Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Join the Blockade of the Keystone Pipeline

Join the Blockade of the Keystone Pipeline

by Chris Hedges

Published on Monday, October 15, 2012 by TruthDig.com


The next great battle of the Occupy movement may not
take place in city parks and plazas, where the security
and surveillance state is blocking protesters from
setting up urban encampments. Instead it could arise in
the nation's heartland, where some ranchers, farmers
and enraged citizens, often after seeing their land
seized by eminent domain and their water supplies
placed under mortal threat, have united with Occupiers
and activists to oppose the building of the Keystone XL
tar sand pipeline. They have formed an unusual
coalition called Tar Sands Blockade (TSB). Centers of
resistance being set up in Texas and Oklahoma and on
tribal lands along the proposed route of this
six-state, 1,700-mile proposed pipeline are fast
becoming flashpoints in the war of attrition we have
begun against the corporate state. Join them.

The XL pipeline, which would cost $7 billion and whose

southern portion is under construction and slated for

completion next year, is the most potent symbol of the

dying order. If completed, it will pump 1.1 million

barrels a day of unrefined tar sand fluid from tar sand

mine fields in Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. Tar sand

oil is not conventional crude oil. It is a synthetic

slurry that, because tar sand oil is solid in its

natural state, must be laced with a deadly brew of

toxic chemicals and gas condensates to get it to flow.

Tar sands are boiled and diluted with these chemicals

before being blasted down a pipeline at high pressure.

Water sources would be instantly contaminated if there

was a rupture. The pipeline would cross nearly 2,000

U.S. waterways, including the Ogallala Aquifer, source

of one-third of the United States' farmland irrigation

water. And it is not a matter of if, but when, it would

spill. TransCanada's Keystone I pipeline, built in

2010, leaked 12 times in its first 12 months of

operation. Because the extraction process emits such a

large quantity of greenhouse gases, the pipeline has

been called the fuse to the largest carbon bomb on the

planet. The climate scientist James Hansen warns that

successful completion of the pipeline, along with the

exploitation of Canadian tar sands it would facilitate,

would mean "game over for the climate."

Keystone XL is part of the final phase of extreme

exploitation by the corporate state. The corporations

intend to squeeze the last vestiges of profit from an

ecosystem careening toward collapse. Most of the oil

that can be reached through drilling from traditional

rigs is depleted. The fossil fuel industry has, in

response, developed new technologies to go after

dirtier, less efficient forms of energy. These

technologies bring with them a dramatically heightened

cost to ecosystems. They accelerate the warming of the

planet. And they contaminate vital water sources.

Deep-water Arctic drilling, tar sand extraction,

hydraulic fracturing (or hydro-fracking) and drilling

horizontally, given the cost of extraction and effects

on the environment, are a form of ecological suicide.

Appealing to the corporate state, or trusting the

leaders of either party to halt the assault after the

election, is futile. We must immediately obstruct this

pipeline or accept our surrender to forces that, in the

name of profit, intend to cash in on the death throes

of the planet.

Nine protesters, surviving on canned food and bottled

water, have been carrying out a tree-sit for more than

two weeks to block the path of the pipeline near

Winnsboro, Texas. Other Occupiers have chained

themselves to logging equipment, locked themselves in

trucks carrying pipe to construction sites and hung

banners at equipment staging areas. Doug Grant, a

former Exxon employee, was arrested outside Winnsboro

when he bound himself to clear-cutting machinery.

Shannon Bebe and Benjamin Franklin, after handcuffing

themselves to equipment being used to cut down trees,

were tasered, pepper-sprayed and physically assaulted

by local police, reportedly at the request of

TransCanada officials. The actress Daryl Hannah, along

with a 78-year-old East Texas great-grandmother and

farmer, Eleanor Fairchild, was arrested Oct. 4 while

blocking TransCanada bulldozers on Fairchild's

property. The Fairchild farm, like other properties

seized by TransCanada, was taken under Texas eminent

domain laws on behalf of a foreign corporation. At the

same time, private security companies employed by

TransCanada, along with local law enforcement, have

been aggressively detaining and restricting reporters,

including a New York Times reporter and photographer,

who are attempting to cover the protests. Most of the

journalists have been on private property with the

permission of the landowners.

I reached climate activist Tom Weis nearly 1,000 miles

from the blockade, in the presidential battleground

state of Colorado by phone Friday. Weis is pedaling up

and down the Front Range, hand-delivering copies of an

open letter--signed by citizens, some of whom, like

Daryl Hannah, have been arrested trying to block the XL

pipeline--to Obama and Romney campaign offices. He has

been joined by indigenous leaders, including Vice

President of Oglala Lakota Nation Tom Poor Bear, and in

Denver by members of the Occupy Denver community.

