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President Obama Taps Kerry for State: Any Better Prospects on Keystone XL?

Take heart, Romney fans! We missed our chance to make a wealthy, French-speaking Massachusetts liberal President, but at least we get one for Secretary of State!

I want to believe President Barack Obama has moved in the right direction on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline with his Secretary of State nomination. The President has moved on from TransCanada-stockholder Susan Rice to nominate climate hawk John Kerry to be the diplomat in chief. The senior senator from Massachusetts has advocated strong action to fight climate change. He co-sponsored with Senator Barbara Boxer the very sensible but doomed American Clean Energy and Security Act, the 2009 cap-and-trade bill.

However, Senator Kerry has owned up to $650,000 in ConocoPhillips stock. ConocoPhillips was TransCanada's partner in the Keystone 1 pipeline until TransCanada bought them out in 2009. His wife's trust fund held a similar amount in BP stock the year before BP blew its giant gasket in the Gulf of Mexico. Kerry's total investment in oil and gas companies in 2009 topped $6 million.

Not that you can trust much of what TransCanada's bosses say, but CEO Russ Girling says he doesn't think a Secretary Kerry will block Keystone XL. Besides, President Obama may make his final decision before Kerry clears Senate approval.

Nonetheless, some Brookings neighbors are hoping to join a Presidents' Day protest against Keystone XL in Washington, D.C. Says Brookings activist Phyllis Cole-Dai:

Everybody’s concerned about the “fiscal cliff,” but the “climate cliff” is looming even larger--arguably it’s much more of a real threat. Our continued development of extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction only moves us closer to that cliff. The Keystone XL, through which TransCanada wants to move dirty tar sands oil across the heart of the US for export from the Gulf, is symbolic of extreme fossil fuel development, of humanity’s addiction to fossil fuel use, and of the incredible power of Big Oil to dominate government, threaten vital natural resources, and crush local communities and landowners.

Climate change is THE civil rights issue of our day—indeed, it affects every living creature. Let’s be marching. Let’s get some bodies in front of the White House [Phyllis Cole-Dai, e-mail, 2012.12.21].

Let's hope a Secretary Kerry will look past his stock portfolio to the people's portfolio and amplify that message to the President.

Oh, and a quick reminder from the Canadian press: the whole purpose of the Keystone XL pipeline is to make us pay more for oil:

The Harper government has been lobbying heavily to win U.S. approval for the Keystone project, which it considers to be a critical piece of infrastructure that will allow Alberta crude to reach new markets and provide a secure supply of oil for the American consumers.

Lack of sufficient pipeline capacity has driven down the price of oil sands crude, dramatically reducing revenue not only for the industry but for the provincial and federal governments [Shawn McCarthy, "Obama's Secretary of State Nomination Raises Environmentalists' Hopes," Globe and Mail, 2012.12.21].

If you want to increase your gasoline bill and keep Canadian taxes low, you support Keystone XL. If you put America first, you say no thanks, TransCanada!

One Comment

  1. Tom Emanuel 2012.12.22

    Phyllis Cole-Dai and I had this very same conversation yesterday, actually. I really hope Kerry will do better on the Keystone XL, but I'm reminded of what Amy Goodman wrote in the lead-up to the election: "When forces used to having the ear of the most powerful person on earth whisper their demands in the Oval Office, the president must see a force more powerful outside his window, whether he likes it or not, and say, 'If I do that, they will storm the Bastille.' If there’s no one out there, we are all in big trouble." A number of us at SD Peace & Justice and Fast for the Earth will be meeting with folks from Dakota Rural Action, the SD Sierra Club, and Lakota activists (who stood up to Keystone earlier this year: early next year to strategize how SD can do its part in storming the Bastille, so to speak.

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