What Happens If the U.S. Blocks Keystone XL?

Even if the administration's strikes down the pipeline, however, it may not be enough to keep Canada's tar sands oil in the ground.

Update: The White House delayed a decision on the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline in order to study other options.

Two years ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delegated responsibility for overseeing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to a deputy. By this week, it had become a big enough issue that President Obama was forced to address it during a public appearance. On Wednesday, Congressional Democrats asked the State Department’s inspector general to investigate the department’s review of the pipeline for undue influence. That night, pipeline protesters made so much noise during the president’s appearance in Denver, that he stopped his speech to respond: “We’re looking at it right now, all right? No decision has been made. And I know your deep concern about it. So we will address it.”

The Keystone XL pipeline would wind 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada to Oklahoma and Texas, delivering up to 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day. The oil, extracted from tar sands, releases more carbon than conventional oil— the tar sands industry has wiped out all other cuts in greenhouse gas emissions that Canada has managed to eke out. TransCanada, a energy transmission company, applied to the State Department in 2008 for permission to build and operate the pipeline—If the government gives the company the required permits, construction work would start in 2013. In the past six months, environmentalists led by climate writer and activist Bill McKibben and organizations like the Rainforest Action Network have staged protests around the permitting decision, citing the risk of damage to environmentally sensitive areas along the pipeline route and the danger of releasing the carbon trapped in the tar sands into the atmosphere.

Even if the administration's strikes down the pipeline, however, it may not be enough to keep Canada's tar sands oil in the ground. There are alternatives to Keystone XL other than oil companies abandoning tar sands altogether, and economists warn that stopping the Keystone XL pipeline will not stop tar sands development. Stopping the pipeline will change the way the tar sands are transported, though.

Already, tar sands oil is being transported from Alberta’s oil fields by rail, a mode that carries its own spill risks. One possible alternative to Keystone XL is a pipeline that would move the oil to Canada's western coast, where it would be shipped off to Asia. But there are major questions about whether this particular project could go forward, since the route goes through land controlled by indigenous tribes, who have indicated they would oppose the pipeline. Canada does have limited options for transporting tar sands oil now. But as the Council on Foreign Relations’ Michael Levi points out, that’s meant, counterintuitively, that prices for Canadian oil are lower than they should be.

Stopping the Keystone XL pipeline could slow development of the tar sands. Tar sands oil is more expensive to extract than traditional oil, and companies are only working on it now because the cost of oil is high enough to justify it. But since tar sands oil carries a carbon premium, any system that puts a price on carbon—cap-and-trade, for example—could make it less economically viable. A delay in tar sands development could mean that more of the oil stays in the ground if dirty energy becomes more expensive in the interim.

Many environmentalists see this issue as a litmus test: the administration has abandoned climate change legislation, increased oil drilling, and failed to support the Environmental Protection Agency—if the president cannot stand with the environmental community against the pipeline, some say, why should they stand with him at all? Even if the administration does approve the project, though, many in the environmental community believe they have already made the protest worthwhile by raising the stakes on the issue.

Stopping pipeline won’t necessarily stop oil from burning: demand is just too high. The president is likely to decided that the best choice is to accede to the world’s oil addiction and approve the pipeline. But if he does, that shouldn’t be a cost-free choice: He should have to tell the nation what he’s doing to help get the economy off oil and how he’s going to make up for the extra carbon tar sands oil will release. The alternatives to building Keystone XL might not be all that different from building it in terms of carbon emissions. But accepting it without discussion isn't a good choice either. And since there is another way to do business in the long term, a discussion about how we’re going to get there is one worth having.

Photo via (cc) Flickr user daveeza

via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

The show is loosely based on an alternative history novel by Philip K. Dick that postulates what would happen if Nazi Germany and the Empire of Japan controlled the United States after being victorious in World War II.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?


Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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