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White House to Be Encircled by Tar Sands Activists on Sunday November 4, 2011

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 Bryan Farrell

Waging Nonviolence/NewsAnalysis
Published: Friday 4 November 2011
 
“Not only will they be coming back to the White House, but this time they’ll be encircling it.”

A lot has happened since 65 people (including myself) were arrested in front of the White House on August 20th to protest a planned 1,400-mile pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. For starters, over a thousand more people from across the country were arrested in the subsequent two weeks, including big names like NASA climate scientist James Hansen, author Naomi Klein and actress Daryl Hannah. Support from high places soon followed, from the New York Times editorial page to nine Nobel Peace Laureates.

Momentum kept rolling throughout September with protests popping up at Obama campaign events and an impressive day of civil disobedience where over 200 people were arrested on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. As attention continued to swirl around an issue that had only weeks prior been known by environmentalists and people living along the proposed pipeline route, cracks within government began to emerge.

By early October emails emerged detailing a scandalous relationship between State Department employees and a former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign leader turned pipeline lobbyist. The New York Times called this discovery a “flouting of environmental law.” Not long thereafter, 20 members of Congress and three high-ranking senators expressed “serious concerns” about the pipeline and the State Department’s tainted approval process

Continuing its reckless behavior, the State Department announced this week that it had lost tens of thousands of public comments on the pipeline and won’t say how the remaining will be handled. Perhaps this level of inaction and the negative press that followed led President Obama to step forward on Tuesday and assume full ownership of the ultimate decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. He even went as far as to downplay the importance of jobs the pipeline might bring, saying, “I think folks in Nebraska, like all across the country, aren’t going to say to themselves, “We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means that our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health …”

Author Bill McKibben, de-facto leader of the Tar Sands Action movement, called Obama’s first comments on the pipeline a major turning point:

“Only a day ago the President’s press secretary said the State Department would make the call. Now, it’s very good to see the President taking full ownership of this decision and indicating that the environment will be the top priority going forward.

Of course, it’s not just people in Nebraska that are upset about this project. People from all 50 states were arrested in Washington this August protesting the pipeline and they will be coming back to the White House this Sunday because this pipeline is also a conduit for climate change.”

Not only will they be coming back to the White House, but this time they’ll be encircling it. Over 4,000 people have signed up to show the president, as the organizers put it, that “he has the support needed to reject the pipeline – and that there will be real consequences if he doesn’t.

According to Reuters, President Obama’s advisers are already worried that approval of the pipeline could cost him political support from Democrats in 2012.

Senior officials at the White House and Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters have fielded complaints from supporters who are unhappy about TransCanada Corp’s plan to build a massive pipeline to transport crude from Alberta to Texas, sources familiar with the situation said.

The concerns could contribute to a delay in the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline just as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up.

This is a good sign, but obviously for anyone involved in the campaign, anything short of a rejection will be unacceptable. As environmental activist Tim DeChristopher noted in a letter from prison last week, there’s another way to look at Sunday’s action: “It’s an opportunity to meet the people you will be linking hands with in front of a bulldozer if Obama actually signs off on this misguided pipeline.”

If you can be in Washington DC on Sunday sign up to take part in what will undoubtedly be a momentous day. Here are the details, according to the Tar Sands Action website:

We will meet at the center fountain of Lafayette Square Park. The rally begins at 2 PM, with a little bit of live music starting at 1:30.

The rally will be MC’d by Bill McKibben, featuring speakers from across the movement to stop the pipeline. After the rally, we’ll receive direction on how to get in to position around the White House. We have a team of over 100 monitors and marshals ready to make sure everything goes smoothly.

After we surround the White House, we’ll head back to the park, and hopefully wrap up just as the sun sets at 5:30.

Wolves Fall Prey to Canada’s Rapacious Tar Sands Business September 18, 2011

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Published on Saturday, September 17, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

On the pretext of protecting caribou, wolves are threatened with a cull. But the real ‘conservation’ is of oil industry profits

  by  Paul Paquet

Wolves are routinely, baselessly and contemptuously blamed for the demise of everything from marmots to mountain caribou in western Canada. Given that attitude, we at Raincoast Conservation Foundation are appalled, though not surprised, by Canada’s proposed strategy to “recover” dwindling populations of boreal forest caribou in northern Alberta’s tar sands territory. Essentially, the plan favours the destruction of wolves over any consequential protection, enhancement or expansion of caribou habitat.

Clearly, the caribou recovery strategy is not based on ecological principles or available science. Rather, it represents an ideology on the part of advocates for industrial exploitation of our environment, which subsumes all other principles to economic growth, always at the expense of ecological integrity. Owing to the breadth of the human niche, which continues to expand via technological progress, the human economy grows at the competitive exclusion of nonhuman species in the aggregate. The real cost of Alberta’s tar sands development, which includes the potential transport of oil by Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipelines is being borne by wolves, caribou and other wild species.

