WAMC Nov. 17, 2011
“Obama Takes a Stand, Sort of”
Let me first say, I was delighted that President Obama decided send the Canadian Tar Sands pipeline decision back for review. I mean we hardly need to be spending new money on the infrastructure for more fossil fuels when the international scientific community and all those victims of extreme weather around the world; victims of extreme hurricanes and flooding and coming to understand the reality of the Climate Crisis. Yes, victims of horrific drought and fires from Russia to Thailand, from Texas to Vermont have come to appreciate the mortal danger we are putting ourselves in with every additional pound of planet warming greenhouse gases we pump into the atmosphere.
Which is exactly what the Canadian Tar Sand Project represented, but what I can not understand is how the Mr. Obama went about it. Frankly, I had long been wondering just how the President would deal with the challenge. After all he had found himself with a good chunk of his supporters doing everything they could to stop the pipeline. More than a thousand traveling to DC to get themselves arrested. Folks who had drawn the line in the sand ironically around the tar sands decision knowing that symbolically it represented an infrastructure commitment in the wrong direction. People who recognized that this decision was not scaling back our addiction to climate destabilizing fossil fuels but expanding it. People who understood that that just saying no to the pipe line was one of the few really critical decisions the president could make without involving the ever more scientifically illiterate republicans.
And failing that test could have lost Mr. Obama the support of a good chunk of his base. But what I do not understand is how the President can stall the pipeline without finally taking up — as he has promised in his campaign – the cause of confronting the climate crisis. I mean we have spent years decrying our dependence on the oil of the Middle East all the while watching our sons and daughters dying in wars in the Gulf, that, if they had not been directly caused by our addition to oil would nevertheless not have been fought if not for that addiction.
All this happening even as almost every president since Nixon has talked of developing for ourselves more energy independence. And here was a source, coming from good old friendly Canada. More oil, albeit dirtier oil but still oil usable in our cars without redoing our entire transportation system. Yes, If not energy independence, at least more energy independence from oil dictators from Venezuela to the Persian Gulf. And the only real argument against the project was the extraordinary challenge of the climate crisis, and he certainly could have done so. After all in these days when hurricanes rip up Vermont and Alaska, when tornadoes tear down parts of Massachusetts, when over a thousand homes burn to the ground in drought plagued Bastrop, Texas, far more Americans are ready to listen to climate reality. But the president didn’t take on the threat
No, he merely pushed the Tar Sands decision past the next election. Leaving himself vulnerable to those who see the president turning his back on more energy independence and jobs; a temptation that only a full court and honest explanation from the oval office could possibly trump, because even energy independence and jobs can’t trump the survival of our society as we know it.
Because this is after all not a battle between jobs and the environment but between the new jobs conversion to green energy will bring and the very real loss of the homes, jobs, and communities we already have. And if you’re not sure about that, just ask those folks in upstate New York and Vermont who are still fighting back from effects Irene and Lee. Or those Texans in Bastrop whose homes have been reduced to mere piles of ash neatly lined about along the streets they once called home.
No, it should be clear President Obama may have made the right tactical decision but as a strategy to move us forward or for that matter to help him get reelected it was sorely lacking.