How to Judge the Merits of the Keystone Pipeline Fight

By Keith Kloor | February 19, 2013 3:25 pm

Does it matter if a social movement hitches its wagon to the wrong horse?

For the food movement and its embrace of the GMO labeling cause, I argued yes in Slate, because it is

predicated on junk science and blind, simplistic mistrust of multinational corporations…The pro-labeling camp wants people to believe that eating “frankenfood” is dangerous to their health. This is simply false.

A number of very smart people feel that the climate movement is making a similar miscalculation by hitching its wagon to the anti-Keystone XL pipeline cause. (See, for example, Jon Foley here and Michael Levi here, for two good arguments.) But the galvanizing symbolism of the pipeline cannot be easily dismissed. I’ve previously written that

the complexity of climate change offers few tangible symbols. So the Keystone pipeline has become an effective rallying point…

Opposition to the pipeline has also come to embody a principle that one climate activist articulated well in a recent essay:

It’s true that stopping a single pipeline – even one as huge and odious as Keystone – will not literally “solve” climate disruption.  No single action will do that, any more than refusing to sit on the back of a single bus literally ended segregation.  The question – for Keystone protestors as it was for Rosa Parks – is whether the action captures and communicates a principle powerful enough to inspire and sustain an irresistible movement for sweeping social change.

Stopping Keystone nails the core principle for climate responsibility, by preventing investments that make climate disruption irrevocably worse.  Again, it’s not just that burning tar sands oil produces a lot of emissions; it’s that long-term capital investments like Keystone (and coal plants, and coal export facilities) “lock in” those dangerous emissions for decades and make catastrophic climate disruption inevitable.

So I don’t agree with Joe Nocera, who in a New York Times column today refers to the sustained anti-pipeline protest as “utterly boneheaded.” Ordinarily, I’m all for increasing the pragmatism quotient in environmental debates, but when it comes to building a movement, there needs to be an outlet for idealism, too. There’s nothing boneheaded about that.

If one measures–on a climate ledger–the Canadian oil sands that would be piped into the United States, then yes, Keystone is insignificant. But that’s not how it should be measured.  For Keystone has become both a call to action and a consciousness raising touchstone. It’s a fight that harnesses grassroots energy and keeps a media focus on climate change. That’s how a movement gains momentum and takes on a life of its own. That’s how Keystone should be measured.

There is one singular emotion driving the anti-GMO faction and climate activists in their respective movements: fear. Fear of GMOs and fear of global warming. Based on what science tells us, the former is unwarranted, the latter is legitimate.  Opposition to GMOs–and the drive to label them–springs from a fear that is unfounded. Opposition to the Keystone pipeline springs from a fear of climate change that may be unduly magnified by some activists and scientists (which can be counterproductive), but it is a fear that is based on multiple lines of scientific evidence.

Keystone may not be the best front for the larger battle over how to decarbonize our energy economy, but it is a potent proxy that is now mobilizing people to join that larger battle. How that turns out will determine how the Keystone fight will ultimately be judged.

File:Protests against Keystone XL Pipeline for tar sands at White House, 2011.jpg

[2011 anti-Keystone protest in front of White House/Wikimedia commons]

  • http://www.facebook.com/uhuru.a.meier Adam Meier

    Keith, thanks for your thoughtful post – it certainly
    exemplifies why making blanket statements such as “it’s right/wrong for social movements hitches its wagon to a horse” deserve dissection and specification.

    I agree that the GMO labeling argument is misguided.
    Rather than the label be an indication to consumers that they should reconsider this product because as a “frankenfood” it may be dangerous to your health, it should be an indicator that it likely depends on intensive agriculture methods such as mono-cropping, fossil fuel based fertilizers, and chemical cocktails like RoundUp. The implication being that the problem lies not in the Genetically Modified Organism itself, but the reasons for which GMOs arose.

    GMOs allow farmers to dump polluting chemicals that get into rivers and streams, destroy localized diversity and wither away long-term soil health. Additionally, the pesticides and other products that are used can be embedded within the products themselves (Dirty Dozen). Would you feel the same way if these were the arguments that were made for labeling GMO products? Are there better/alternative strategies than labeling?