 

Consistent with Canada’s now well-deserved reputation as an environmental laggard, the caribou recovery strategy evolved over several years and many politicised iterations, carefully massaged by government pen pushers and elected officials who did their very best to ignore and obscure the advice of consulting biologists and ecologists. So, the government should quit implying that the consultation approach provides a scientifically credible basis for decisions. Apparently, scientists can lead federal Environment Minister Peter Kent to information, but they cannot make him think.

Egged on by a rapacious oil industry, the federal government has chosen to scapegoat wolves for the decline of boreal caribou in a morally and scientifically bankrupt attempt to protect Canada’s industrial sacred cow: the tar sands. Yet, the ultimate reason why the caribou are on the way out is because multiple human disturbances – most pressingly, the tar sands development – have altered their habitat into a landscape that can no longer provide the food, cover and security they need.

The relentless destruction of boreal forest wilderness via tar sands development has conspired to deprive caribou of their life requisites while exposing them to levels of predation they did not evolve with and are incapable of adapting to. Consequently, caribou are on a long-term slide to extinction; not because of what wolves and other predators are doing but because of what humans have already done.

Controlling wolves by killing them or by the use of non-lethal sterilisation techniques is biologically unsound as a long-term method for reducing wolf populations and protecting hoofed animals (ungulates) from predation. Lethal control has a well documented failed record of success as a means of depressing numbers of wolves over time. Killing wolves indiscriminately at levels sufficient to suppress populations disrupts pack social structure and upsets the stability of established territories, allowing more wolves to breed while promoting the immigration of wolves from nearby populations.

At the broadest level, the caribou strategy favours human selfishness at the expense of other species. Implicit is the idea that commercial enterprise is being purchased by the subversion of the natural world, with one set of ethical principles being applied to humans and another to the rest of nature. The strategy panders to the ecologically destructive wants of society by sacrificing the most basic needs of caribou. In doing so, it blatantly contradicts the lesson Aldo Leopold taught us so well: the basis of sound conservation is not merely pragmatic it; is also ethical.

Simply, the caribou strategy is not commensurate with the threats to the species’ survival. What is desperately needed is a caribou strategy designed to solve the problem faster than it is being created. Protecting limited habitat for caribou while killing thousands of wolves as the exploitation of the tar sands continues to expand will not accomplish this goal. Against scientific counsel otherwise, though, politicians have decided that industrial activities have primacy over the conservation needs of endangered caribou (and frankly, all things living).

Tar sands cheerleaders try hard to convince Canadians that we can become an “energy superpower” while maintaining our country’s environment. They are, of course, wrong. Thousands of wolves will be just some of the causalities along the way. Minister Kent and his successors will find more opportunity to feign empathy as Canadians also bid farewell to populations of birds, amphibians and other mammals, including caribou, that will be lost as collateral damage from tar sands development. How much of our country’s irreplaceable natural legacy will Canadians allow to be sacrificed at the altar of oil industry greed?

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

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Paul Paquet

Paul Paquet is senior scientist with Raincoast Conservation Foundation. An international consultant and lecturer, with numerous university affiliations, he is an internationally recognised authority on mammalian carnivores, especially wolves.

“Planetary Emergency:” Hansen Joins Tar Sands Protest August 29, 2011

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Published on Monday, August 29, 2011 by Talk Radio News Service

  by Elianna Mintz

As President Obama’s deadline to approve or disapprove licensing of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline draws closer, NASA’s lead climatologist, Dr. James Hansen, addressed reporters at the National Press Club to explain the grave consequences of approving such a project.

James Hansen, head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, addresses a crowd of protesters at a White House climate change rally in October 2010. “We have a planetary emergency,” Hansen, an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told reporters Monday.  (Credit: Chesapeake Climate) “We have a planetary emergency,” Hansen, an adjunct professor at the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University and at Columbia’s Earth Institute, told reporters Monday.

The Keystone XL Pipeline is a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline system that would be utilized to transport crude oil from Canada to oil refineries in the midwestern region of the US. Environmentalists, including some in Congress, oppose it on the grounds that it could disrupt and taint domestic clean water supplies, and could jeopardize efforts to shift to clean energy sources.

Hansen argued that if humans continue to burn fossil fuels at the current rate, 20-40 percent of species on the planet will become extinct by the end of the century. The hydraulic cycle, he said, has become more extreme, resulting in extreme floods and drought intensification. Coral reefs are being destroyed, sea levels are lowering and glaciers are receding, causing rivers to run dry, he added.

Hansen warned that if the next phase of the Keystone pipeline is approved, America will continue to feed its “oil addiction” and will continue to burn fossil fuels, further destroying the environment.

“Fossil fuels are finite,” Hansen stated. “We’ll have to move to clean energy at some point so we may as well do it before we burn all the fossil fuels and ruin the future of our children.”

