It may sometimes seem like nothing but doom and gloom for good old Earth with things like global warming, oil spills, and heavy metal pollution threatening to plummet us at any moment into a steaming apocalyptic hellhole of fiery urban waste-scapes where mutant robots hunt us down into extinction. But sometimes, sometimes, we get reminders that good things do happen for the environment.
Following a growing movement of public opposition, President Obama has announced that the decision to construct the Keystone XL pipeline, which would run crude oil from Alberta Canada to delivery points in Texas and Oklahoma, will be delayed until after the 2012 election.
The $7 billion project has garnered mixed reception at best since its proposal in 2008. Pro-pipeliners—the GOP candidates among them the project will create jobs for the American economy and help rid us of Middle Eastern energy supplies. On the other hand, the protest-armed wave of public criticism wants to know why the US government continues to encourage the usage and import of oil. The whole issue has brought about a complicated cocktail of environmentalists, oil lobbyists, politicians, and average citizens, all staking claim to what the American populace really needs.
And the fact is, amidst all the ideological implications of using oil in our society, there are other very real, very concrete issues about syphoning millions of tons of crude material through our environmental heartland, that go beyond lobbyists’ promises of jobs. The proposed pipeline would be syphoning oil through natural prairie land across Nebraska which would be detrimental to the ecosystem that surrounds it. The implication of a pipeline also brings about the possibility of a leak which would cause enormous damage to surrounding farmland and drinking water supplies. And while the delay of the pipeline is not an end for the project, it at least buys people time.
It may buy more than that. The delay would “effectively kill” the pipeline, Sierra Club Executive Michael Brune is quoted as saying in the Los Angeles Times. “The carrying costs are too high, and there’s no certainty that at the end of 18 months the pipeline would be approved at all,” he said. Upon hearing news of the delay, Bill McKibben, author and organizer of the effort against the pipeline released the following statement:
"A done deal has come spectacularly undone. The American people spoke loudly and today the President responded, at least in part. Six months ago, almost no one outside the pipeline route even knew about Keystone XL. One month ago, a secret poll of "energy insiders" by the National Journal found that "virtually all" expected easy approval of the pipeline by year's end."
But as of now there’s no end to the discussion in sight. If anything, the delay may just give people from all sides more time to mobilize and conflate their opinions into a looped argument of who’s right and who’s wrong. Nevertheless the delay marks a rare political victory for the climate movement in a time when environmentalists’ struggle to get Congress to act on greenhouse gas legislation seems littered with failure and stalwart. At the very least the White House, spurred by an Occupy-like protest at its front gate (and perhaps Occupy itself) just bought everyone, including the Earth, a little more time.