    In a similar vein, I feel that the Keystone XL pipeline
    argument has hinged for a long time on the pipeline itself and has garnered support because of the threat to farmland, aquifers and the like that the pipeline would pass through. This focus has allowed the movement to garner support nationally from unlikely groups. Until recently my perception and frustration was that the movement was missing the key issue of whether or not
    tar sands are extracted in the first place. Extracting this carbon bomb would be drastic because of the carbon emissions associate with it, not strictly with those passing through the KeystoneXL. Of course, McKibben does an excellent job discussing this in further detail in his Rolling Stone article, “Do the Math.”

    However, recently, the anti-pipeline movement has really
    built this argument into their work – and McKibben should be at least thanked in part to this development. The point mentioned in this post is key:

    “Stopping Keystone nails the
    core principle for climate responsibility, by preventing investments that make climate disruption irrevocably worse. Again, it’s not just that burning tar sands oil produces a lot of emissions; it’s that long-term capital investments like Keystone (and coal plants, and coal export facilities) “lock in” those dangerous emissions for decades and make catastrophic climate disruption inevitable.”

    • Buddy199

      News: we share the same atmosphere with China where the oil will ultimately be burned.

    • Howard

      Sorry to burst your bubble, but farms have polluted the crap out of rivers, aquifers, estuaries, bays, inlets, etc, etc. long before GMO. GMO actually allows for lower water impact for the same yield.

      The environmental movement has no scientific credibility, only political power. There is plenty of bad environmental practices to fix. Unfortunately, environmentalists prefer to address the least severe problems.

      The real issue is environmental justice. Blocking US and Canadian oil and gas production helps preserve the blood for oil, gold for tyrants policy that McKibben and his lemmings perpetuate. It goes hand in hand with their support for blocking GMO food for a starving Africa.

      When an environmentalist says a place is “environmentally sensitive” it means that rich white flat landers like to summer there.

  • PhilBower75

    It’s not just climate change that is the problem. As shown here, upgrading the oil from the oil sands creates carcinogenic toxins that are now being deposited in lakes as far as 90 kilometres from the upgraders near Fort McMurray:

    http://viableopposition.blogspot.ca/2013/02/the-local-environmental-impact-of-oil.html

    Once Keystone is built, daily production from the oil sands will ramp up, magnifying the problem.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Mcc/100002147945135 Brian Mcc

      “As shown here on My leftist nut site” ..Buhahahaha
      All lies to further your political agenda.

    • jh

      And yet no negative effects were documented in this paper. Quite the contrary:

      “climate-driven primary production increases may have
      trumped some effects of oil sands-derived PAHs”

      The paper seems to struggle to avoid stating outright that it documents no negative effects whatsoever.

      http://thetyee.ca/News/2013/01/07/Kurek-et-al-Athabasca-Oil-Sands-Legacy.pdf

  • Jon Claerbout

    I’ll try leave you two links. One long NYT article about Freeman Dyson. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/magazine/29Dyson-t.html?pagewanted=all

    and a short one where Dyson addresses the climate issue
    http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/dysonf07/dysonf07_index.html

  • RagnarDanneskjold

    Are climate change activists against amnesty? That will have a bigger impact on climate.

  • Buddy199

    Stopping Keystone nails the core principle for climate responsibility, by preventing investments that make climate disruption irrevocably worse. Again, it’s not just that burning tar sands oil produces a lot of emissions; it’s that long-term capital investments like Keystone (and coal plants, and coal export facilities) “lock in” those dangerous emissions for decades and make catastrophic climate disruption inevitable.

    ——–

    Canada will sell the oil to China, where it will be refined and burned. The carbon-based modern economy is not going away, it will actually expand as demand grows in developing countries. But if marching around with a sign makes you feel better, knock yourself out.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Mcc/100002147945135 Brian Mcc

      So true Buddy.
      The arrogance of these folks is stunning.
      They really believe they can slow/stop climate change. Total disconnect with reality.