Hansen was among the first group of scientists to spread such warnings of global warming 30 years ago. Frustrated that his cries over the threat of climate change was going unheard, Hansen turned to civil disobedience in 2009. He has been arrested twice for protesting mountaintop removal coal mining, once in West Virginia and once outside the White House.

Following his remarks at the NPC, Hansen joined more than 60 religious leaders outside the White House to spread awareness of the environmental dangers of the Keystone XL pipeline as part of a civil disobedience act that has been going on for weeks.

© 2011 Talk Radio News Service

Over 160 Arrested in Ongoing Civil Disobedience Against Keystone XL Tar Sands Oil Pipeline August 23, 2011

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Bill McKibben, part of Tar Sands Action and founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. He is the author of many books, including his most recent, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

 

Related stories
Bill McKibben of 350.org Calls House Vote on Global Warming “One of the Most Embarrassing Votes Congress Has Ever Taken”

 


 

AMY GOODMAN: Fifty-two environmental activists were arrested Monday in front of the White House as part of an ongoing protest now underway being called—it’s calling on the Obama administration to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. The proposed 1,500-mile pipeline would deliver tar sands oil 1,700 miles from Canada to refineries in Texas. Demonstrators are calling on Obama to reject a permit for the pipeline and instead focus on developing clean energy.

An estimated 2,000 people have signed up to hold sit-ins and commit other acts of civil disobedience outside the White House every day for the next two weeks. More than 162 people have been arrested since Saturday. Among those arrested was prominent environmental activist Bill McKibben. He and 65 others were released Monday after spending 48 hours in jail. Dr. Sydney Parker of Maryland was arrested Sunday.

DR. SYDNEY PARKER: We are here because this is not just an environmental issue, it’s also a very big health issue. And that’s why we’ve come out today, and that’s why we’re so committed. So, personally, I have never been arrested before. I’m not—you know, I don’t do this for fun. I’m here because I think it is such an important issue that it really demands this kind of action, and it demands that level of commitment from myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Also headed to Washington to join the protest are indigenous First Nations communities in Canada and landowners along the Keystone XL pipeline’s planned six-state route from Alberta to the Gulf Coast.

An editorial in Sunday’s New York Times joined in calling on the State Department to reject the pipeline. It noted the extraction of petroleum from the tar sands creates far more greenhouse emissions than conventional production.

Meanwhile, oil industry backers of the project are emphasizing what they say are the economic benefits of the $7 billion proposal. Republican Congress Member Ted Poe, whose home state of Texas hosts the refineries that would receive the tar sands oil, urged President Obama to back the pipeline.

REP. TED POE: To me, an easy choice for this administration: either they can force Americans to continue to rely on unfriendly foreign countries for our energy, like Venezuela and the Middle Eastern dictators, by depriving Americans of a reliable source of oil at a time when gas prices are around $4, or they can work with our friends in the north to supply over 1.4 million barrels of oil per day. Pipelines are the proven and safe, efficient source of energy. Best of all, this project creates thousands of jobs at a time when unemployment in this country is 9.2 percent.

AMY GOODMAN: As the Obama administration remains undecided on the Keystone XL pipeline, we turn now to one of the leading environmentalists opposed to its construction, Bill McKibben, from Washington, D.C., just released from jail after spending two nights there along with others as they kicked off the pipeline protests, founder of the grassroots climate campaign 350.org. His latest book is Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

Bill, welcome to Democracy Now! Explain why you were arrested.

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we really felt like this was the issue, Amy, the best chance for the President to make the statement he hasn’t really made so far in his administration about the fact that we’ve got to get off oil, that we don’t need one more huge source of oil pouring in, instead we need to make the tough decision that we’re going to try and power our lives in new ways. And so, there are people flooding into D.C. from all 50 states and Puerto Rico, lining up to get arrested over the next couple of weeks. It’s pretty powerful to see.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, last week I asked Cindy Schild of the American Petroleum Institute why her group and TransCanada are pushing so hard for the pipeline. She denied having any financial interests in having the project approved, saying API is looking out for the country’s “energy security.” This is an excerpt of what she had to say.

CINDY SCHILD: API doesn’t have a financial interest in the pipeline. I mean, we’re looking out for, again, energy security, national security. We also see supply flexibility and reliability benefits to being able to bring the third-largest resource base from Canada, and our number one trading partner, down to our largest refining center in the Gulf.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s the spokesperson for American Petroleum Institute. Bill McKibben, who stands to benefit from this project?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, they may not have any—they may not have—you know, the institute, whatever it is, may not have a financial interest, but the oil industry sure does. There’s a couple of trillion dollars worth of sludge sitting up there that they desperately want to sell. That’s why they’re lobbying like crazy to get Washington to approve this thing. But, you know, I mean, let’s be serious. This is the second-largest pool of carbon on earth. America’s foremost climatologist and NASA scientist, Jim Hansen, said a few weeks ago, if we begin tapping into this, it’s—and I quote— “essentially game over for the climate,” unquote. I don’t know what more one more needs to say about security than that. I’m not quite sure what kind of world, you know, what kind of security they’re talking about, once we push global warming past whatever tipping points remain.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you feel are the problems with the tar sands, and exactly what route this will take, where it will go, the pipeline.

