WHY I DID THE 2012 RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: “DEFEND AMERICA, STOP KEYSTONE TOUR”
Both major party presidential candidates made it clear in 2012 they wanted Keystone XL built:
“And today, 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.”
- President Obama, speaking about the southern leg of Keystone XL in Cushing, OK (March 22, 2012)
“If I’m President, we’ll build it if I have to build it myself.”
- Governor Romney, commenting on the Keystone XL pipeline in Pittsburgh, PA (May 4, 2012)
Democratic President Barack Obama shrewdly delayed a decision on permitting the northern leg of the pipeline until after the 2012 election, but telegraphed his ultimate intentions by calling for the southern (OK-TX) leg to be fast-tracked. Republican Governor Mitt Romney, who also supported construction of the southern leg, said he would approve the northern leg on “day one” of his presidency.
What would you do if a foreign energy company trespassed on your property, staked it out, and threatened you with eminent domain if you didn’t sell them easement rights to run a tar sands pipeline across your land? What if this same corporation recklessly put the health and lives of your loved ones in jeopardy by refusing to disclose the hazardous chemicals they planned to pipe under your yard? I don’t think you would stand for it. I certainly wouldn’t, which is why I couldn’t just sit by while TransCanada abused our Great Plains friends and neighbors.
In response, I launched the nonpartisan “Defend America, Stop Keystone Tour” last fall calling on both presidential candidates to withdraw their support for this dangerous pipeline scheme and to instead begin championing a U.S.-led green industrial revolution.
TransCanada knows if they are successful in ramming through the southern (OK-TX) leg of Keystone XL, approval for the northern leg in 2013 becomes all that much more likely. Alternatively, if the American people succeed in blocking construction of the southern leg, we will have likely blocked Keystone XL in its entirety. What TransCanada does not want you to know is that completion of the southern leg alone would open the floodgates to the exploitation of Canadian tar sands by enabling toxic slurry to flow all the way from Alberta’s landlocked mine fields to Texas refineries. This makes Keystone XL a make or break fight.
TransCanada, the oil lobby and leaders of both major political parties have disingenuously portrayed Keystone XL as a project that will create tens of thousands of jobs, lower gasoline prices, and promote U.S. energy security. None of these claims are true. To the contrary, Keystone XL poses an imminent economic, public health and national security threat to the United States of America.
Twenty prominent scientists – including one of the nation’s top climate experts, Dr. James Hansen – have warned that Keystone XL “would practically guarantee extensive exploitation” of Canada’s tar sands, which “on top of conventional fossil fuels will leave our children and grandchildren a climate system with consequences that are out of their control.” Dr. Hansen – who along with other scientists links deadly heat waves to climate change – also warns that such exploitation would mean ”game over for the climate.”
In 2007, an elite Military Advisory Board of 11 retired three- and four-star generals and admirals from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps concluded that “climate change is and must be recognized as a threat to our national security.” Echoing this sentiment, Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, USN (Ret.), president of the bipartisan American Security Project, testified in 2009 before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that taking this national security threat “head on is about preserving our way of life.”
The poor safety record of Canadian pipeline companies and the economic danger Keystone XL poses to our nation’s food and water supplies are both well documented. TransCanada’s Keystone I tar sands pipeline, built in 2010, leaked corrosive tar sands slurry 12 times in its first 12 months. That same year, a similar pipeline run by another Canadian company spilled more than 1 million gallons of toxic tar sands into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River, sickening hundreds of people, displacing homeowners, wrecking businesses, and destroying jobs.
Keystone XL – which would pump tar sands at extreme pressure and temperature across nearly 2,000 U.S. waterways – promises more of the same by allowing for leaks of up to 1.7 million gallons daily without triggering a real-time leak detection system. It is not a matter of if, but when, this 1,700-mile pipeline will compromise America’s breadbasket by contaminating our Great Plains rivers and aquifers.
