As President Obama faces perhaps the most momentous climate decision of his presidency to date – whether to approve or deny the Keystone XL pipeline – the US House of Representatives dipped its toe into the debate with a symbolic vote to force construction last week.
The vote did serve a purpose for the American people as constituents across the country learned where their representatives stand on the issue. Citizens in Arizona concerned about the projected devastation climate change is poised to render on our state can be thankful that five out of Arizona’s nine Congress members voted “no”, against the pipeline. Arizona’s five congressional Democrats stood united against the bill while all four Republican members voted “aye”. The bill passed 241-175 but has zero chance of being taken up in the Democratic-controlled Senate. This decision lies in the hands of President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry as the pipeline crosses an international border.
The pipeline has become a “line-in-the-sand” moment in the US movement for a livable future. In February, 50,000 citizens surrounded the White House in the largest climate rally in US history (this blogger joined them) in opposition to the project and in favor of action on climate change. In the summer of 2011, 1,252 citizens were arrested in front of the White House pressuring the President to deny the project.
The pipeline is a critical component in the exploitation of the Alberta tar sands. If dug up and burned, climate scientists such as former NASA Goddard Institute Director James Hansen say it will be “essentially game over for the climate.” The Alberta tar sands represents the second largest pool of carbon on the planet outside of Saudi Arabia. If it is put into the atmosphere as heat-trapping CO2, our planet will never be the same.
And the US Southwest will bear the brunt of the warming planet. At least we have five Arizona Congressmembers who understand the importance of defending our state on this issue.