There is a raging battle going on in this country over whether we use our resources to benefit the haves or to protect those who don't have as much as the most wealthy among us.
We see this where tax cuts for the millionaires are required in order to continue giving unemployment benefits to the out of work. It took place around the attempt to reform Wall Street. We see it in cuts to education, and attempts to bust unions.
The latest battle over whom our country chooses to protect goes straight to the heartland, in the form of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, currently under review by Secretary of State Clinton.
Benefiting The Koch Brothers And Friends
Whenever such a harmful project is en route to approval, it needs to be asked who stands to benefit from it. Unsurprisingly, two of the key people positioned to benefit from this pipeline are the notorious Koch brothers.
The two brothers together own virtually all of Koch Industries Inc. -- a giant oil conglomerate headquartered in Wichita, Kan., with annual revenues estimated to be $100 billion.
A SolveClimate News analysis, based on publicly available records, shows that Koch Industries is already responsible for close to 25 percent of the oil sands crude that is imported into the United States, and is well-positioned to benefit from increasing Canadian oil imports.
A Koch Industries operation in Calgary, Alberta, called Flint Hills Resources Canada LP, supplies about 250,000 barrels of tar sands oil a day to a heavy oil refinery in Minnesota, also owned by the Koch brothers.
Flint Hills Resources Canada also operates a crude oil terminal in Hardisty, Alberta, the starting point of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
The company's website says it is "among Canada's largest crude oil purchasers, shippers and exporters." Koch Industries also owns Koch Exploration Canada, L.P., an oil sands-focused exploration company also based in Calgary that acquires, develops and trades petroleum properties.
We're not the only ones asking how much the Koch brothers stand to gain. On Monday the House Energy and Commerce Committee GOP is holding a hearing on the pipeline, in an attempt to push through approval even quicker than the present process allows. This act of political theater is another attempt by conservative elites to push through the pipeline's approval, against the wishes of American homeowners, farmers and ranchers.
On Friday, House Democrats wrote a letter sent to committee Republicans stating. "We are writing to request that in preparation for the hearing on and markup of this draft legislation, the Committee request documents from Koch Industries relating to the company's interests in Canadian tar sands and the extent to which it will benefit if the Keystone XL pipeline is constructed."
Keystone XL is only the latest political fight where the Koch brothers hope to keep secret their involvement and financial interest. The Kochs have been exposed as being willing to cause any degree of harm to our country that would increase their profits. And now they're going after Midwest land, the property passed down through generations of family, and the safety of our drinking water and air.
Keystone XL and "Dirty Oil"
The proposed Keystone XL pipeline deals with what is called "dirty oil" tar sands. Tar sands production carbon dioxide emissions are three times higher that those of conventional oil. The amount of oil Keystone XL would carry is equal to the pollution level of adding six million new cars to our roads.
Tar Sands mining operations involve a vast drilling infrastructure, open pit mines, and toxic wasteland ponds up to three miles wide. The extraction process involves strip mining and drilling that injects steam into the ground to melt the tar-like crude oil from the sand and requires a massive amount of energy and water.
In addition to pollution and harm to the environment, Keystone XL directly puts at risk the land of families across a full stretch of our country. The pipeline would cross through six states and several major rivers, in addition to the Ogallala Aquifer, which supplies clean water to two million Americans. The present Keystone pipeline has already experienced 7 leaks, making the question when, not if, Keystone XL will also have a disastrous spill.
As if all of that wasn't reason enough to call this a bad idea, Keystone XL would actually raise the prices of oil in the Midwest, and not bring it down in the rest of the country.
Secretary of State Clinton's Decision, And The Pipeline's Lobbyist - Questions Unanswered
What happens next rests with Secretary of State Clinton. And that's where the power of wealth and connections continue to serve the rich. Just last week, environmental and ethics groups sued the State Department to gain access to possible communications between a lobbyist for Keystone XL and the State Department.
The TransCanada lobbyist in question is Paul Elliott. Elliott formerly worked as the national deputy director for Secretary Clinton's presidential campaign. Friends of the Earth, Corporate Ethics International and the Center for International Environmental Law filed a Freedom of Information Act request last year, seeking to uncover any possible communications between Elliott and the State Department, to review whether Elliott's former position is resulting in bias in the granting of the permit for Keystone XL to be built. The State Department initially refused to fulfill the request, before reversing that decision, and have delayed on releasing the information since then.
Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers in the pipeline's path have criticized the rushed nature of the State Department's review process for approving the pipeline. Hearings have not been held on the department's latest draft analysis. And questions still have not been answered about why the State Department has refused to release their correspondence with the lobbyist, and what information is held within those records.
Americans Left In Limbo: How To Stop The Pipeline
As political battle among the wealthy continues in DC, landowners throughout our heartland wait to hear their fate.
Secretary of State Clinton has said that a final decision will be made on Keystone XL by the end of 2011.
The cards of power and access may be stacked against those concerned about the health of our country, but it is not too late to fight for the protection of Americans. Brave New Foundation has made the above video to raise attention to this call to action. We are also asking those who oppose Keystone XL to sign our petition to Secretary of State Clinton, expressing why they want her to say no to the Koch brothers and big oil, and to protect Americans who can't afford lobbyists.
We need to keep the pressure on and get the word out. Secretary of State Clinton, the country is watching. And we're not going to stop organizing around this issue until you side with the American people and say no to the Koch brothers.