      • Buddy199

        Not arrogant. Juvenile. Like Occupy Wall Street changed capitalism.

        • http://profiles.google.com/hypatia08 Hypatia Hypatia

          The Occupy movement was NEVER intended to “change capitalism”. It was a movement of real citizens to secure a balance between money and life.

          • Buddy199

            Oh, is that what all the drugs, rape, murders, medieval sanitation, destruction of public property and riots were all about?

      • Johnfig

        The arrogance of YOU is what is the only thing stunning here. Reality is that we can absolutely ensure a future for humanity while still meeting our energy needs WITHOUT destroying everything else. YOUR A TOTAL DISCONNECT FROM REALITY and a PUSSY for not fighting for a better reality.

        *last comment towards all: we’ve tried it before and we’ll try it again, but if civility were going to be a game changer, our land would not be exhauseted and our people would not suffer from the gains of one another. Now I don’t know about you, but I am NOT that person to lay down, and I am not part of an inactive generation that will bow to this WRONG DOING. Now , we’re beginning to shape the rules and if YOUR willing to sit back and and allow others to make the rules for you, than your place is to be stepped on, of design by nature, only inaction is powerless

    • My_goodness

      This is a joke! The Canadian government has already nixed the trans-Canada pipeline.

      Just look at a map, please! To get the oil to the coast, Canada would have to find a way to get the sludge over or under the Canadian Rockies. They also would have to pass through Indian reservations along the way. Assuming they reach the coast, Canada would have to build a port on its west coast — complete with oil refineries.

      At least they have the common sense not to try this.

      • Buddy199

        Canada will forego billions of dollars in oil revenue. Sure they will.

        • My_goodness

          Since they can’t afford to get the sludge to their west coast for export, they will just pipe it through the US to the TX refinery that will market it to the world. Just because we pipe it doesn’t mean we’ll own it.Canada will make out great on this deal.

          • Buddy199

            It’s a matter of simple capitalism and market forces. If a buyer (particularly China) is willing to pay enough for a commodity it will be brought to market somehow. That’s why miners drill holes a mile underground to get to diamonds. China has a voracious need for energy especially fossil fuels since they are the most cost effective and energy rich for running an industrial economy. Windmills and solar cells are nice but if they could match fossil fuels Holland would be the Saudi Arabia of Europe. Also, alternative energy does not survive without massive government subsidies, everything from enormous grants to solar and windmill manufacturers to govt payments to put “free” solar panels on your roof to $7500 tax write offs for $100,000 electric cars that only eco-1%ers can afford after the Range Rover and Audi. The market – meaning millions of consumers making a choice as to how they spend their money – ultimately decides. That’s why new technologies have been developed for obtaining fossil fuels (demand) and also why after massive government and political support alternative energy is still wheezing and creaking along in the marketplace (lack of demand). A symbilic protest is all well and good, but also naive and pointless in the larger picture.

      • KingB

        My_goodness,

        Firstly, you are completely wrong, the consultation process on the Gateway is underway and will be complete shortly. No decision has been made (although it will likely fail), which is why they are discussing increasing volume of the Trans-Mountain pipeline which already exists and is bringing oil sands to the coast today and everyday. That pipeline right-of-way can be expanded without the same degree of consultation because the line already exists.

        As for your major point, looking at the map I see these funny things called the CN and CP main lines. For those of you from elsewhere, these are the two mainlines for the trans-continental railway. They already exist and are being used to ship oil right now. As for your additional point, oil sands are already being exported from the Port of Vancouver and the Port of Vancouver (the biggest port by shipping volume on North America’s west coast) has plenty of room for increased tanker capacity. As for refineries, they are not actually required to export oil sands but once again a quick look shows a perfectly good set of refineries one in Vancouver and several in Northwest Washington (and all on rail lines of course).

