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Being the Change We Hope For: Â Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline

Canadian Boreal forest One of the world’s largest remaining intact ecosystems

Photo Credit:  Ashley  Hockenberry

Critical in the fight against climate change Sources: Na,onal  Geographic,  “The  Canadian  Oil  Boom,”  March  2009,  Andrew  Nikiforuk,  Tar  Sands:  Dirty  Oil  and  the  Future  of  A  Con,nent,  Canadian  Boreal  Ini,a,ve.

Home to Many At least 3.5 million people live in the Canadian Boreal (over 10% of Canadians)

600+ First Nations communities maintain traditional roots in the Boreal Source: Canadian  Boreal  Ini,a,ve.  Photo  Credit:  Oil  on  Lubicon  Land:  A  Photo  Essay  by  Greenpeace  Canada:  hQp://

Once of the largest carbon sinks

soils & permafrost store 2x the carbon of tropical rain forests

Source: The  Carbon  the  World  Forgot,  Canadian  Boreal  Ini,a,ve  and  Boreal  Songbird  Ini,a,ve

Essential to global water supply The Boreal has 80% of world’s liquid freshwater: more than any other continental-scale ecosystem Water scarcity affects 1 in every 3 people in the world. And not just people in the developing world: 14 States in the U.S. are at extreme risk for water shortages

Texas Ranchers  struggling  with  record  droughts Sources:  The  Pew  Environment  Group;  World  Health  Organiza,on,  10  facts  about  water  scarcity;  Natural  Resources  Defense  Council,  Climate  Change,  Water,  and  Risk.  Photo  Credit:  Michael  Stravato

The Anthropocene Within the last year, scientists have renamed our current era the Anthropocene to describe an age that through climate change and habitat destruction--has been remade by man.

Hostile Environment

We are in the middle of the sixth and only man-made extinction of species.

Canada has the second highest rate of deforestation on Earth.

Photo Credit:  Peter  Essick,  Na@onal  Geographic.  

Because of the Tar Sands.

Deforestation One barrel of tar sands “oil” = excavation of two tons of earth and sand

Requires 3 story high, 400 ton trucks: “like driving an apartment building”

Sources: Na,onal  Geographic,  “The  Canadian  Oil  Boom,”  March  2009,  Andrew  Nikiforuk,  Tar  Sands:  Dirty  Oil  and  the  Future  of  A  Con,nent.  Photo  Credits:  Louis  Helbig,  Grist.

"The Boreal forest as we know it could be gone in a generation without major policy changes� - Steve Kallick, Director of the Pew Boreal Campaign

Vast open-pit strip-mining

One of the most environmentally destructive projects on Earth that creates a toxic waste zone the size of England.

This is not conventional oil Expensive, energy-intensive, and destructive to extract

Source: NIEHS;  Credit:  Lara  Solt,  Dallas  Morning  News-­‐Corbis.

One of the planet’s most expensive fossil fuels, since it must be highly processed.

Highly energy-intensive Industry burns enough natural gas every day to heat six million homes

From Josh  Fox’s  Gasland

Much of this natural gas is “fracked”

Source: Andrew  Nikiforuk,  Tar  Sands:  Dirty  Oil  and  the  Future  of  A  Con,nent.  

Contaminates vast amounts of water Every day, Canada exports one million barrels of tar sands “oil” (and three million barrels of virtual water)

Aerial view  of  a  tailings  pond  north  of  Fort  McMurray,  Alberta,  Canada.  (Source:  NIEHS;  Credit:  Jiri  Rezac)

The tar sands consumes as much water annually as a city of 2 million people. Ninety percent of this water becomes toxic waste which leaks into groundwater. Source: Andrew  Nikiforuk,  Tar  Sands:  Dirty  Oil  and  the  Future  of  A  Con,nent,  2009

Wildlife impacts: cartoonishly real

Whitefish from  Lake  Athabasca,  collected  by  Ray  Ladouceur,  Dec.  2009.  Photo  credit:  Kelly/ Radmanovich. The  Simpsons,  “Two  Cars  in  Every  Garage  and  Three  Eyes  on  Every  Fish,”  11/1/1990.