BILL McKIBBEN: So, the problems fall into two categories, really. One is along the pipeline. Start in Alberta, where it’s an environmental debacle. They’ve scraped off huge—I mean, when I say “huge,” I mean huge; this tar sands covers an area the size of the United Kingdom—scraped off huge amounts of boreal forest, wrecked native lands and native lives, which is why indigenous people have been at the core of this organizing effort. Now they’re proposing to stick it in a pipeline and send it 1,700 miles to Texas. The 1,700 miles goes through some of the most sensitive and beautiful and important agricultural land in this country. It crosses the Ogalalla Aquifer, a source of water for 20 million people, one of the great pools of fresh water on the planet.

You know, I mean, the precursor, small precursor pipeline of this thing has had 12 leaks in a year. You know, part of our job here is to prevent a terrestrial BP spill, OK? But even if all that oil makes it safely to Texas, OK, every drop of it that didn’t spill into the land or water is going to spill into the atmosphere. If we burn that oil, we increase dramatically the amount of global warming gases in the atmosphere. And after a year that’s just seen the highest temperatures ever recorded on this planet, after a year we’ve seen incredible weather extremes of all kinds, that’s just folly. You listen to the senator from Texas, and you want to say to the guy, “Have you noticed that your state is in the worst drought—worse than the Dust Bowl—the worst drought ever recorded? Get real!”

And that’s why—it’s why it’s so great that there are people just showing up at the White House, saying, “President Obama, you can actually block this thing. You don’t have to ask Congress a thing. It’s up to you. You can simply say, ‘No, we’re not going to give the permit for this dog of a project. We’re, for once, really going to stand up.’”

AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of Texas politicians, Bill McKibben, I wanted to play a comment of Texas Governor and Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry, who recently claimed global warming is a hoax. This is what Perry said at a news conference in New Hampshire.

GOV. RICK PERRY: The issue of global warming has been politicized. I think that there are a substantial number of scientists who have manipulated data so that they will have dollars rolling into their projects. And I think we’re seeing it almost weekly or even daily, scientists who are coming forward and questioning the original idea that man-made global warming is what is causing the climate to change. And I don’t think, from my perspective, that I want America to be engaged in spending that much money on still a scientific theory that has not been proven and, from my perspective, is more and more being put into question.

AMY GOODMAN: That was presidential candidate Perry, the governor of Texas. Bill McKibben?

BILL McKIBBEN: Rick Perry’s response to the drought so far has been to have a statewide day of prayer. Now, I’m a Methodist Sunday school teacher, so I’m completely down with prayer. That’s good. But in most theologies, prayer works a little better if you aren’t at the same time trying to think of every policy you can do to make matters worse. It’s astonishing that someone is able to make George Bush look relatively smart about scientific things. The Governor is completely wrong, of course, about the science. It’s not only strong, it grows stronger with every passing heat wave and every year of record temperature. There’s no scientific doubt.

The only reason that anybody is even considering building this pipeline is because it’s going to make a few big corporations an immense amount of money. And that’s why those corporations and the Koch brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are lobbying like crazy for it. We don’t have the money to compete with those guys. All we have, the only alternative currency we have, is our bodies. And that’s what we’re using.

It was interesting to be in jail this weekend and reflect—listen to some of the people on the cell block reflecting on the fact that the last time they were, you know, lying on the ground like this was in some church basement while they were out campaigning for Barack Obama in that fevered fall of 2008. We’re incredibly hopeful that if the President does the right thing here, it will remind a lot of us why we were so enthusiastic about him and send a real jolt of electricity through people that are a little, frankly, discouraged at the moment.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill, you have been an environmentalist for decades and acted on that, but now you’re getting arrested. Why have you chosen to participate in the civil disobedience? And also, why in front of the White House now, when President Obama is on vacation?

BILL McKIBBEN: Well, we’ll be here when he gets back, too. We’re staying for two weeks, every day. This is the first real civil disobedience of this scale in the environmental movement in ages—I mean, as long as I can recall. And even before he gets back, I’m virtually certain they’ve established a phone connection between the White House and Martha’s Vineyard. I’m pretty sure he knows we’re there, because everybody else seems to. When we came out of jail, they handed me that New York Times editorial, one of the strongest editorials I’ve ever seen in the paper, just saying, “Mr. President, block this pipeline.” I think the message is getting through.

And I think the message needs to get through, because this is one place where President Obama has no obstacles to acting. Congress isn’t in the way. He has no obstacles to acting and no excuse for not acting. It will be the biggest test for him, environmentally, between now and the next election. It’s emerged as the single, premier environmental issue right now, that people from every organization and every group are coming to Washington to help with. And the good news is that after trying to treat us pretty harshly in order to deter this protest from happening, the police are now backing off under orders from a judge, and so the subsequent three waves of arrestees have been treated much more civilly than we were. And so, I think that it’s going to only grow.

