White House Rally Sunday to Stop Keystone XL

This Sunday, I'll gather outside the White House with thousands of citizens from all over the country to call on President Obama to say "no" to the latest plan by Big Oil to hold our future hostage to the dirty fossil fuels of the past.

This time, a Canadian company called TransCanada wants to run a pipeline across the heartland to take the dirtiest oil on the planet -- tar sands crude -- to Texas refineries and ports on the Gulf of Mexico.

Because this pipeline, the Keystone XL, would cross international borders, the project can't go forward unless the Obama administration makes a determination that it's in our national interest. It's not -- and it should be denied.

TransCanada claims the pipeline would help our country. It would provide jobs, the company says, energy security and improved U.S.-Canada relations.

No it won't.

After laying-off the few thousand temporary workers who might be hired to lay the pipe, this project would set back job-creating investment in the renewable fuels and efficiency gains that can power our country into the 21st Century, a Cornell University study has found.

It would deepen our costly and dangerous addiction to oil, with no guarantee that Americans would even use this crude, which could be exported directly from Gulf Coast depots or refined into fuels for sale overseas.

And U.S.-Canada relations won't be furthered by the site of Americans using more and more oil while vast and ancient swaths of Canada's boreal forest, one of the last truly wild places on Earth, are torn to ruin by one of the most destructive extraction processes ever devised.

Tar sands production already has turned an area the size of Chicago into an industrial wasteland of open mines, waste ponds and toxic sludge that threatens area groundwater, lakes and streams.

After either strip-mining or drilling into the native forest, tar sands producers use huge amounts of water, laden with chemicals and heated with natural gas. Between the damage to the lands, the energy used in production and the carbon footprint the excavation and extraction stomps onto our atmosphere, Canadian tar sands crude is the dirtiest oil on the planet.

In fact, producing this stuff and turning it into fuel generates nearly three times the greenhouse gas emissions released to produce and refine domestic U.S. crude. Those aren't my numbers: they come from the U.S. Energy Department's National Energy Technology Laboratory.

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The Royal Society of Canada, that country's preeminent repository of scientific thought, has warned that tar sands production could derail Canada's goals for reducing its national carbon footprint to help ease global climate change.

And how about our own country?

This pipeline would carry up to 35 million gallons a day of heavy, high-sulfur, toxic bitumen crude right through the Great Plains, the breadbasket of America. It would cross 1,455 American waterways, from the Cheyenne River of South Dakota to Trinity Creek Marsh in Texas.

It would cross nearly 300 miles of underground aquifers in Nebraska, the source of about 80 percent of the irrigation and drinking water for that state's people, ranches and farms.

What if there's a pipeline accident like the one that gushed 42,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone River just last summer? Michigan's Kalamazoo River has yet to recover from the pipeline blowout that spilled 840,000 gallons of tar sands crude last year. And that was just one of the 36 major pipeline accidents that killed 22 people in this country last year alone, reports the U.S. Transportation Department's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

It's time we stood up, all of us, to say we won't put the American heartland at risk for a project that would wed our future to the past. We won't keep pushing to the ends of the Earth to feed our addiction to oil. And we won't be hoodwinked into believing a project to enhance the profits of Big Oil is somehow in the national interest.

That's the message we'll be delivering to President Obama when we gather at the White House this Sunday. I hope to see you there.