Scien5sts &  local  fishers  found  cancerous  tumors  on  whitefish  near   Athabasca  tar  sands Sources:  NIEHS,  Ian  Sample,  The  Guardian  “Human  ac,vity  is  driving  Earth's  'sixth  great  ex,nc,on  event'”,  7/28/2009,  Elizabeth  Kolbert,  The  New  Yorker,  “The  Sixth  Ex@nc@on?”,  5/25/2009.

Human health impacts Tailings ponds  contain  known  carcinogens  arsenic  and  benzene,  and  possible   human  carcinogens  like  lead  and  mercury.   Communi5es  near  tar  sands  are  seeing  abnormally  high  rates  of  cancer.

Rates of  renal  failure,  lupus,  and  hyperthyroidism  are  also  spiking. Sources:  Friends  of  the  Earth;  The  Pembina  Ins,tute;  EPA  Technology  Transfer  Network  Air  Toxics  Web  Site  Arsenic  Compounds;  American  Cancer  Society.  Photo  Credit:  Photo  Credit:  Oil  on  Lubicon   Land:  A  Photo  Essay  by  Greenpeace  Canada:  hQp://

Only when the last tree has died, the last river been poisoned, and the last fish been caught will we realize we cannot eat money. -Cree Proverb

“Game Over” Dr. James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute has said that exploitation of the Tar Sands will be “Game Over for The Climate”

What does that actually mean?

How do we measure CO2 in the atmosphere? The atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, oxygen, and some other stuff, including CO2. The amount of CO2 is measured in the number of CO2 molecules for every million molecules of other stuff in the atmosphere. This is called PPM for Parts Per Million.

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How do we measure CO2 in the atmosphere? Using fossil fuels releases CO2 to the atmosphere and increases the PPM of CO2 in the atmosphere. Deforestation does the same thing.

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350 PPM or Bust Scientific Consensus is that to avoid climate change that will cause significant sea level rise and rapid loss of species, atmospheric content of CO2 should stabilize around 350 PPM. If levels reach 450 PPM we are at great risk of creating out control climate change. ppm Oops!


450 ppm: Out of Control 390 ppm: Present Levels

Year: 20?? Year: 2011

360 350 ppm


280 ppm: Pre-industrial Levels

Year: 1850

180 90 0

CO2 Levels

Climate Change Now At 390 ppm we are already experiencing climate change that causes....

40% decline in Arctic Sea Ice since 1970; Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets loosing 100 cubic kilometers of ice per year. Even at current levels of climate change, arctic sea ice could be gone by 2040.

Worldwide disappearance of mountain glaciers

Northward expansion of sub-tropical regions, Expansion of dry regions, 300% increase in fires in the Western United States

Warming surface water and ocean acidification leading to the die off of coral reefs

Unprecedented severe storms and flooding

Sea level rise of 3 mm per year

Sources: Dr.  James  Hansen,  Storms  of  my  Grandchildren,  Target  Atmospheric  CO2,  NASA:  hQp://  Photo  by:  Jeff  Hannigan   (source:  U.S.  NOAA)  

Carbon in/Carbon Out Carbon is stored in sinks on land and released into the atmosphere through natural cycles. Note: 1ppm=2.12 Gigatons Carbon

Atmosphere: 800 Gigatons Carbon

Plants: 600 Gigatons Oceans:40,000 Gigatons Soil: 1500 Gigatons Methane hydrates: 10,000 Gigatons

Source: USDOE,  image  credit;  World  Ocean  Review  

Conventional Fossil Fuels : 1,460 Gigatons

Tipping point Once arctic ice melts, the dark surface of the planet attracts more heat which, in a harmful cycle, causes further releases of carbon. At this point, planetary warming cannot be controlled simply by burning less fossil fuels. The danger is that sinks, such as the ocean, will turn into sources. Massive amounts of carbon in the form of frozen methane hydrates will be in danger of destabilizing. Ocean acidification, which is already in process, will not be reversible.

Atmosphere= Way too many gigatons carbon

Source: Dr.  James  Hansen,  “Storms  of  my  Grandchildren.”

Methane Hydrates Methane hydrates are vast frozen CO2 sinks along the ocean floor and arctic shelf. In the past, rising ocean temperatures triggered an abrupt release of more than 2000 gigatons tons of carbon in the form of melting methane hydrates into the atmosphere.

We cannot stop the release of methane hydrates once we have warmed the ocean too much. Methane hydrate is an example ‘runaway climate change‘ that is often discussed.