AMY GOODMAN: Very quickly, the alliance of environmentalists and labor unions that is growing right now, can you talk about the significance of this?

BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely.

AMY GOODMAN: Naomi Klein just tweeted, “This is a major breakthrough in green+labour alliance: 2 big unions oppose.”

BILL McKIBBEN: She was talking about the fact that two of the big unions, last week, came out against this pipeline, even though the argument for it, theoretically, is that it’s going to create jobs. It will create a few. You can’t build a pipeline this big without, but at nowhere near the number that the proponents have been claiming, as it turns out. More to the point, by continuing our addiction to oil, it will send billions of dollars a day north into Canada and not give us the incentive that we need to put people to—far, far, far more people to work doing the wind and solar work that will actually repower our lives. That’s where the jobs are, and those jobs won’t be wrecking the future.

AMY GOODMAN: We have just 15 seconds, but, Bill McKibben, you’re right there in front of the White House. You and a number of students waged a campaign to get solar panels put back on the White House roof, that President Reagan had taken down. Then there was a big announcement of the victory, that President Obama had agreed. But they haven’t been put up.

BILL McKIBBEN: No, we were looking closely, as we were being arrested, and there’s no sign of them up there on the roof. But you know what? President Obama, right now that’s job number two. Job number one is blocking this incredible pipeline. Let’s get the nation’s house in order, and then it would be good if you’d go to work on your own, too.

AMY GOODMAN: Bill McKibben, thanks so much for being with us, spokesperson for TarSandsAction.org.

BILL McKIBBEN: Thank you so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Just came out of jail after two days, nonviolently protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. He is the founder of 350.org.

 

 

‘No Tar Sands': Margot Kidder Marches on Washington August 20, 2011

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Published on Friday, August 19, 2011 by the Toronto Star

  by Martin Knelman

Margot Kidder became Hollywood’s most famous Canadian by playing Lois Lane in four Superman movies.

Actor Christopher Reeve, as Superman, and Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, appear in a scene from the 1978 movie ‘Superman. But later, when she was orchestrating a comeback after a series of disasters, she took on a gig doing the voice of a character named Earth Mother in the cartoon show Captain Planet.

Among the lines she delivered: “Hold on, Planeteer, I hate to interrupt your eco-argument, but there’s a nuclear waste spill on the ocean.”

Next week Kidder will be playing Earth Mother for real — doing whatever it takes to get herself arrested in front of the White House while trying to persuade Barack Obama not to sign a deal allowing a new pipeline carrying oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas.

One of her partners in crime is another celebrated Canadian-born actress and dear old friend, Tantoo Cardinal, an Aboriginal from northern Alberta.

Theirs will be only two faces among the thousands taking part in a large-scale protest, but they will bring a bit of showbiz glitter to the event while showing there are Canadians as well as Americans appalled by the horrifying danger of spreading poison from Alberta all over North America.

(A number of other prominent Canadians are also involved in the protest, including Naomi Klein.)

“This is not just about oil,” Kidder explained this week in a phone interview from her home in Montana. “It’s about climate change and irreversible damage to the environment.”

These days, at 62, Kidder works occasionally, doing such acting gigs as her appearance a year ago at Toronto’s Panasonic Theater in Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore.

But most of the time, she lives quietly, simply and happily in Montana, close to her daughter and grandchildren.

Being at the center of the Hollywood circus may be a distant memory, but Kidder still has the ebullient spirit, charmingly goofy smile and twangy voice that made her a popular favorite.

And she’s still the fearless adventurer and reckless maverick who was born in Yellowknife and grew up in northern mining camps, the daughter of a rambunctious mining engineer from Texas known as Happy Kidder.

Her old friend Norman Jewison, who cast her in her first Hollywood movie in the 1960s, recalls that even back then, “she was a woman of causes, passionate and not afraid to stand her ground.”

That has not changed. Though she has been a U.S. resident for decades, Kidder has proudly held onto her Canadian citizenship. But she became a dual citizen so that she could vote against George W. Bush in 2004 — and so she could take part in protests against the Iraq war without being at risk of deportation.

“Tantoo and I are both northern Canadian babies who believe that the North is a beautiful place worth saving.

“The tar sands have caused a lot of damage already in Alberta, where a lot of people have a weird new kind of cancer. The kind of oil being extracted is thick and corrosive, like molasses, and it has to be pumped at a high heat, emitting poisonous carbon.”

There is already one pipeline running from Alberta to Texas, and there have been disturbing leaks. According to Kidder, the proposed new pipeline would destroy the freshwater rivers and other natural wonders of Montana, because it’s bound to leak.