Weis last fall rode his bright-yellow "rocket trike"--a

recumbent tricycle wrapped in a lightweight aerodynamic

shell--2,150 miles along the proposed Keystone XL

pipeline route. He was accompanied by Ron Seifert, now

a spokesperson for the Tar Sands Blockade. Weis'

"Keystone XL Tour of Resistance" started at the

U.S.-Canada border in Montana and ended 10 weeks later

at the Texas Gulf Coast. He recently produced a

15-minute video in which he interviewed farmers,

ranchers and indigenous leaders who live in the path of

the project.

"Keystone XL is being built as an export pipeline for

Canada to sell its dirty oil to foreign markets," he

said. "This is not about energy security; it's about

securing TransCanada's profits."

Weis cited a report commissioned by Cornell University

that concluded that the jobs estimates put forward by

TransCanada were unsubstantiated and that the project

could actually destroy more jobs than it created.

Barack Obama delayed, until after the election, a

decision on permitting the northern leg of the pipeline

after a series of civil disobedience actions led by

Bill McKibben's 350.org in front of the White House a

year ago, as well as fierce opposition from ranchers in

states such as Nebraska. The president, by announcing

the delay, put an end to the widespread protests.

Obama, however, flew to Cushing, Okla., in March to

call for the southern leg of the pipeline to be

fast-tracked. Standing in a pipeline yard, he said,

"I'm directing my administration to cut through the red

tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make

this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done."

Obama's rival for the presidency, Mitt Romney, was no

less effusive in his support for Keystone XL, saying to

a Pittsburgh audience in May: "If I'm president, we'll

build it if I have to build it myself."

Grass-roots organizing along the proposed pipeline has

grown, especially as the project began to be put in place.

If completed, the 485-mile southern leg, from Cushing

to Nederland, Texas, would slice through major

waterways including the Neches, Red, Angelina and

Sabine rivers as well as the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer,

which provides drinking water for some 10 million

Texans. The southern section of the pipeline is now the

focus of the Tar Sands Blockade.

The invasive extraction of tar sands and shale

deposits, as well as deep-sea drilling in the Arctic,

Alaska, the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf of Mexico,

has been sold to the U.S. public as a route to energy

independence, a way to create millions of new jobs and

a boost to the sagging economy, but this is another

corporate lie. The process of extracting shale oil

through hydraulic fracking, for example, requires

millions of gallons of chemically treated water that

leaves behind poisoned aquifers and huge impoundment

ponds of toxic waste. The process of extracting oil

shale, or kerogen, requires it to be melted, meaning

that tremendous amounts of energy are required for a

marginal return. The process of tar sand extraction

requires vast open pit mining operations or pumping

underground that melts the oil with steam jets. Tar

sand extraction also releases significantly more

greenhouse gas emissions than conventional oil

drilling, meaning an acceleration of global warming.

Drilling in the Arctic, with its severe weather, costs

as much as half a billion dollars per well. These

processes are part of a desperate effort by

corporations to make profits before a final systems

collapse. Droughts are already sweeping the Midwest.

The battle between farmers and fossil fuel corporations

for diminishing water sources has begun. Yet our ruling

elite refuses to face the stark reality of climate

change. They ignore the imperative to find other ways

of structuring our economies and our relationship to

the environment. They myopically serve a doomed system.

And, if left unstopped, the cost for all of us will be


Weis, a former congressional staffer, expects the last

section of the pipeline to be authorized by the

president once the election is over.

"It is critical that people understand that completion

of the southern leg of Keystone XL--which President

Obama and Gov. Romney both fully support--would give

TransCanada a direct line from Alberta's landlocked tar

sands mine fields to refineries in Texas for export

overseas," Weis explained. "By tapping into Keystone I,

which has already been built, the southern leg of

Keystone XL would open the floodgates to tar sands

exploitation in Canada. At a time when the climate is

already dangerously destabilizing before our eyes, I

can't believe we're even having this conversation."

He described Obama's and Romney's "failure to stand up

to this corporate bully" as a "failure to defend


"It is unconscionable to put the interests of a

transnational corporation before the health, safety and

economic well-being of the American people," he said.

Weis sees the struggle to halt the Keystone XL pipeline

as a symbolic crossroads for the country and the

planet. One path leads, he said, toward decay. The

other toward renewal.

There comes a time when we must say to the ruling

elite: 'No more,' " he said. "There comes a time when

we must make a stand for the future of our children,

and for all life on Earth. That time is here. That time

is now." (c) 2012 TruthDig.com Chris Hedges

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com.

Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was

for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The

New York Times. He is the author of many books,

including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What

Every Person Should Know About War, and American

Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.

His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of

Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle.

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