What is Ocean Acidification? Ocean acidification is caused by increased absorption of atmospheric carbon dioxide which raises the pH of the oceans. Ocean pH has increased by 30% since preindustrial times. The photo progression below shows the effects on the carbonate shell of an organism after 45 days in an environment with the predicted ocean pH for 2100.

Ocean acidification caused a mass extinction of ocean species during the Cenozoic Era. The ocean is currently acidifying at a rate 10 times faster than it did during the Cenozoic area. Image Credit:  Na,onal  Geographic  images  

How do we know 450 is too high? When atmospheric carbon was above 450 ppm during the Cenozoic Era there was no ice in the Antarctic.

The sea level was 75 meters higher than it is today. Source: Dr.  James  Hansen,  “Storms  of  my  Grandchildren.”

Are we sure? Pretty sure. We know that there was no sea ice at 450 plus or minus 100 ppm. Which means that atmospheric concentration that eliminated antarctic ice actually occurred somewhere between 350 and 550 ppm.

So that’s why keeping carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere around 350 ppm is really the safe number.

Remember that as of today we’re at 390.

Up, up, and away. (Not in a good way) If only 50% of the tar sands were exploited, atmospheric CO2 would increase by about 62 ppm.

452 ppm


62 ppm

390 312 234 156 78 0

390 ppm

Yeah, but not in my life time...? Critics of the “Game Over” say that at a rate of 1.5 million barrels of oil a day, it will take a long time for the Canadian Tar Sands to have impact. But the rate of extraction in the tar sands is increasing. The planned Keystone XL pipeline is part of a project to increase the production on of the oil sands to 3.1 million barrels per day in the next ten years. The Canadian Association of Oil Producers assumes that production from the tar sands will be 4 million barrels per day by the year 2025. millions of barrels per day

4 3 2 1

Year Sources: NRDC,  Reuters.

0 2011








Even if production never exceeds 4 million barrels per day, exploitation of the tar sands alone will be enough to bring atmospheric CO2 to 450 ppm in the year 2080.

Why the Fuss? Okay, but it’s not like the tar sands are the only fossil fuels on Earth. Heavy Oil Oil 120 Fracked Gas 190 Oil Shale 180 Gas 420 100

Tar Sands 390

Known fossil fuel reserves, equivalent to 1150 ppm

Coal 1050

That’s right. Bad as the tar sands are, they are only a part of the picture. Sources: Jim  Hansen  “The  Tar  Sands  and  Climate”  ,  hQp://­‐hansen-­‐white-­‐house-­‐and-­‐tar-­‐sands/  and  Hansen,  2008  paper,  “Target  Atmospheric  CO2;  Where   Should  Humanity  Aim?”    

Trend towards “extreme energy” Natural gas  “fracking”

Mountaintop removal

From Josh  Fox’s  Gasland

Deep sea  oil  drilling  

Photo Credit:  U.S.  Coast  Guard  

Photo Credit:  Vivian  Stockman

Oil shale  development

Photo Credit:  Nathan  Bilow  for  The  New  York  Times

Game Over. Tar Sands exploitation represents a policy and investment commitment to creating climate change we can’t adapt to.

That’s a big part of why we don’t like them...

Enough. ....and why it felt like it was time to do this.

photo credit: Josh Lopez

Nice photo. And that stinks about the carbon impacts. But aren’t we stuck with fossil fuels for now because there are no viable alternatives?

Renewable Right Now. Engineering professors from Stanford and the University of California have show that using existing technology and resources in proportions shown below the world could be powered 100% on renewable energy...

8.3)1%% 4'(%

!"#$%% &'(%

7"$)3%% ,(% 56$1.%

4(% -+./0+12)3% !)*+% 4(% ,(%

... and that the infrastructure

to change to renewable power could be built by 2030.