“We already have experts who warn that if the tar sands industry is allowed to expand and build another pipeline, the damages will be irreversible and the long-term consequences horrendous,” warns Kidder. “In fact this is the most serious climate changer we have on the planet.”

So why are political leaders in Ottawa and Washington in favour of expanding the tar sands?

“In his 2008 campaign, Obama made a promise to stand up to oil companies and Wall Street,” says Kidder, “but now he is being pressed to sign this agreement between now and November, and those who worked for Obama are so discouraged. A lot of people are dismayed that democracy is losing out to huge corporations that contribute billions to political campaigns.”

Kidder and other demonstrators hope to persuade Obama to stand up to the oil companies and refuse to sign the pipeline deal. In the process of making the point, she expects to land in a Washington jail, if only briefly.

As for Canada, she laments: “Stephen Harper is more interested in short-term profit than long-term consequences. But I have two beautiful grandchildren, and I would like them to live on a beautiful planet.”

© 2011 Toronto Star

Canadian Government Accused of ‘Unprecedented’ Tar Sands Lobbying August 5, 2011

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Published on Friday, August 5, 2011 by The Guardian/UK

Friends of the Earth Europe claims ministers have attempted to undermine European fuel legislation that would affect exports

  by Terry Macalister

The Canadian government has been accused of an “unprecedented” lobbying effort involving 110 meetings in less than two years in Britain and Europe in a bid to derail new fuel legislation that could hit exports from its tar sands.

Mining trucks carry loads of oil-laden sand in Canada. “The overriding message,” say campaigners against the tar sands, “is that… the dirtiest fuel on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”(Photograph: Jeff Mcintosh/AP)

The allegation comes from Friends of the Earth Europe (FoEE), which claims Ottawa ministers have attempted to mislead European decision-makers by underplaying the carbon-heavy nature of their crude in assessing new petrol standards.

Canada is worried that proposed European legislation would penalise imports of oil derived from its tar sands and so restrict access to the European market for Canadian oil. This might in turn embolden US legislators to do similar. To prevent this, FoEE says that Ottawa has been conducting an intensive lobbying campaign aimed at preventing the British government and the European commission from watering down the legislation.

“The Canadian government must disclose the genuine GHG [greenhouse gas] footprint of tar sands and stop making false promises. It should take serious measures to address the negative nature of tar sands,” recommends FoEE in a new report entitled Canada’s dirty lobby diary – undermining the EU fuel quality directive.

The lobbying effort, which includes dozens of meetings between Canadian and British government “representatives” and oil executives, was triggered by the release of a consultation document in July 2009 by the European commission, which attempted to definitively assess the “well-to-wheels” carbon intensity of different oils.

The document attributed a “default” carbon value for traditional fuels of 85.8g of carbon dioxide per mega joule of energy for traditional oil and 107gCO2/MJ for fuel derived from tar sands.

The Canadians have managed to delay the EU’s original deadline of January 2011 for confirming baseline default values despite new peer-reviewed studies to support the European position.

Darek Urbaniak, extractives campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe, said: “It is unprecedented that a government of one of the most developed countries can devise and implement a strategy that involves undermining independent science and deliberate misleading of its international partners.”

“The Canadians are asking for further research and further delays. This tactic is reminiscent of the tobacco industry in its attempt to delay action on health,” said the FoEE report.

Relatively little fuel from the Alberta tar sands currently ends up in Britain or on the continent, but the Canadians have made clear their real concern is that European legislation will encourage the US to take a tougher line.

A pan-European oil sands advocacy plan was established by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade last year. The main aims were to protect and advance Canadian interests in Europe and to ensure “non-discriminatory market access for oil sands-derived products”, according to documents seen by FoEE.

The Canadians are also said to have set up a special lobbying team in London and identified Shell and BP – two big tar sands investors – as “like-minded allies” in the struggle to have tar sands accepted.

Shell’s chief executive, Peter Voser, made clear last week at the company’s half yearly financial results that tar sands was one of the key areas of the business that was delivering production growth – both now and more in future. BP has also made no secret of its determination to pursue its interests in Alberta.

But FoEE is angry because it believes the Canadians are deliberately marketing tar sands as an environmentally friendly product by making references to initiatives – such as carbon capture and storage – to reduce the CO2 emissions. During the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Canadian government spoke out about the safer operations in Alberta while the country’s democratic credentials have been compared with less savoury regimes where oil is extracted, argues FoEE.

“The overriding message is that Canada is not exporting dirty oil, but clean energy. One of the dirtiest fuels on the planet is being sold as clean, stable and secure.”

The Canadian government was contacted by the Guardian but did not comment.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

Alberta’s Tar Sands Make Canada a Climate Criminal December 1, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
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Published on Tuesday, December 1, 2009 by The Guardian/UK

Canada’s image lies in tatters. It is now to climate what Japan is to whaling

by George Monbiot

When you think of Canada, which qualities come to mind? The world’s peacekeeper, the friendly nation, a liberal counterweight to the harsher pieties of its southern neighbour, decent, civilised, fair, well-governed? Think again. This country’s government is now behaving with all the sophistication of a chimpanzee’s tea party. So amazingly destructive has Canada become, and so insistent have my Canadian friends been that I weigh into this fight, that I’ve broken my self-imposed ban on flying and come to Toronto.