      • harrywr2

        “Canada would have to build a port on its west coast — complete with oil refineries”

        You might want to look at a map….The BP refinery at Cherry Point(Blaine,WA) is about as close to Canada one can get without being in Canada.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Mcc/100002147945135 Brian Mcc

    I just sit back and laugh at the lefts moronic, ineffectual and infantile thought process.
    The very thought that there is ANYTHING that can be done to stop or even slow down climate change is pure fantasy. All the oil in the world WILL be burned.
    Adapt or die.
    Please help stop “global whining”

    • DaleT

      Still waiting for some constructive input here
      “I just sit back…”

  • Marlowe Johnson

    nice post keith. i think you nailed it. i don’t often disagree with Levi, but i think you’ve done a nice job articulating what’s wrong with a purely dry analytical reading of the situation. sometimes it isn’t about the numbers…

  • jh

    Keith,

    With due respect, I think you’ve missed the boat.

    Rosa Parks’ seat on the bus didn’t affect anyone’s welfare. Keystone does.

    Keystone provides jobs at a time of high unemployment. We can dispute the number, but we can’t dispute that jobs will be added.

    More jobs means more federal tax revenue and lower deficits.

    Even if keystone doesn’t push oil prices down (it most likely will push prices down), it will restrain rising oil prices. For many people, gas currently costs $200-$300 a month. That’s a huge chunk of income for a person that makes, say, $2500/mo. Capping that cost is important to many, many people.

    GM Food labeling or not doesn’t hurt anyone. Stopping keystone hurts a lot of people.

    The environmental movement has crossed the line from beneficial to destructive. this is just one more black mark on it’s resume.

    • doctorslime

      I heard it won’t drive prices down, it raises them by exporting continental oil supplies to china, think about it for a second if the oil has an easy route to leave, without being trucked, then the glut in the central USA goes way, and then prices rise in the USA to meet world demand prices? Ever notice gas is cheaper near the refinery? If we start shipping the raw products to CHINA then WE WILL PAY MORE!

      Don’t believe me? Listen to DOW’s experts Complain about what will happen to domestic LP liquid petroleum prices if we start to export our surplus, the exporter gets rich, as we pay for the route for them to export our resources to the world market and we PAY MORE!

      DO NOT SUPPORT XL PIPE LINE the rich get richer and we get to pay more, that is a simple straight forward argument, and if we save on carbon emissions world wide then great, I’d rather pay less at the pump, thank you very much.

      Its simple law of supply and demand.

  • jh

    Keith,

    One controversial topic that you’ve never addressed – and one of the common justifications for blocking keystone – is the fears of groundwater contamination from a pipeline spill. The anti-keystone faction has paraded all sorts of ridiculous – and falsifiable – claims, including the idea that the entire HPA could be contaminated by a Keystone breach. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on that.

    • Howard

      Petroleum is practically insoluble, it has a very strong affinity to stick to soil and not move and naturally biodegrades in the subsurface. The whole country is criss-crossed with oil, diesel and gasoline pipelines and the aquifers are fine. We use nearly 150-billion gallons of gasoline every year in the US and the only aquifers ever damaged by gasoline was when the EPA and the Sierra Club promoted the use of the water soluble, non-degrading MTBE in gasoline to save the air.

      • jh
      • KingB

        Howard,
        With all due respect you are completely wrong. As someone who works in the remediation industry I can assure you that oil’s affinity for soil does not protect water. Oil, fuel oils, diesels and gasoline are impacting aquifers to one degree or another in virtually every community that has roads and you don’t know it. The history of steel fuel tanks that leaked has kept my company in business for the last 30 years and will keep me employed for the foreseeable future.

        • jh

          “Oil, fuel oils, diesels and gasoline are impacting aquifers to one degree or another”

          Well, to what degree? ppm? ppb? traceable how far from the source? Not all – probably not even most – aquifers are used for drinking water.

          The paper I referenced below shows that a significant crude oil spill migrated <100m from the spill site in 10 years. Beyond that time, the plume retreated due to oxidation of the oil. We learn two things from the Bemidji spill:

          1. Contamination does occur during spills and can migrate

          2. The migration is very restricted bcz the oil oxidizes in the shallow subsurface.

          We can presume from this example that a spill from the Keystone pipeline would contaminate only a very restricted area, and would not create a significant risk even to the local drinking water, let alone the regional aquifer.

