President Obama: Keystone XL must pass climate & jobs test

In his final press conference of 2014, President Obama spoke frankly about the so-called “benefits” to Americans of the Keystone XL pipeline. He points out it’s Canadian oil being transported over the United States to be sold on the global markets, with very little benefit to U.S. consumers. It’s good for the Canadian oil industry but doesn’t even nominally benefit Americans at the gas pump. President Obama also lists the climate-change related costs, such as rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy and more wildfires and floods, that should be taken into consideration. It’s very refreshing (albeit long overdue) to hear the President of the United States being honest about this project and the mounting cost of climate change.



(And this final 2014 press conference President Obama called exclusively on female reporters for questions, which started a twitterstorm of debate. Nicely played, Mr. President.)

President Obama also weighed in on the controversial Keystone XL during his visit to the Colbert Report earlier this week.

The full segment is below; the Keystone XL conversation starts at 11:40 and runs to 13:20.




Keystone is going through an evaluation process. Right now it is being held up by a court in Nebraska which is making a decision about whether the route is legal or not.

In the first instance, I don’t make the decision or not. The State Department evaluates it. What I’ve said I’m going to make sure that if we look at this objectively, we’ve got to make sure that it’s not adding to the problem of carbon and climate change. Because these young people are going to have to live in a world where we already know temperatures are going up and Keystone is a potential contributor to that. We have to examine that, and we have to weigh that against the amount of jobs that its actually going to create, which aren’t a lot. Essentially this is Canadian oil passing through the United States to be sold on the world market. It’s not going to push down gas prices here in the United States. It’s good for Canada; it could create a couple of thousand jobs in the initial construction of the pipeline. But we have to measure whether it’s going to contribute to an overall warming of the planet, which could be disastrous.”

University Sustainability Initiative Saves Climate And Its Bottom Line, While Canada’s Economy Suffers From Lack of Green Practices

New Jersey’s William Paterson University adopted a climate action plan in 2009 that puts the university on a path to becoming carbon neutral by 2065 – and to reducing their baseline by 50 percent by 2025. A cornerstone of that work is their 3.5 MW solar array that snakes around parking lots and buildings.

*Budget conscious universities take heed: the university has spent less than $250,000 on their energy reduction projects and has saved $10.5 million in energy costs. That’s a tremendous amount of saving for doing something that’s good for the planet and enrollment numbers.*



Meanwhile here in Canada, thanks in large part to our federal government’s single-minded preoccupation with the exploitation of fossil fuel resources at any cost, our economy is expected to face “significant economic repercussions”  because of large-scale neglect of green practises. A Post Media article by Mike DeSousa states that a recent National Roundtable on Energy and the Environment (NRTEE) report asserts:

“Canada risks serious harm to its national economic interests by not proactively developing frameworks nor engaging in initiatives related to Life Cycle Approaches domestically and globally,” said the report.

It also warned that forcing companies to comply with regulations requiring a life cycle approach to their operations in a short time frame would require “larger and more immediate investments” to either respond or “risk losing market share.”

“This risk is real and Canada must act now to maintain its competitiveness,” said the report. Read more here.

No wonder the respected NRTEE’s entire budget was just cancelled by the Harper government, which has demonstrated a distinct penchant for shooting messengers. Interestingly, on Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird stated that the NRTEE’s demise was directly tied to its recent reports supporting a carbon tax, but the Harper government has been backtracking since then on Baird’s statement. But judge for yourself – Baird stated in the House of Commons:

“It  [the NRTEE] should agree with Canadians. It should agree with the government. No discussion of a carbon tax that would kill and hurt Canadian families.”

Wow – a carbon tax will “kill and hurt Canadian families”!  Has anyone told the citizens of Alberta and British Columbia this?  Time to head for the hills!

More links:

Power and Politics Video: Environment Panel’s End Blamed On Support For Carbon Tax

Pushing Carbon Tax Cost Research Agency Its Funding, Tories Confirm

Canadian Economy Facing “Significant Economic Repercussions” By Neglecting Green Practises

William Paterson Wins! Sustainability Initiative Boosts School Pride

Rethinking “Business As Usual”

As the heads of state for the G20 countries gather in Cannes for their annual conference, where the economy will be high on the agenda, I thought it would be fine to contemplate a vision of a post-consumer society, where people work fewer hours. They may also choose to pursue re-skilling, homesteading, and small-scale enterprises that can help reduce the overall size and impact of the consumer economy. Produced by the Center For the New American Dream, it’s narrated by economist and best-selling author Juliet Schor (


More links:

Center For A New American Dream

*Thanks, Jen, for forwarding this link*

Congressman: Tar Sands Pipeline Would Turn U.S. Into Canadian “Sewer”

During a meeting with Canadian First Nations leaders this week, Congressman Dennis Kucinich spoke out against the proposed 2,750-kilometre-long Keystone XL project which would carry oil from the Alberta tar sands across the United States:

We cannot trust the oil interests to do the right thing for the economy, for the environment. We know that…We saw what happened when we let the oil interests get ahead of the regulation of their industry in the Gulf of Mexico. We are not going to let them turn the rest of North America into a sewer through the tarsands project.”