So here I am, watching the astonishing spectacle of a beautiful, cultured nation turning itself into a corrupt petro-state. Canada is slipping down the development ladder, retreating from a complex, diverse economy towards dependence on a single primary resource, which happens to be the dirtiest commodity known to man. The price of this transition is the brutalisation of the country, and a government campaign against multilateralism as savage as any waged by George Bush.

Until now I believed that the nation that has done most to sabotage a new climate change agreement was the United States. I was wrong. The real villain is Canada. Unless we can stop it, the harm done by Canada in December 2009 will outweigh a century of good works.

In 2006 the new Canadian government announced it was abandoning its targets to cut greenhouse gases under the Kyoto protocol. No other country that had ratified the treaty has done this. Canada was meant to have cut emissions by 6% between 1990 and 2012. Instead they have already risen by 26%.

It is now clear that Canada will refuse to be sanctioned for abandoning its legal obligations. The Kyoto protocol can be enforced only through goodwill: countries must agree to accept punitive future obligations if they miss their current targets. But the future cut Canada has volunteered is smaller than that of any other rich nation. Never mind special measures; it won’t accept even an equal share. The Canadian government is testing the international process to destruction and finding that it breaks all too easily. By demonstrating that climate sanctions aren’t worth the paper they’re written on, it threatens to render any treaty struck at Copenhagen void.

After giving the finger to Kyoto, Canada then set out to prevent the other nations striking a successor agreement. At the end of 2007, it singlehandedly blocked a Commonwealth resolution to support binding targets for industrialised nations. After the climate talks in Poland in December 2008, it won the Fossil of the Year award, presented by environmental groups to the country that had done most to disrupt the talks. The climate change performance index, which assesses the efforts of the world’s 60 richest nations, was published in the same month. Saudi Arabia came 60th. Canada came 59th.

In June this year the media obtained Canadian briefing documents which showed the government was scheming to divide the Europeans. During the meeting in Bangkok in October, almost the entire developing world bloc walked out when the Canadian delegate was speaking, as they were so revolted by his bullying. Last week the Commonwealth heads of government battled for hours (and eventually won) against Canada’s obstructions. A concerted campaign has now begun to expel Canada from the Commonwealth.

In Copenhagen next week, this country will do everything in its power to wreck the talks. The rest of the world must do everything in its power to stop it. But such is the fragile nature of climate agreements that one rich nation – especially a member of the G8, the Commonwealth and the Kyoto group of industrialised countries – could scupper the treaty. Canada now threatens the wellbeing of the world.

Why? There’s a simple answer: Canada is developing the world’s second largest reserve of oil. Did I say oil? It’s actually a filthy mixture of bitumen, sand, heavy metals and toxic organic chemicals. The tar sands, most of which occur in Alberta, are being extracted by the biggest opencast mining operation on earth. An area the size of England, comprising pristine forests and marshes, will be be dug up – unless the Canadians can stop this madness. Already it looks like a scene from the end of the world: the strip-miners are creating a churned black hell on an unimaginable scale.

To extract oil from this mess, it needs to be heated and washed. Three barrels of water are used to process one barrel of oil. The contaminated water is held in vast tailings ponds, some so toxic that the tar companies employ people to scoop dead birds off the surface. Most are unlined. They leak organic poisons, arsenic and mercury into the rivers. The First Nations people living downstream have developed a range of exotic cancers and auto-immune diseases.

Refining tar sands requires two to three times as much energy as refining crude oil. The companies exploiting them burn enough natural gas to heat six million homes. Alberta’s tar sands operation is the world’s biggest single industrial source of carbon emissions. By 2020, if the current growth continues, it will produce more greenhouse gases than Ireland or Denmark. Already, thanks in part to the tar mining, Canadians have almost the highest per capita emissions on earth, and the stripping of Alberta has scarcely begun.

Canada hasn’t acted alone. The biggest leaseholder in the tar sands is Shell, a company that has spent millions persuading the public that it respects the environment. The other great greenwasher, BP, initially decided to stay out of tar. Now it has invested in plants built to process it. The British bank RBS, 70% of which belongs to you and me (the government’s share will soon rise to 84%), has lent or underwritten £8bn for mining the tar sands.

The purpose of Canada’s assault on the international talks is to protect this industry. This is not a poor nation. It does not depend for its economic survival on exploiting this resource. But the tar barons of Alberta have been able to hold the whole country to ransom. They have captured Canada’s politics and are turning this lovely country into a cruel and thuggish place.