          • KingB

            jh,

            Your initial questions are inane since the size of the spill is the determining factor in establishing the level of contamination, so it is impossible to answer your questions. Moreover, the nature of the soils and the type of petroleum hydrocarbons will further determine what will happen following a spill.

            The Ogallala Aquifer is extremely shallow and made up of highly permeable soils with high high K-values (groundwater travels very quickly). A spill of refined petroleum (or oil sands diluted with aliphatic solvents) could travel meters per day in the subsurface and make huge areas useless for human use for years to come. Similarly a spill at a river crossing (say during a storm that washes out the pipeline) could result in damage that could take decades to clean. That is why they redirected the pipeline around that aquifer.

            Spills are a serious concern and your statement that spills would only contaminate a limited area is sadly out of touch with the realities of this industry.

          • jh

            “A spill of refined petroleum could travel meters per day in the subsurface and make huge areas useless for human use for years to come.”

            Did you read the paper on the Bemidji spill? :)

            The spill occurred in 1979. As of 1996, about 50K gallons of oil remain in the subsurface, so it is still a major point source. Total ground water movement, 1979-1996, 500m (39 m/yr). In the groundwater zone, the oil moved <40m in 17 yrs and is no longer advancing. “Low” levels of hydrocarbons are detectable down-flow up to 130m from the spill site, and concentrations above 10ppb (“slightly elevated” vs natural groundwater) are detectable to 180m. In the unsaturated zone (above water table),
            the vapor plume reached a max extent of about 150m, but has since receded to 75m due to natural degradation. No part of the plume was advancing as of 1996.

            So, no, under natural conditions, hydrocarbons don’t move "meters per day" in the subsurface, at least not for any length of time.

            Yes, spills are serious concerns. Yes, jobs and the economy are also serious concerns.

          • Howard

            jh: I wonder if the remediation company KingB works for is King Buck down in San Diego? They make thermal oxidizers. Many remediation companies have been feeding at the taxpayer trough via the various state UST Tank Funds for 25-years. When California revised UST Cleanup policy, many of these remediation firms screamed bloody murder because their government cheese cash cow would come crashing down.

            In any event, the high nitrate pollution in the shallow Ogallala will remediate the petroleum before it can migrate more than 200-feet. This is a red herring issue used by environmental activists and contractors grown phat on the gravy train.

          • KingB

            Howard,
            You are wrong on both fronts, first I do not work in California and more importantly, nitrates, while useful electron acceptors in natural attenuation would in no way be able to slow down a spill any more than ants on a roadway can slow down an elephant. Given time ants might be able to strip a dead elephant of its skin but the process is excruciatingly slow as would it be if you were depending on natural attenuation to stop an oil spill.

          • Howard

            King B, just a coincidence then.

            99.9% of oil spilled is contained in a very small area and will not foul aquifers. Do you think this is the 1950′s and the leak will go on for 40-years before anyone notices? The bulk will be easily excavated and any that might end up floating on top of the shallowest groundwater zone (that all drinking wells are required to be sealed off from) can be vacuumed up. The remaining residual will biodegrade in soil and groundwater before any resources are impacted. These type of pipeline spills already occur and don’t destroy aquifers. Also, the history of petroleum UST spills shows that 99.9% of all spills do not impact water resources. (the groundwater impacted are not resources, contrary to your belief) . What is so special about keystone? Is the soil-organic partition coefficient lower than diesel or gasoline?

            Quick, do some more googling, you might learn something about contaminant fate and transport as it relates to risk-based cleanup. Then look up “Where’s the benzene?” Then check out all of the plume studies conducted since LLNL in 1995. You might consider looking for another line of work.

          • KingB

            Did you know that 74.234% of all stats in comments are made up? Clearly yours is one of those since the location of the spill, the depth of the affected aquifer and the material released determines the amount that will escape. As for your made up factoid about water wells. In shallow, unconfined aquifers wells can and are screened near the groundwater surface.

