civil rights leader Julian Bond, NASA climate alarmist James Hansen, Sierra Club director Michael Brune and dozens of others all arrested at one time?
Well, come to think of it, that has become rather commonplace for Hannah and Hansen, who have been through this routine on multiple occasions. It was the fourth such occurrence for Hansen, who heads the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Yet remarkably, he continues to retain his government civil service position with apparent impunity. Do you suppose he might possibly have friends in high places? (Shucks…only a random thought.)
Dr. Hansen rose to celebrity status as the star witness who attributed climate change to man-made influence during then-Senator Al Gore’s famously steamy 1998 Senate Science Technology and Space Committee hearings that got global warming frenzy off to a blazing start. As Gore’s Senate colleague, Timothy Wirth, later told PBS Frontline: “We called the Weather Bureau and found out what was historically the hottest day of the summer…so we scheduled the hearing that day, and bingo, it was the hottest day on record in Washington, or close to it…we went in the night before and opened all the windows so that the air conditioning wasn’t working inside the room.”
Hansen is well- known for keeping those climate alarm bells ringing. He served as climate advisor for Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth movie; and the next time you hear “NASA reports that such and so day, month or year was the hottest since yadda, yadda, yadda”…check the source. Chances are pretty good that it will be none other than the Father of Fright himself.
By the way, Dr. Hansen received a $250,000 award from the Teresa Heinz Foundation. Remarkably, that was soon before he publicly endorsed her husband in 2004 for his unsuccessful presidential run, again, a highly unusual act for a civil servant. Yup, the husband I’m referring to here is our new Secretary of State John Kerry, the fellow who will make the final Keystone XL pipeline decision.
There can be absolutely no doubt that Hansen doesn’t like oil one bit, having called for CEOs of large fossil fuel companies to be put on trial for “high crimes against nature and humanity.” Robert Kennedy, Jr., certainly agrees. In 2007 he said: “The most important thing you can do is to get involved in the political process and get rid of all of these rotten politicians that we have in Washington DC—who are nothing more than corporate toadies for companies like Exxon and Southern Company. These villainous companies that consistently put their private financial interest ahead of American interest and ahead of the interest of all of humanity. This is treason and we need to start treating them now as traitors.”
But here’s the rub. If we lock up all of those oil and gas people, then where are we going to get the energy to transport environmental saviors around the country and world when it’s too cold for bicycles, there’s no electricity for trains or to recharge plug-in cars, and not enough wind for sailboats? And what about power for latte machines, iPods, and smart phones we depend on? Where’s that going to come from?
Oh, I bet some of you were going to suggest wind. The problem there (along with anemic overall capacity, unreliability, inefficiency, and high costs, of course), is that “environmentalists” like Robert Kennedy, Jr., his uncle, the late Senator Ted Kennedy, and former Senator Kerry haven’t seemed to like that idea at all. Not, at least, if those big turbines wind up cluttering their panoramic views off Nantucket Sound.
Kerry explained his reasons this way: “I’ve always said that I think Senator Kennedy has raised very legitimate issues with respect to the siting process and with respect to location. I’ve also suggested that it’s my opinion there may be even better locations for it. I’ve sat with Jim Gordon [president of Cape Wind], I’ve sat with other folks, I’ve met with Coast Guard people. I’ve tried to do due diligence on it, and I’m not sure there aren’t both windier and, you know, more accessible areas.”
Okay. So in other words, it’s not that they don’t like wind power. They just don’t want it located near their pricy homes. Sound familiar?
They’re not alone. A 2011 U.S. Chamber of Commerce study found that 140 so-called “renewable projects” had stalled, stopped, or been outright killed due to “Not in My Back Yard” (NIMBY) environmental activism. This is being accomplished by a variety of strategies, including organizing local opposition, changing zoning laws, preventing permits, filing lawsuits, and using other long delay mechanisms, effectively bleeding projects dry of their financing.
Absolutely no energy options are immune from environmental challenges. No, it’s certainly not just “dirty” coal, oil and natural gas, that are being challenged…or those “hazardous” nuclear plants. Wind turbines slaughter birds and bats; solar power disrupts fragile desert ecosystems ; hydroelectric dams are under assault for killing fish; ethanol and biomass fuels produce greenhouse gases just as fossils do; and geothermal power releases toxic ground and water contaminates.
In one example among many, the Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club, filed a lawsuit challenging a 100-turbine wind development in mountains north of the Mojave Desert. They claimed the project posed threats to California condors, golden eagles, southwestern willow flycatchers and bats.
And what about those solar environmental advantages…like protecting the planet from climate-ravaging carbon dioxide emissions? Well, maybe not, according to a letter of protest from three environmental organizations to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management over new Department of Interior rules intended to streamline approval for solar energy projects on hundreds of thousands of acres of federal land. The letter complained that “no scientific evidence has been presented to support the claim that these projects reduce greenhouse emissions.”
