In late January, during Obama’s second Inaugural Address, the president ushered in his second term with a promise to respond to “the threat of climate change.” He added that “the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations.” Environmentalists and the Scientific community were pleased that action would finally be taken to tackle global warming. However, Obama’s recent support of the Keystone XL Pipeline seems to be in stark opposition to that promise.
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Van Jones, Former Obama administration greens jobs advisor and long-time Obama supporter, has recently spoken out against the President over his support of said pipeline. Jones says, "If after he gave that speech for his inauguration, the first thing he does is approve a pipeline bringing tar sands through America, the first thing that pipeline runs over is the credibility of the President on his climate policy."

Jones continues with challenge for President Obama, "If he honestly believes that this pipeline, which will be a huge part of his legacy, will be a good thing he should call it the Obama Tar Sands Pipeline but if he has any pause in doing that he shouldn't do it."

In a series of interviews, Jones refutes three major myths that are used by the administration to support the building of the pipeline.

The first myth, and perhaps the most pervasive, is that the Keystone XL Pipeline is merely another oil pipeline. This could not be further from the truth, as Jones points out, the Keystone will be moving tar. During the processing of tar, sand needs to be removed and chemicals need to be inserted as to facilitate the flow of said substance through the pipeline. During incidents where tar leaks into the environment, for instance, in bodies of water, it does not float to the surface as oil does, this makes clean up nearly impossible. To illustrate, in Kalamazoo Michigan, a tar pipeline cracked and leaked into the Kalamazoo River. After four years and nearly one billion dollars, the future of this river and its ecosystem is still in jeopardy.

The second myth is that the pipeline will aid in making the United States more “energy independent.” The administration claims that this is because the pipeline will reduce the United States’ consumption of, and therefor dependence upon, oil from the Middle East. The truth of the matter, according to Van Jones, is that the tar will instead be shipped through the US, specifically through vital Midwestern farmland and waterways, so that it can be brought to a global market. As Van Jones puts it, the real outcome of the pipeline will be that a “foreign corporation, who’s made no promises to sell any of it to us, can get it to the global market, mainly China.”

The third myth perpetuated by the Obama administration and other supporters of the Keystone XL pipeline is that its construction will provide many jobs for construction workers and others. It will provide roughly 3,900 jobs, but these are all temporary jobs and will last for only half of a year. According to the state department, only 35 permanent jobs would be created by the pipeline.

Do these 35 jobs really seem worth the risk of destroying America’s breadbasket? It may seem counterintuitive for the pipeline to run through the US instead of straight out of Canada—and it is. Van Jones explains rather succinctly why this is the case: “Nobody in Canada wants this stuff because they’ve seen spills after spills.” It is not merely speculation that this pipeline would be very dangerous, it is well-supported by the disasters, like the spill in Kalamazoo, that have already been caused by this substance. If the Obama administration genuinely believed otherwise, as Jones puts it, they would proudly “call it the Obama Tar Sands Pipeline.”

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