            As for your final comment, I don’t need to Google about benzene, I’ll stick to my Ph.D in Chemistry for that and my 13 years experience in petroleum hydrocarbon investigation and remediation will help me fill the other gaps.

          • KingB

            jh,

            You quote a single paper for a single spill in a distinct stratigraphy and on that basis you infer about all other spills in all other situations? That is like saying you saw one football game once and can therefore infer the outcome of every football game thereafter. Subsurface processes are distinct and while one can learn a lot from individual studies they do not tell you how every case will act out.

            The spill you cite was in a “glacial outwash plain underlain by stratified glacial outwash deposits.The land surface is a glacial outwash plain underlain by stratified glacial outwash deposits.” These soils are what are referred to by geologists as “tills”. A till is one of the hardest, least permeable soil types out there. You need special drill rigs to drill them and in the industry there is a joke that a till is almost as permeable as a coke bottle. This study would be applicable for comparison to other till sites but is irrelevent in a sandy aquifer like the Ogallala.

            Put simply an hour on Google does not replace 10 years of academic training coupled with 20 years of professional experience. A more apt paper for you to read might be “Evaluation of the Impact of Fuel Hydrocarbons and Oxygenates on Groundwater Resources Evaluation of the Impact of Fuel Hydrocarbons and Oxygenates on Groundwater Resources” by Shi et al Environ.Sci Technol, 2004, 38 42-48 or Shi et als, 2003 paper in the same journal.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charlie-Peters/100001008562611 Charlie Peters

    California CARB fuel was close to zero ethanol in our fuel in 1992..

    1992 fuel price about $1.40 per gallon.

    Ethanol push from fed EPA and friends pushed ethanol to 5.6% and we paid more for our fuel.

    Fed EPA and Big oil refiners pushed the oxygenate to 10% and we paid more.

    Now BP GMO fuel is pushing for over $1.00 in corporate welfare with 15% of the fuel market while cutting back Oil and refining

    Will BP GMO fuel patents generate credit trade income from the Big oil industry with the Queen Mother help.

    The Queen banker friends may want a share.

    So. how big does California ethanol bill need to be to qualify for the EPA waiver?

  • dogktor

    Dear Keith.

    I agree with the thrust of your argument re. building social movements and I see the labeling of GMOs as partially analogous to the push-back against the Keystone pipeline. I find few redeeming medical arguments to support the currently commercialized agricultural GMOs in spite of the institutionally perpetuated dogma.

    I am curious reThe pro-labeling camp wants people to believe that eating “frankenfood” is dangerous to their health. This is simply false. Years of rigorous studies of GM foods have not demonstrated any harmful effects associated with consuming GM crops.

    Did you go back and read the studies cited by Pamela Ronald, who I am assuming informed your definitive opinion on safety of GMOs, and who in spite of her brilliant scientific achievements isn’t licensed to practice medicine—which, I submit, an opinion on safety GMOs on animal and public health Is.

    Did you not find it interesting that her definitive opinion on safety is based on 3 out of 83 cited studies; the rest of which have absolutely nothing at all to do with public health?

    Can you tell me what percentage of the scientific panels formulating opinions on safety are actual medical practitioners?
    An approximation will do: 0.5%, 5%, 50%, 99%?

    And finally, did you read the 3/83 citations she provided that did have public health implications?

    Committee on Identifying and Assessing Unintended Effects of Genetically Engineered Foods on Human Health, and National Research Council (Editors), 2004 Safety of Genetically Engineered Foods: Approaches to Assessing Unintended Health Effects. National Academies Press, Washington, DC.

