Eco-Rep Green Corner: Students take pipeline matters into their own hands

From left, Sharlis Thompson, Jillian Spratt, Lauren Clabaugh and Danielle Campanella hold up homemade signs as they stand united in protest. Photo by Katelyn White/The Rider News

This past Sunday, seven Rider University students, five Eco-reps and two members of Sustainable Rider packed up their picket signs and headed for Washington D.C. Upon arriving to the Capitol city, it wasn’t hard to find what they were looking for. “Hey Obama, we don’t want your climate drama,” and “Keep the tar sands in the soil, we don’t want your dirty oil,” were common choruses heard from protesters around the White House.

The second Tar Sands Action rally, which disapproves of the Keystone XL pipeline, took place at Lafayette Square Park, conveniently located near the White House. Over 12,000 people from across the country gathered to remind President Obama of his promise of change.

“The threat of climate change is serious, it is urgent and it is growing,” Obama said during the Presidential debates in 2008. “Our generation’s response to this challenge will be judged by history. For if we fail to meet it boldly, swiftly and together, we risk consigning future generations to an irreversible catastrophe.”

These are the same words that adorned the picket signs of the thousands of protestors as they circled around the White House.

The proposed Keystone Expansion (XL) pipeline would run approximately 2,000 miles from the tar sands in northern Alberta, Canada, transporting crude oil and diluted bitumen to refineries along the Gulf Coast of Texas. The expansion has been under tremendous scrutiny by U.S. government officials and environmental organizations for its economic and environmental impact both in the short and the long term. The U.S. State Department has extended the deadline to approve the project until Dec. 31. President Barack Obama took responsibility for the decision in a press conference on Nov. 1. This is an important move for him to make in terms of keeping up with campaign promises and appeasing supporters’ interests.

There is such uproar about the additional crude oil import because of the increased environmental cost and the empty promises from the oil companies. Tar sands produce bitumen, which has a much higher carbon footprint than conventional oil. It is also more corrosive, so there is more concern over possible leaks along the pipeline. The oil companies are promising lower gas prices, reduced dependency on foreign oil and more jobs; these are all lies.

The addition of the pipeline will divert crude oil from refineries in Wisconsin, thus increasing gas prices for farmers in the Midwest. Canadian oil is foreign oil, and the oil refined in Texas will be exported to Latin America and Europe, not kept for use in the U.S.

TranCanada’s  job projections are vastly over inflated. Only 11 percent of the jobs for the original pipeline went to full-time U.S. workers; most went to temporary, low-paying manual labor. The two largest transport workers unions, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) and Transport Workers Union (TWU), oppose the use of the construction of the pipeline to increase jobs.

The pipeline is instead the largest “carbon bomb” in America’s history. A rupture in the pipeline would cause a BP-like spill in the middle of America’s heartland. It would poison nearly 2 million Americans’ water supply. Would you want crude oil in your tap water? The original Keystone pipeline has already spilled 12 times in one year of its construction completion; TransCanada projected that it would spill once every seven years. The costs highly outweigh the benefits in this case.

It was at Lafayette Square Park where speakers reminded us exactly why we were there — to prevent an environmental catastrophe.

Environment activist Bill McKibben sent protestors off with a few final words of encouragement: “Yes we can! Stop the pipeline!”

It wasn’t long after leaving Lafayette Square Park that word of success was buzzing through the crowd. McKibben walked alongside the White House to verify, “We did it!” It was an amazing feeling to accomplish this with so many people who felt the same way. I’m so glad I was able to be a small part in the making of history.

The rally concluded at 5 p.m., and police disbanded participants without any confrontation. It was peaceful, and hopefully, President Obama received our message and will make the final decision to turn down the permit for the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

– Lauren Clabaugh and Danielle Campanella,
Lawrenceville Eco-Reps

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