Instead of leveling with the American people, Governor Romney and President Obama hid behind the few thousand temporary construction jobs this project would create. The facts show that Keystone XL:
• Risks destroying more jobs than it creates
• Portends higher, not lower, gas prices for the Midwest and Rockies
• Functions as an export pipeline for Canada to sell its oil to foreign markets
• Threatens to further poison the air of people living near tar sands oil refineries
• Violates tribal sovereignty and tramples on private property rights of U.S. citizens
• Jeopardizes the Ogallala Aquifer, source of 1/3 of America’s farmland irrigation water
• Endangers the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, which supplies water to more than 10 million Texans
America’s path to prosperity lies in the rapid transition to abundant homegrown renewable energy and appropriate biofuel resources to power our homes, businesses, and vehicles – not in facilitating pipelines transporting the most destructive oil on earth. Keystone XL represents a retreat from the green economy, which already employs 2.7 million workers (more than the fossil fuel industry).
To help honestly reframe the debate, we drafted an “Open Letter” (signed by ranchers, farmers, indigenous leaders and other prominent Americans) to Obama and Romney, calling on both candidates to defend America from Keystone XL on economic, public health and national security grounds.
In the hopes of inspiring similar actions at Romney and Obama campaign offices nationwide, I then proceeded to hand-deliver copies of the “Open Letter” – via rocket trike – to Romney and Obama campaign offices along the Front Range and Eastern Plains of the presidential battleground state of Colorado, The ride began at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder and ended at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, with a pit stop in Denver for the first nationally televised presidential debate on October 3.
I took this stand because Keystone XL is the exact opposite direction we should be headed as a country. It is time for our political leaders to stand up for our basic rights to clean air, food, and water, and to put the health, safety, and economic well-being of the American people before foreign corporate interests. We need a U.S.-led green industrial revolution that will move our economy forward, create millions of new jobs, and help ensure a livable planet for future generations. It is time for a bold vision for the future that is befitting the American people – one marked by innovation, ingenuity, and hope.
Join the fight for climate sanity.
WHY I DID THE 2011 “RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: NO TAR SANDS OIL ON AMERICAN SOIL!”
Anyone paying even the slightest bit of attention to politics in America today can sense the decay of democracy stemming from politicians in both political parties who value holding onto power more than they value the future of our children, our nation, and our world. As the Wall Street bailout demonstrated in dramatic fashion, the game is rigged against the American people in favor of powerful corporate interests. Even foreign corporations get to play.
What if you learned a multinational energy company was plotting to ram a 1,700-mile pipeline through America’s breadbasket to pump nearly one million barrels a day of their strip-mined tar sands sludge to oil refineries in Texas? What if you discovered that tar sands pipelines are 16 times more likely to leak than conventional oil pipelines, due to the corrosive, acidic content of toxic tar sands sludge. What if you found out this foreign corporation was bullying U.S. citizens in six states with threats of eminent domain?
Imagine NASA’s top climate scientist, James Hansen, telling you this: “…if we burn all reserves of oil, gas and coal, there is a substantial chance we will initiate the runaway greenhouse [the Venus syndrome that Hansen warns could “destroy all life on the planet”].” Then this: “If we also burn the tar sands and tar shale, I believe the Venus syndrome is a dead certainty.” Would this stir you to action?
What I have just described is not a scene out of the science fiction film Avatar. It’s real. The name of the foreign company is TransCanada and their $7 billion pipeline scheme is called “Keystone XL.” Completing this nightmare scenario is an Obama White House already on record supporting the southern (OK-TX) leg of the pipeline and likely to support the rest.
Keystone XL is not in our national interest:
- It is projected to raise gas prices 10-20 cents a gallon in the Midwest.
- It may destroy more jobs than it creates and directly undermines the green industrial revolution and the millions of permanent jobs that would create.
- It threatens to contaminate the Ogallala Aquifer — the drinking water supply of millions of Americans and source of one-third of America’s farmland irrigation water — with oil spills.
- It would expose families living near tar sands oil refineries to increased risks of cancer from toxic air emissions.
- It threatens Native American and Canadian First Nations communities and cultures.
TransCanada profits, and Americans pay with our wallets, our jobs, our water, our health, our sovereignty and our integrity.
It is obvious why TransCanada and big oil companies want this pipeline built. It is less clear why the Obama White House would even consider it. Keystone XL is expected to facilitate oil exports overseas, not the United States. But even if the costly fuel were sold to the U.S., it would only make America more, not less, addicted to the dirtiest foreign oil on the planet.
Ironically, the pipeline route runs through a region of the U.S. so rich in wind resource, it has the potential to supply several times our total national electricity usage. In the face of massive unemployment, it defies logic to be temporarily employing workers to lay pipe for Canada when we could be putting Americans permanently back to work building a national green grid for ourselves, along with the wind turbines and solar panels to power it.