Source: Crude in Syncrude: Ugliness at Tar Sands Duck Trial
Pelican in Gulf of Mexico during last year's BP Oil Disaster


This is a crucial moment for Americans to speak up loudly and let the State Department know that it mustn’t approve this project, which benefits TransCanada Pipeline and the Koch brothers at the expense of Canadian wilderness, First Nations health and traditional territory, American land and water, and all of our future.


Click here to send the State Department a message.

Keystone Pipeline Would Turn U.S. Into Canadian “Sewer”: Congressman

“Maybe the Truth is, Without A Healthy Environment, There Is No Economy”

From My Green Conscience blog, a fabulous visual essay review of the book “Climate Wars” by Eric Pooley. As My Green Conscience states:

Franke James merges science, art and storytelling to inspire people to take action and “do the hardest thing first” for the planet. Franke uses her skills as an artist, photographer and writer to create visual essays on environmental and social issues. She is the author of two award-winning books, Bothered By My Green Conscience and Dear Office-Politics, the game everyone plays.

Here are a few of the vivid and evocative images from Ms. James’ essay:

Go to “Ending the Climate Wars” to view/read the full essay.

More links:

The Climate War: True Believers, Power Brokers, and The Fight to Save The Earth, by Eric Pooley, Deputy Editor of Bloomberg Businessweek.

David Suzuki asks “What’s the Real Bottom Line?”

David Suzuki,  a Canadian scientist, broadcaster, and tireless environmentalist who was recently voted the person Canadians most trust, has a new CBC radio show on Sundays between 11:00 and noon. The 10-part show,  The Bottom Line, premiered last week.  The first two hours have been fascinating listening. The show describes its goal as:

“Exploring the disconnect between our modern values and the natural world. Environmentalists are often told by politicians and corporate executives that without a strong growing economy we can’t afford to do the kind of things they are demanding, that the economy is the bottom line. This series is a celebration of the earth, the atmosphere, water, soil, and energy of the sun that work in tandem to sustain life on this planet. The true ‘bottom line’.”

The first episode featured discussions between Mr. Suzuki and Jim Prentice, Canada’s Environment Minister while they were in Haida Gwaai marking the expansion of a federal park. Suzuki pushes Prentice on the false dichotomy that still persists in this government’s attitude between the environment and the economy. The old “we can’t do anything about the environment unless we have a strong economy” argument. Suzuki clearly presents the urgency of climate change and environmental degradation, and Prentice doesn’t “get it” at all. His responses to Suzuki’s questions include such platitudes like: “It’s about balance.” “We are taking steps forward.”We’ve set a goal of reducing emissions to 17% below 2005 levels.” “I’m proud of the scientists we have at Environment Canada.” “We need technology to address these issues over time.

Really Mr. Prentice?!The former Chief Economist at the World Bank has said that if the world doesn’t deal in a heroic way to reduce emissions, the consequences of climate change are economically catastrophic. The risk to humanity from climate change is second only to the threat of nuclear war. And yet this is the anemic response Canadians get from our government – “we hope that some technology comes along to save us eventually because we can’t possibly find ways to reduce our emissions, the highest per capita in the world”! Good grief. It’s pathetic.

Anyway, The Bottom Line is worth listening to, just to hear Suzuki and Prentice offer their very different points of view. And Mr. Suzuki is pretty gentle on Mr. Prentice, considering that the Environment Minister’s responses were so inadequate.

Also in the first episode is an interesting interview with Lord Nicholas Stern, former Chief Economist at the World Bank and author of a report on climate change and economics for the British government. Stern says that the current view that separates the economy and the environment is “a basic analytical and intellectual mistake.” In the future, he asserts, the two will be seen as working together. And in response to David Suzuki’s questions about the lack of urgency in the world’s response to this looming disaster, Stern states that Britain and the rest of Europe know from their experience with two World Wars last century that the inability to cooperate internationally leads to disaster, and hopefully this experience will assist in addressing the problem of climate change:

We’ve got to use the rationality that developed with evolution to anticipate these problems. We’ve got the ability, we’re going to have to use that. If we wait for experience to tell us we’re in trouble it’s going to be almost impossible to get out of it. People need to understand the great dangers, but we need to go beyond that and talk about the great opportunities that we’ll create if we go the sensible route.

“Sensible route”? Sounds good to me! Are you listening, Mr. Prentice and Mr. Harper?

Listen to “The Bottom Line”.

More links:

David Suzuki Looks Back With a Hint of Regret. Globe and Mail

“The Bottom Line” on Facebook

The Global Deal: Climate Change and the Creation of a New Era of Progress and Prosperity by Nicholas Stern.