Following a forgotten attempt to cap carbon emissions and several more years of silence, climate change is getting renewed attention in post-inaugural Washington..

February 21, 2013
Daniel Barron
Freeport, Illinois

With the inauguration stage still standing along Pennsylvania Avenue, 35,000+ protesters, including myself, marched around the White House last Sunday demanding action to address climate change. The collective, a mix of concerned parents (and their children), grandparents, clergy, scientists, tribal natives, activists, veterans, students, and just about every other demographic imaginable. Our charge to the elected leaders of this country, that climate change be addressed with the upmost urgency and that serious measures are taken to significantly reduce national, and international, carbon emissions below catastrophic levels. The specific target of Sundays rally, the Keystone XL pipeline.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Keystone XL pipeline here are a few facts. The proposed, now partially constructed, pipeline would stretch 1,962 miles across Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas carrying crude oil derived from tar sands. The pipeline would carry, including planned capacity increases, about 34,860,000 gallons of oil per day, which when used would contribute 156,322,200 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.

In the middle of the proposed pipeline path lies many environmentally sensitive areas including the Mni Wiconi water system, the Nebraska Sandhills ecosystem and the Ogallala aquifer, one of the nations most vital ground water sources. The dangers of pipeline failure are already around us, with dozens of failures occurring along existing pipelines each year. Most notably the largest ever inland oil spill occurring July 25, 2010 near Marshall, Michigan, when a pipeline failure resulted in nearly one million gallons of tar sands oil flowing into Talmadge Creek and the Kalamazoo River.

All of these potential hazzards don’t even begin to address the catastrophes already being committed to extract oil from tar sands. Aside from the adverse health affects on the native people and wildlife, strip mining destroys thousands of square acres of pristine boreal forest, extraction depletes fresh water at a frequency up to 4 barrels of water polluted for each barrel of crude oil extracted and open reservoirs filled with toxic chemicals pose a fatal danger to birds and wildlife.

The Keystone XL pipeline, tar sands and climate change is not really a partisan issue, though the multi-billion dollar petroleum industry would prefer that you think it is. As long as the electorate keeps fighting each other, the truth is ignored, safety is compromised and corporations continue to operate with impunity, amassing billions in profits off the backs of the citizenry.

Whether you believe in science or not, why would anyone disagree that making our planet a cleaner, safer and healthier place to live is a good thing? There are better opportunities, and jobs, on the horizon. It is time for Americans to move toward responsibility, to move beyond the lies of multi-national corporations and to move away from dirty energy that harms us and our neighbors.