Nuh-uh. Actually, yes. As recently as a decade ago we thought that we couldn’t meet our needs with intermittent resources. Technological advances, particularly in forecasting and advanced transmission infrastructure, have made 100% renewable energy possible.

image credit: GE Ecomagination[age

But don’t take our word for it: susenergy2030.html

Won’t that be expensive? The costs of Renewable Energy decrease with time. Conventional Energy is a finite, polluting resource, subject to increasing costs because of scarcity and social consequences. Cents per kWh ($US) 0.2


Wind (Onshore) Wind (offshore) Wave Geothermal Hydro Solar (Concetrated) Solar (PV) Tidal Conventional Convential+Externalized Costs






Source: Jacobson  &  Delucchi,  “Providing  all  global  energy  with  wind,  water,  and  solar  power,  Part  II:  Reliability,  system  and  transmission  costs,  and  policies”,  Elsiver  November  22nd,  2010  

Fossil Fuel isn’t Free

The U.S government annually provides $10 billion in subsidies for the fossil fuel industry 1,*

Unpriced Externalities

Image credit: Political Economy Research Institute

The U.S. National Academy estimates that unpriced externalities could add $0.03 to $0.15 per kilowatt hour to the cost of fossil fuels.

That’s three to fifteen cents a kWh, you said?

Sound like small change?

It isn’t. Given U.S. energy consumption, these pennies add up to a range of between $114 billion and $570 billion dollars per year. Billions of $US Price of the most valuable


company on



$570 Billion $337 Billion



$114 Billion

Based on  2010  U.S.  energy  consump,on  of  3.8  trillion  KWh  

Emissions from coal fired power plants cause 13,000 premature deaths in the United States a year.

Source: The Clean Air Task Force

Vehicle emissions cause increased risk of asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, cardiovascular disease, cancer.2

Source: “The Harmful Effects of Diesel Exhaust”: A Case for Policy Change Environment and Human Health, inc.

Women living in areas of high vehicle pollution have double the risk of breast cancer as women living in the least polluted areas.


So when someone says that THIS is good for the economy... ...what does that mean?

photo credit: Gareth Lenz

Is this even the right way to look at it?

So...why would anyone do this?

So-called job creation strategy TransCanada, the pipeline company, claims it would create 20,000 direct jobs and 108,000 indirect jobs. The State Department only accounts for 5,000 - 6,000 direct jobs over 3 years, most of them non-local and temporary.

Source: Cornell  University  Global  Labor  Ins,tute,  Employment  Facts:  The  Keystone  XL  Pipeline:  hQp://­‐content/uploads/2011/09/CU_KeystoneXL_090711_FIN2.pdf

Luckily there’s another vision. According to a study on Virginia offshore wind done by Virginia Coastal Energy Research Consortium, consisting of researchers from Old Dominion University, James Madison University, and Virginia Tech: 3200 MW would create 9,700 to 11,600 career-length jobs in Virginia alone Source: Virginia  Coastal  Energy  Research  Consor,um  “Virginia  Offshore  Wind  Studies,  July  2007  to  March  2010,”  published  20  April  2010  

Locked in.

Building the Keystone XL Pipeline locks us in to fossil fuels by allocating scarce resources away from renewable energy.

Vested interests: Over $130 Billion CAD in Tar Sands development (1999-2011)

Sources: Sta,s,cs  Canada,  Private  and  Public  Investment  in  Canada  "Oil  and  Gas  Investment  in  Alberta  (Billion  Dollars),  Washington  Post.  “Obama  allies’  interests  collide  over  Keystone  pipeline,”  By   Juliet  Eilperin  and  Steven  Mufson,  Published:  October  16,  2011;  Rainforest  Ac,on  Network:  Banks  Ranked  and  Spanked  on  Tar  Sands;  Canadian  Associa,on  of  Petroleum  Producers.

Bought and paid for Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s former Deputy Campaign Manager is now TransCanada’s lead lobbyist Cardno Entrix, a TransCanada contractor, carried out the State Department Environmental Impact Assessment and public hearings process for the pipeline

Conflicts of interests abound

The Keystone XL Pipeline 1,700 mile pipeline that would run from Alberta, Canada to the Texas Gulf Endangers Ogallala Aquifer, the drinking water for millions of Americans Key to unlocking the Alberta Tar Sands. According to top Canadian oil ministers, without the KXL, Alberta would be “landlocked in oil�

TransCanada has a terrible safety record

Keystone I spilled 14x since it went into operation in June 2010.

Source: The  Na,on,  “State  Department  Issues  Flawed  Blessing  of  Keystone  XL.”  Published  August  26,  2011.

Pipelines are imperfect In 2010, a San Bruno, California natural gas pipeline explosion burned three homes and killed eight people.

