Editorial: On Keystone pipeline, Shaheen had it right
News flash. “Radical Environmental Group Launches Ad Campaign to Prop Up Shaheen’s Flailing Re-election Bid.”
And that radical group, in state Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Horn’s opinion, would be? No, not Earth First, the Monkey Wrench Gang or Greenpeace, and not even the Sierra Club or the Wilderness Society. It is, in Horn’s words, “an extremist organization dedicated to opposing commonsense energy solutions like the Keystone Pipeline” – those firebrands called the League of Conservation Voters.
Comic-book hyperbole from Horn is nothing new, but the League of Conservation Voters? Please. They are about as “extreme” as U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen herself, whose most radical act has been to wag her finger in admonishment.
The league does plan to run a $220,000 ad campaign to highlight what it says is recent New Hampshire resident and former Massachusetts senator Scott Brown’s ties to the energy industry. Our guess is that, at least in part, the ads are an attempt to counter any damage done by a $2.5 million ad war waged against Shaheen and two other Democratic senators, all female by the way, paid for by Americans for Prosperity, a right-wing group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers.
All the exaggerated claims masquerading as facts make it hard for the public to know what to believe. The savvy take nothing at face value. That includes the latest State Department report on the environmental impact of the Keystone XL pipeline which would carry crude oil from Canada’s tar sands across America to refineries on the Gulf Coast. Shaheen twice voted against bills calling for the approval of the pipeline, which, since it would cross an international border, must ultimately be approved by President Obama.
On Friday, the department issued the report, which was the work of a consulting firm with strong ties to the oil and natural gas industries. Horn cited the report as proof that the pipeline would not hasten climate change and chided Shaheen who “blindly followed orders from the radical environmental groups that have funded her political campaigns and opposed this worthy project.”
We urge Shaheen, who believes that this generation has a moral obligation to address climate change, to continue her opposition to the Keystone pipeline. The report, by Environmental Resources Management, came to its surprising conclusion about the pipeline’s minimal contribution to global warming only by acting on the questionable assumption that Canada’s tar sand oil fields, whose exploitation releases far more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than traditional oil fields, would be developed with or without the pipeline. That, to say the least, is debatable. Canadian officials and oil industry executives have acknowledged that the tar sands cannot be developed rapidly or completely unless the pipeline is built.
The pipeline’s contribution to pollution would, according to a draft environmental impact statement done for the State Department, be equal to that of 50 coal-fired power plants, a contribution to climate change that could not realistically be offset. The damage done would multiply in ways that would doom international efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions in time to prevent what could be a catastrophically rapid warming of the planet. A yes to the pipeline would tell developing nations, including above all India and China, that harming the environment is an inevitable and justifiable consequence of economic progress. The result would be more rapid sea level rise; longer, deeper droughts; more violent storms; warmer winters; the northward advance of tropical pests and diseases and a host of other ills. Tar sands development may not mean that “it’s game over” for climate change, as the nation’s former chief climate scientist James Hansen said. But then again, Hansen might be right.