    Please read pages 103-174

    http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10977&page=103

    European Commission Joint Research Centre, 2008 Scientific and Technical Contribution to the Development of an Overall Health Strategy in the Area of GMOs. European Commission, EU Publications, Luxembourg.http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/jrc/downloads/jrc_reference_report_2008_11_healthstrategy_gmos.pdf

    bioinformatics and digestibility analyses similar to those for toxicity are commonly carried out. The bioinformatics test outcomes can provide insight into similarities between the newly expressed protein
    and allergens, including the presence of antibody binding sites in the new protein that may be recognised by sera against a known allergen.The in vitro digestibility of the newly expressed protein additionally provides an indication of the likelihood that the newly expressed protein may
    survive digestion and reach the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract, where it may prime the immune system for allergic reactions towards the protein during subsequent exposure. In case of positive findings, sera binding tests are carried out with sera from patients known to suffer from allergy towards the pertinent allergen with which the newly expressed protein may cross-react.Therefore, these tests primarily focus on the potential cross-reactivity of a newly expressed protein with existing allergens and to some degree also on its potential to ‘sensitise’ itself, i.e. to prime the immune system to respond with allergic reactions to itself.

    Please note that allergenicity testing that GMOs undergo, are at odds with medical standards. Food allergy tests are notoriously unreliable in real life, because real patients do note behave anything like test tubes. The medical gold standard of allergy testing remains the double-blind placebo-controlled food challenge (DBPCFC) –and such is rendered impossible by lack of labeling. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=gold+standard+food+allergy

    I am only debunking one single safety assurance myth for now because I am very tired. No tiny violins, seriously, but after an emotionally draining day capped off with a euthanasia of a young insulinoma patient with paraneoplastic paralysis, today GMOs just don’t seem so important.

    Take care.

  • Tom Scharf

    KK: Since I agree with the agenda, I will look the other way with regards to the facts. You do the same thing with extreme events. I sense you are conflicted.

    You.should.care.about.the.facts.

    It’s called noble cause corruption. And like RPJ states, it is horse meat in the lasagna. What do you think happens when a reasonable person looks into the facts about things like extreme events and Keystone? If they conclude that there has been subterfuge by the activists, it tars the whole movement. You view this as just “little white lies”.

    CNN has an article today about polar bears. We supposedly have to start feeding them due to their population reduction from AGW. They even link to a video of a polar bear cub dying. Absolutely shameless propaganda.

    http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/20/opinion/sutter-polar-bears/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

    There’s a reason that the environment and AGW consistently ranks as the lowest priority among voters. And it sure isn’t because the greens haven’t talked in enough apocalyptic language.

    Credibility is not a priority with the greens, and until it is, their cause will continue to languish. And they will drag the name of science through the mud along the way.

  • KingB

    What a lot of the anti-Keystone people fail to realize is that lacking a pipeline the producers will simply seek alternative transportation mechanisms that are not nearly as safe as pipelines. Slate.Com has an interesting read on the transportation of oil on tanker trains and the massive build-up of tanker rail capacity in the American northwest (http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/02/keystone_pipeline_protests_oil_companies_will_just_use_railroads.html)
    . Shipping oil by tanker train is far more risky (look at the spillage by km of pipelines vs. tanker rail) and far more energy intensive (and thus produces greenhouse gases and uses valuable resources) than pipelines. Since the rail lnes already exist, however, they are the real alternative to pipelines.

  • harrywr2

    So what happens to the ‘Galvanized symbolism’ the day the US Senate passes the Keystone Pipeline Authorization Bill?

    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/01/23/senators-urge-approval-keystone-pipeline/1860003/

    Let’s review -

    53 US Senators on record in support of Keystone Pipeline

    How many US Senators in Support of Bernie Sanders ‘climate bill’?

  • hudasx

    The best argument we can come up with against Keystone XL is that it symbolizes climate change? I’ll stay home. As for the pipeline locking in emissions, remember it’s just a pipeline. Just as coal plants are being shut down all the time for one reason or another, that pipeline will be plugged when electric cars prove to be better in the market. Turning down Keystone means a negligible difference in emissions from American cars. It also means the US will continue to have to buy oil from its enemies.

  • Michael Dean Lewis

    First of all, people like ‘mygoodness’, will never even be looked at by my type, that is, open and truthful types so if you’ve a moniker you’re hiding behind well, let’s say, I will always leave you behind. This country which I live in and have served to defend must, and I say again MUST remove dependency on foreign oil. That said, I don’t care about your misguided beliefs on the climate or your beliefs in the humans’ importance over what this planet I live on can do because I know your kind are wrong, and absolutely wrong. So, protest all you want and make sure you tell everyone you know that you did because when the pipeline is eventually built, people who protested should not get one gallon of fuel or any by-product from it but of course, that wish of mine will never be.