Sources: The  Daily  Beast  “Obama’s  Pipeline  Mess.”;  NY  Times  San  Bruno  Gas  Explosion  (2010).  Photo  Credit:  Paul  Sakuma,  AP

Tar sands oil is inherently less safe Tar sands “oil” is highly corrosive and must be pushed through pipelines at higher-than-normal pressure, creating high risks of major spills Kalamazoo River tar sands oil spill closed 35 miles of the river and cost taxpayers $500 million to clean up (as of July 2010)

Sources: The  Daily  Beast  “Obama’s  Pipeline  Mess.”;  NYTimes  “Michigan  Governor  Warns  of  Oil  Spill  Threat”,  Published:  July  28,  2010.  Photo  Credit:  Andre  J.  Jackson/Detroit  Free  Press,  via  Associated  Press.

All in all, the Keystone XL Pipeline is a colossally bad idea. And why it is time to take a stand.

Tar Sands Action Building Keystone XL requires a Presidential permit that certifies whether it is in the ‘National Interest,’ which means President Obama alone decides whether the project gets built. The Tar Sands Action is a campaign to insist that the President reject the pipeline.

Photo Credit:  Shadia  Fayne  Wood

Photo Credit:  Shadia  Fayne  Wood

Photo Credit:  Ben  Powless

Response to the State Department’s Environmental Impact Statement

Photo Credit:  Ben  Powless

Fr. Jacek of Franciscan Action Network

Photo Credit:  Josh  Lopez

Photo Credit:  Ben  Powless

Actress Daryl Hannah takes a stand

Photo Credit:  Ben  Powless

“We are the keepers of the Mountains”

Photo Credit:  Shadia  Fayne  Wood

Indigenous Environmental Network leaders

Photo Credit:  Shadia  Fayne  Wood

Kandi “Eagle Woman” Mossett

Photo Credit:  Shadia  Fayne  Wood

Nebraskans Against the Pipeline

Photo Credit:  Ben  Powless

Photo Credit:  Shadia  Fayne  Wood

Photo Credit:  Milan  Ilnyckyj

A Movement Born 1,253 arrests at the sit-in, with international solidarity actions from Canada to Egypt to New Zealand 200+ Arrested at Action on Canada’s Parliament Hill on Sept. 26th 25 US Mayors and former mayors & Governors Dave Heineman (R-NE) and Peter Shumlin (D-VT) oppose the pipeline North American labor unions join in Opposition: Amalgamated Transit Union, Transport Workers Union, and 2 Canadian Unions

Congresspeople raise concerns about permitting process Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent a letter to Secretary of State Clinton with his opposition to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)’s letter to Clinton raised “serious concerns” about State Dept’s Environmental Impact Statement. More than 20 lawmakers, including Rep. Earl Blumenauer (DOr.) sent a letter to Clinton criticizing tainted review process.

3,500+ press mentions...and counting front page coverage & an unprecedented four editorials opposing the KXL Pipeline

Real Progress

12,000 strong at Nov. 6th Action


Or so we thought...

Congress attached the KXL pipeline as a rider to the payroll tax extension, forcing President Obama to decide on the pipeline by Feb. 21, 2012.

Then, President Obama rejected the pipeline on Jan. 18, 2012!

House Republicans responded with additional legislation to force approval of the Keystone XL.

And so, the fight against tar sands and extreme energy continues.

And Keystone XL is just one of many proposed new tar sands pipelines & pipeline expansion projects in North America.

And Canada remains the largest U.S. supplier of oil. Much of that is tar sands oil.

Tar sands development and its impacts remain a day-to-day reality for frontline communities.

First Nations communities continue to organize against proposed tar sands pipelines, including Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline. Learn more about the Indigenous Environmental Network:

The fight against tar sands and fracking are linked, since tar sands uses huge quantities of fracked gas. Pennsylvania and New York are the battleground against fracking in the U.S. Learn more:

Extreme energy will not stop.

Unless we stop it.

We’ve already seen the power of our movement.

Imagine what else we can do together.

Where we lead, politicians will follow.

Together, we can create the political will for a sustainable climate and an equitable world.

Thank you for all you do.

For more information, contact: yimingr at gmail dot com To keep updated with the Tar Sands Action, visit

Being the Change We Hope For: Stopping the Keystone XL Pipeline  

The story of the powerful movement to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Explains the relationship of tar sands & KXL to climate chang...

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