I went down to the demonstration, to get my fair share of pipeline truth

Written by Sven Eberlein

Rally against Keystone XL pipeline outside the US State Department Office at 1 Market St. in San Francisco, February 3rd, 2014.

Yesterday saw an unprecedented mobilization against Keystone XL, the proposed pipeline that would open the flood gates for the most carbon-polluting oil on the planet and further legitimize humankind’s unbridled addiction to the climate-wrecking fossil juice.

Within 48 hours of the State Department’s supplemental environmental impact statement (SEIS) on Keystone XL, nearly 300 vigils unfurled from sea to shining sea, bringing together 550 organizations, from CREDO and the Rainforest Action Network to The Hip Hop Caucus and Overpass Light Brigade, to the Sierra Club and

While many think that the SEIS reeks of tar sands industry executives’ cologne and gives President Obama one more excuse to say “yes” to the pipeline, there are also powerful arguments to be made about why the study gives plenty of reasons to reject Keystone. It’s up to us to remind the President of the latter.

The rally in San Francisco was raucous as usual, setting the tone with about 400-500 people fully committed to giving the State Department and President Obama, who will have the final say on this matter, an earful.


However, it is particularly heartening to see nationwide vigils held in cities and towns across the country, from Belfast, ME to Edinburg, TX and from Stillwater, OK to Hailey, ID. This dirty oil, if extracted, piped, and burned, will harm our neighbors near and far, and people everywhere are waking up to the fact that the only winners in this game will be the oil industry executives.


The fact that thousands of people mobilized into a decentralized nationwide impromptu crowdsourced uprising speaks to the passion and people-power behind this movement, and should make President Obama think long and hard whether he really wants to align himself on the wrong side of history.


Here in the City of St. Francis, we thought we’d sing the message loud and clear across the country, in memory of the late great Pete Seeger.

But this is just the beginning. Tomorrow marks the opening of a 30 day public comment period on the final environmental impact report for the Keystone XL Pipeline.

If you’re in San Francisco, people will kick off the festivities at UN Plaza tomorrow morning at 8:30am, delivering our public comments to the new SF Federal Building at 9am.

Meanwhile, here are a few more impressions from last night’s vigil…

Keystone XL Vigil, US State Department Office, San Francisco, CA, 2/3/2014


It was very fitting of the occasion that my evening was sandwiched between encounters with good friends.

The first person I came across as I exited BART was one of 350BayArea‘s driving forces, Rand Wrobel. Rand wrote this amazing post, Climate 2013: 100 Stories (Illustrated), on Saturday, a must-read. He also looks quite dapper in a pipeline…


And at the end of the vigil, some of my blogger friends at Daily Kos were smiling at me, smiles that led to great food and drink…

Where4art, dsb, navajo, and Meteor Blades

In between, much sensual inspiration. As I walked down Spear St, people were already filling the sidewalk, making the kind of statements that speak to the bigger picture of this issue…


and reminding the President of his own pledges…


But the President doesn’t even need to listen to chanting protestors. Climatologist Michael Mann explains why approving Keystone XL could be the biggest mistake of Obama’s presidency.

The simple fact is this: if Keystone XL is built, it will be easier to exploit fossil fuel reserves large enough to drastically destabilize the climate. A direct pipeline to refineries and global markets makes the business of polluting the atmosphere that much cheaper and easier.

The only truly accurate examination of the pipeline would include a full cost accounting its environmental footprint. It needs to take into account how much energy is consumed in refining and transporting the crude from oil sands. It must acknowledge that the pipeline would lower the cost and raise the convenience of extracting and exporting the incredibly carbon-intensive deposits of oil.

The point is that the time to only look at short-term impacts while externalizing the broader system of destruction the pipeline perpetuates must be over. We cannot go the convenient route anymore and at the same time expect the dynamics that are causing our planet to overheat to change. The President and all of us must come to the realization that there is extremely difficult and painful road work ahead.


Chris Hayes also did a fine job last week of explaining these deeper problems that drive our collective denial of reality, likening President Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy” to an “addict’s” tendency to “procrastinate and irrationalize.”

We have a chemical dependency and we need to break it, or we’ll raise the temperature of the earth so much it will invite massive risk of widespread catastrophe, disaster and misery. That’s why so many climate change activists oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. If we say we’re going to quit today and then push it off until tomorrow, we are not quitting, so let us not fool ourselves. If we spend billions of dollars to tap an entire new keg, a dirty keg at that, we are not quitting. We are sinking further into our dependence and self-destruction and dissolution.

Everyone who breaks free of any addiction digs down and finds some inner strength to say no, to stop, to say this is the day I start to turn my life around. And the question is whether we as citizens, and Barack Obama as a president, as a human being, can find that strength within himself.

I think that people are becoming more and more conscious of this deeper denial, and slowly but surely we see little lights flickering out of the darkness.

Lights that spell out the problem…


Lights that outshine the calls for consumption…


Lights from the Moon above…


Lights that bring us all together…


and lights that point at the solution…


crossposted at daily kos
all photos by sven eberlein

About the author

Sven Eberlein

Leave a Comment