  • http://www.facebook.com/johndowney1st wolfbait

    People commenting here are quite simply a very trusting bunch of folks. You think that if Canada wants to get oil in a most obscene manner (ever seen any pictures of the tar sand operation?), pollute their own country, and send all of their oil, (the dirtiest in the world, btw), down through the heart of our country we should let them? For a few short-term jobs? Because we need the work? Are we that desperate? I say let them keep their bizarre experiment in planet-pillaging to themselves and build their own refineries. The oil is for EXPORT and will do nothing to diminish our energy dependance dilemma.

    As for the GMO debate, again, so many trusting souls! Monsanto is one of the more sociopathic companies out there, just look at how they are dealing with their customers. You can’t harvest the seeds like farmers always could at the end of the season, one because they will send the men-in-black after you and second they have designed them to only last a growing season, so the everybody has to buy new weeds every year. The weeds have morphed so they are pouring tons more Roundup on them and still not controlling them. Nobody has any idea where the weed and bug resistance will go, but I don’t have a good feeling. Maybe no evidence has yet been found that GMO foods are harmful to people, but it takes 20 – 30 years to find out if something causes cancer, so again, I remain wary. Until I am sure, I don’t want to be eating that crap. Keep your hands off my food, I say.

    • KingB

      Just to add some facts to your post, Oil sands are nowhere near the dirtiest oils in the world. Heck, due to its reliance on steam to enhance recovery, California crude has a higher carbon footprint than oil sands oils.

      As for oil sources, anyone want to guess who has the second largest oil sands deposits in the world? Yes that would be the US’s other oil trading partner Venezuela. So instead of importing oils sands oils from Canada the US will rely on oil sands oil from Venezuela. Those refining jobs will not be in Louisiana but South America, and the dollars will not go to a friendly nation, but to a dictatorship that is using the oil money to fund insurrection against friendly democracies and is funding terrorists intent on killing Americans.

  • bll

    I really wanted to subscribe to Discover for my son. This article was very disappointing. I would have been satisfied if the article was presenting facts and unbiased, or even both sides, but the “galvanizing symbolism” was just too much.

  • Liohina

    I think your analysis is too narrow. The pipeline isn’t just about global warming. It’s also about inevitable, highly damaging oil spills, coercion of landowners along the route, and destruction of boreal forests and songbird and other habitat, as well as
    Canadian First Nation communities and rights.

    As for GMO’s I agree that there’s
    a lot of unwarranted hysteria, but I believe it has lead to increased spraying
    of chemicals on crops (with drift onto everything in their vicinity), with soil
    and health effects that I am not convinced have been adequately studied.

    There’s ample evidence that the FDA and other government “regulatory”
    agencies, not to mention universities and scientists hungry for research
    dollars, are corrupt, so it’s hard to know which reported results to believe.

    An ancillary issue is the social consequences of GMOs when they are used to tie
    farmers to the use of chemicals and the purchase of new seed for every year’s
    crops, not to mention the contamination of nearby organic crops, and the
    prosecution of farmers whose crops have been cross-pollinated by GMO crops
    through no act or desire of their own.

    And all of these effects seem to be to no useful purpose, since the weeds
    and other pests seem to evolve around new chemicals almost as fast as they’re
    developed, leading to a spiral of increasing dependence on new compounds and on
    companies who put the bottom line ahead of every other concern. The whole scenario of giant corporate control
    over our food supply and the fostering of massive monoculture is troubling, to
    say the least.

    These social and environmental
    concerns are the main reason I don’t want to buy GMO products.

  • Felice1 Pace

    Climate activism is about to take off as more and more people experience the actual consequences – increased frequency and intensity of droughts, floods and storms, rise of sea level, etc. Most of the pundits do not have a clue.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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