We have reached a turning point in history where a major decision our government is about to make could destroy the ability of future generations to inhabit a livable planet. This is a defining moment for President Obama, who must now choose between our children and the oil lobby. Our job, as I see it, is to show the President the American people have his back in standing up to the oil industry. His job is to do right by us by rejecting Keystone XL and boldly championing a truly green industrial revolution.
To help bring this about, I led a “rocket trike” tour last fall – in partnership with a broad array of citizens and organizations working to block Keystone XL – along the 1,700-mile pipeline route to draw the nation’s attention to the perils of this project and to support the people in Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas who are most directly threatened by this dangerous pipeline scheme.
If the BP Gulf oil spill taught us anything, it’s that energy companies lie, and pipelines spill, with catastrophic consequences for people and the planet. When talking about actions that will make the planet uninhabitable for humanity, most reasonable people would agree we have passed the point of compromise. The American people are drawing a line in the tar sands, and TransCanada shall not pass.
WHY I DID THE 2010 “RIDE FOR RENEWABLES: 100% BY 2020″
Business as usual isn’t working. America is suffering from massive unemployment, an economy in meltdown mode and a climate that is spiraling out of control. It is clearly time for a new national conversation about America’s energy future. I believe the answer is an American-led, job-producing, economy-strengthening, climate-stabilizing green industrial revolution.
Convinced that 2010 was the critical year for America to set the agenda for the coming decade, I decided to take action. So on September 12, 2010, I began biking from Boulder, CO to Washington, DC, calling for a modern day, green energy moon shot for America: 100% renewable electricity for the U.S. by 2020. Over a span of 10 weeks, I traveled 2,500 miles to Washington, DC in my futuristic-looking, electric-assist “rocket trike.”
The purpose of the ride was to begin a new national conversation about America’s energy future. I rode to engage the American people in “taking back our power” by demanding a green industrial revolution that will put unemployed Americans back to work, reestablish our role as world economic leader, and help ensure future generations a livable planet. Almost everyone I met on Main Street, America supported this goal.
Along the way, I visited renewable energy and efficiency projects as motivating examples of the choices already being made by local communities to realize this homegrown green industrial revolution. I also highlighted the deficiencies of old, polluting technologies like coal and nuclear power, and called for an end to the destruction being visited upon Appalachian communities and ecosystems by mountaintop removal mining.
To build public interest in this 10-week trek, I posted a daily blog on this site, and uploaded videos to my Renewable Rider YouTube, Facebook and Twitter pages. I also aggressively sought out media interviews with print, radio and television news outlets, many of which are posted on my blog. I pedaled through all or parts of the following 11 states on this 2,500-mile journey: CO, NE, KS, MO, IL, IN, OH, KY, WV, MD and DC.
Our political system in Washington, DC is clearly broken, with the two major political parties more interested in fighting each other than for the American people they were elected to represent. But the partisanship dividing our country today does not accurately reflect who we are as a nation. If anything, it reflects the degree to which unaccountable corporations have succeeded in diverting attention away from the real needs of the American people. The energy and climate challenges we face today are not Republican, or Democratic, issues. They are American, and human, issues that affect each of us, regardless of political persuasion. Everyone needs clean air to breathe, fresh water to drink, healthy food to eat and a planet to live on. If there was ever a time to put party label aside, and put America first, that time is now.
I refuse to believe America’s best days are behind her, but we need to dispense with Washington’s timid “inside the beltway” mentality and start dreaming big dreams once again. Now is the time to reclaim our moral standing in the world by reaffirming our economic might as a force for good. This is the message I am working to convey – through the voices of Americans I met along the way – to our political leaders in Washington, DC.
While the task of revolutionizing our electricity grid pales in comparison to the revolutionary sacrifice that brought this great nation into being, realizing the “green dream” of a 100% renewable electricity grid in 10 years will nevertheless demand a level of courageous civic, business and political leadership rarely seen since America’s founding to overcome the inertia of the status quo and to convince a reluctant Congress and White House to radically reverse decades of regressive energy policies. But it is in our national character to take on such huge challenges, and prevail, just as it is a core American desire to leave our children a better world than the one we inherited.
I undertook the “Ride for Renewables” in 2010 as my personal stand for the future. 2011 is the year for all of us to stand together and take back our power.