Crowd marches in opposition to Keystone pipeline
A crowd that organizers said numbered approximately 35,000 braved the cold yesterday and marched to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and to show leadership on other climate issues they called urgent. The group rallied on a slice
A crowd that organizers said numbered approximately 35,000 braved the cold yesterday and marched to urge President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and to show leadership on other climate issues they called urgent.
The group rallied on a slice of the Mall just north of the Washington Monument before heading down Constitution Avenue, up 17th Street and past the White House chanting slogans such as “We are unstoppable, another world is possible” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Keystone pipeline’s got to go.”
The president wasn’t home, however. He was in Florida playing golf with Tiger Woods and Jim Crane, a Houston businessman who owns the Houston Astros as well as the residential compound where Obama is spending the holiday weekend.
But the demonstrators tried to send him a message nonetheless, carrying signs opposing not only the proposed pipeline from Canada to Texas, but also opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and coal plants. “Windmills, not oil spills,” one placard said. Another said, “Fossil fuels? Fossil fools.” And another: “Read my lips: no new carbons.”
Leaders of the rally said they wanted to press Obama to follow up on the strong rhetoric in his inaugural address about the need to slow climate change. The official posters at the rally borrowed Obama’s campaign slogan “forward.” They read: “Mr. President, Forward – on Climate.”
“Mr. President, we have heard what you’ve said on climate; we have loved a lot of what you’ve said on climate,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. “Our question is: What will you do?”
For many of the rally leaders, the first test will be whether the president and Secretary of State John Kerry approve a construction permit for the northern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude from the oil or tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast of Texas.
The energy-intensive methods needed to extract that crude emit more greenhouse gases than oil production methods from conventional reservoirs.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, told members of the crowd that they could help encourage Obama. “We are going to have the president’s back and he is going to have our back,” Whitehouse said, adding that “We are going to look at our grandchildren and say ‘Yes, we did.’ ”
But the rally had an edge of uncertainty about how hard Obama will push to take legislative or executive action. And most of the speakers zeroed in on the impending Keystone XL decision.
Those speakers included Bill McKibben, a Middlebury College professor who has led the fight to stop the pipeline; two leaders of First Nation tribes in Canada; and Tom Steyer, an investment fund manager in California and major fundraiser for Obama. All are strong foes of the Keystone project.
“If this pipeline goes through, your government will help in the raping and pillaging of the land of my ancestors,” said Chrystal Lameman, a member of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Canada. “Then (the companies) promise to give back what was never theirs in the first place.”
Steyer said: “I get the argument for the Keystone. The argument is that it is business as usual because we use fossil fuels. But the time for business as usual has passed.”
Afterward, Whitehouse said that “if the president and Secretary Kerry choose to approve the pipeline and proceed, there will be a massive credibility gap between that and what he said in the inauguration, especially if this is the first deed out of the box. That will be a problem for him.”