Canada is a cultured, peaceful nation, which every so often allows a band of Neanderthals to trample over it. Timber firms were licensed to log the old-growth forest in Clayaquot Sound; fishing companies were permitted to destroy the Grand Banks: in both cases these get-rich-quick schemes impoverished Canada and its reputation. But this is much worse, as it affects the whole world. The government’s scheming at the climate talks is doing for its national image what whaling has done for Japan.

I will not pretend that this country is the only obstacle to an agreement at Copenhagen. But it is the major one. It feels odd to be writing this. The immediate threat to the global effort to sustain a peaceful and stable world comes not from Saudi Arabia or Iran or China. It comes from Canada. How could that be true?

© 2009 Guardian News and Media Limited

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at www.monbiot.com

Rhetoric and Reality Clash on Obama’s First Foreign Visit February 20, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Barack Obama, Canada, Environment.
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 Chris Arsenault

www.ipsnews.net, February 20, 2009

VANCOUVER, Feb 20 (IPS) – On his first foreign visit as U.S. president, Barack Obama’s rhetoric of “hope” and “change” came face to face with the hard, divisive policy realities of climate change from Canada’s tar sands, a growing insurgency in Afghanistan and the sputtering world economy.

Some 2,500 spectators lined the streets of Ottawa to watch the president’s motorcade make its way to Parliament Hill, a marked contrast to the thousands of protestors who greeted former President George W. Bush during his last Canadian visit. While the Canadian public catches Obama fever, environmentalists and some aboriginal groups say they’ve been left in the cold by his energy policies.

“Obama must ask Canada to clean up its tar sands and to respect the rights of our aboriginal First Nations,” said Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipweyan First Nation, a community near the Alberta tar sands, the world’s largest energy project.

While promising to press ahead with “carbon reduction technologies,” Obama did not mention the tar sands directly during his visit. Extracting oil from the tar sands creates three times more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional crude.

At the press conference following closed door meetings between President Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and their aides, the two leaders promised a “clean energy dialogue” focusing on plans to trap carbon dioxide underground and improvements to North America’s electricity grid.

Standing in front of Canadian and U.S. flags, as the pomp and circumstance of international diplomacy dictates, Obama called climate change and the need to develop clean energy sources “the most pressing challenges of our time.”

The Natural Resources Defence Council dubs tar sands crude, “the world’s dirtiest oil.” Canada is the largest foreign supplier of oil to the U.S., sending more than 1.2 million barrels per day to its southern neighbour.

Trade between the two countries is worth more than 1.6 billion dollars per day, making it the world’s largest trading relationship. In addition to energy and the environment, the two leaders discussed bailsouts for North America’s auto industry and the general economic downturn.

“How we produce and use energy is fundamental for our economic recovery and also for our security and our planet,” said Obama at the press conference.

Prior to Obama’s Canadian visit, aboriginal and environmental groups placed a full-page add in the newspaper USA Today, stating that the tar sands “stands in the way of a new energy economy.” The day before the presidential visit, activists from Greenpeace scaled a bridge in Ottawa to hang a banner reading: “Climate Leaders Don’t Buy Tar Sands.”

During his election campaign, Obama vowed to end the U.S.’s addiction to “dirty, dwindling, and dangerously expensive” oil. His campaign’s energy guru, Jason Grumet, said greenhouse gas emissions from Canada’s tar sands were “unacceptably high.”

In an apparent about-face from his campaign promises, Obama refused to characterise tar sands crude as “dirty oil” in a pre-summit interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. While acknowledging that the sands creates “a big carbon footprint,” Obama argued that technologies, including a plan from Alberta’s provincial government to store carbon dioxide underground, could solve the problem.

The idea of sequestering and storing greenhouse gases underground, known as carbon capture, has yet to be implemented at any tar sands operations and critics are sceptical that it can work. The tar sands are Canada’s fastest growing source of greenhouse gas emissions. Presently, tar sands oil extraction pumps 29.5 million tons of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere every year, equivalent to the exhaust from more than 5 million cars.

Even if carbon capture technology does prove to be effective, the sands create a host of other environmental challenges, water depletion being the most significant. Producing one barrel of tar sands oil requires at least three barrels of water; there is enough toxic water in tar sands tailings ponds to fill 2.2 million Olympic sized swimming pools.

“The devastation of our homelands in this short period of time is perplexing to my people since it is only a fraction of the time that these impacts have occurred compared to the thousands of years we have inhabited these lands,” said George Poitras, former chief of the Mikisew Cree, another aboriginal community close to the tar sands.

In addition to energy and the economy, Obama and Harper also discussed the increasing violence in Afghanistan, where Obama has pledged to send 17,000 more U.S. troops as part of a “surge.” Canada currently has 2,500 combat troops stationed around Kandahar who are set to leave in 2011.

Obama stated explicitly that he was not requesting more troops or money from Canada for the Afghan occupation.

A chorus of military leaders, including a top German general and Britain’s ambassador in Kabul, have stated that the war cannot be won.

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