If that wasn’t bad news enough, the letter also said that the environmental impacts from the solar panels “…are long-term (decades to centuries)” and threaten the habitat of “…endangered species, including the desert tortoise, Mojave fringe-toed lizard, flat-tailed horned lizard, golden eagle and desert bighorn.”
Oh, there’s one other thing. Solar can’t really be counted on at night to recharge those Obamacars, regardless how much taxpayer green we dump into both industries.
Still, with salvation from dreaded climate catastrophes on his action agenda hot list, President Obama pledged during his inaugural address: “We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” He went on to shame anyone who disagrees with this assessment, saying, “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires and crippling drought and powerful storms.”
Will blocking the Keystone XL pipeline help to prevent any of that? Fortunately, it appears that maybe it won’t really have to after all. Regarding wildfires, their numbers since 1950 have decreased globally by 15%, and according to the National Academy of Sciences, they will likely continue to decline until around mid-century. As for those droughts, a recent study published in the letter of the journal Nature indicates that globally, “…there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.” Also, global hurricane activity is at a low not encountered since the 1970s, while the U.S. is currently experiencing the longest absence of severe landfall hurricanes in over a century.
Regrettably, that comforting information isn’t likely to influence the ideological climate within the current Obama administration. Nor will it alter the “none of the above” energy strategy (especially fossils), that environmental lobbies are pushing. Accordingly, blocking the $7 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which would deliver more than 800,000 daily gallons of Canadian crude oil, represents a sentinel priority.
Although TransCanada has already invested $1.7 billion in pipe, along with millions more to obtain right-of-way easements… multi-volume environmental impact statements have determined that it would have “no significant impacts”… and the State of Nebraska has approved a revised routing which will protect sensitive areas… activists are ratcheting up even more pressure for the administration to reject it. They also ignore the fact that 50,000 miles of pipeline already crisscrosses the U.S., about half of which is in that contested Ogallala region, using technology that has proven to be safe. Since it crosses U.S. borders, the final decision falls within State Department jurisdiction.
Those opponents carry big political clubs. As expressed by Tiernan Sittenfield, senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters: “This is not just about LCV which spent nearly $1 million to help elect Obama in 2008, or any other group that engages in electoral politics in the upcoming election. It’s about people out there who care deeply about the environment, how much they volunteer, how many doors they knock on, how much they contribute directly. We have LCV voters who maxed out in the Obama campaign in 2008 who have told us they are not going to give this time around if the President approves this pipeline.”
So the President kicked the decision can down the road until after the election, and there’s no question about it…they came through for him.
On the other side of Obama’s Democratic base, any direct pipeline veto would have brought wrath from unions who have been backing the project. Included are the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, the Teamsters, the Labors’ International Union, the Building & Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, and the United Association of Plumbers & Pipe Fitters for the U.S. and Canada. They want jobs, and so do other Americans who depend upon oil-fueled industries. Keystone XL represents an estimated 20,000 union job opportunities.
All of which begs the ultimate question. Where will that oil and those jobs wind up? According to TransCanada CEO Russ Girling, if crude delivery can’t begin as scheduled, “Those shippers will only wait so long, and then they will start looking for other markets. Similarly, the refiners can only wait so long for Canadian crude oil to come into their marketplace.” A key prospective market is shipping it by (gasp) greenhouse gas-belching, climate-cooking tankers to Asia where it will fuel lots of internal combustion engines.
The answer now resides with Secretary Kerry, who said during his Senate confirmation hearings that “It will not be long before that [Keystone decision] comes across my desk. And at that time, I’ll make the appropriate judgments about it.” Previously, in 2011, as chair of the Foreign Relations Committee which oversees the State Department, Kerry offered some hope to both camps, stating: “There’s a lot at stake here and I’ll do my best to leave no question unanswered including every possible economic and environmental consideration before a final decision is made.”
While final results of Kerry’s deliberations are highly uncertain, Keystone opponents do have good reason for optimism. At his confirmation hearings, Kerry called climate change a “life-threatening” issue, and endorsed clean energy options as an important job-creator. As a self-described “passionate advocate” for confronting climate change during his Senate tenure, he led unsuccessful efforts to push greenhouse gas legislation through Congress. The League of Conservation Voters gave him a perfect 100 percent scorecard in 2011. And as Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the National Resources Defense Council observed, “Senator Kerry has obviously been a strong leader on climate change, and we don’t think that’s going to change as Secretary of State.”
She might very well be right about that. Unlike the natural climate, some conditions never seem to change at all.
Reprinted with permission from Forbes online, February 26, 2013.