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Monday, November 14, 2011

Lora Lucero guest blog: Ring Around the White House

This is a guest blog by Lora Lucero, a long-time resident of Albuquerque, NM, an adjunct professor of law at UNM and the Natural Resources Director for the League of Women Voters of New Mexico.

Obama xl

 Last Sunday I joined hands with an estimated 10,000 – 12,000 people as we circled the White House to send a strong message to President Obama that he must reject the Keystone XL Pipeline.  That’s the 1700-mile, $7-14 billion pipeline proposed to carry Canadian tar sands from Alberta to oil refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. 

Tar sands are viscous, bituminous petroleum deposits found in sand or oil.  Forget the notion of the oil rigs in Texas spewing black gold.  The 54,000 square miles of Canadian tar sands are being strip-mined, destroying Canada’s boreal forest and contaminating water supplies of the surrounding indigenous communities.

We chanted, we sang, we danced, and we brought all of our positive energy to Washington, DC because the final decision to grant or deny the Presidential permit for this transboundary project rests with Obama, not Congress.  NASA’s James Hansen has called the project “game over for the climate” because the extraction and burning of tar sands oil will release much more greenhouse gases than conventional oil.

Bill McKibben, the principal organizer of Sunday’s action and the founder of 350.org, was joined by Naomi Klein, Dr. James Hansen, and others on stage in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. McKibben confessed that when he first dreamed up this idea, which hasn’t been done since the Viet Nam protests in the 1960s, he didn’t know if enough people would gather to actually circle the White House.  About 6,000 people signed up online, as I did, but would that be enough?  Would they all show up? 

McKibben was hoping for a wide range of people to demonstrate to Obama and Washington leaders that the opposition to the Keystone XL Pipeline was diverse.  He surely got his wish.


I saw old people and young, people of many different ethnicities, well-to-do professionals, laborers and the unemployed.  The traditional environmentalists stood side-by-side with the 99%ers.  Yes!  The Occupy movement was well-represented Sunday. People came from Nebraska, Ohio, Vermont, California, and New Mexico, and probably many other states too.

Maple syrup

The creative signs were inspiring.  “Ignorance is no excuse for breaking the planet. We know what we’re doing.”  “Another hopeful kid against the Keystone XL Pipeline.”  “No Keystone XL Pipeline Mr. Obama. This is my line in the sand.”  “More Audacity, Less Hope.”   “Maple Syrup is all we want from Canada.”  “Occupy Earth”   The best perhaps was the very large plastic pipeline “Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline” held up by many people marching around the White House.

We did it!  There were enough people to circle Obama’s residence 3 or 4 people deep!  I kept my eyes focused on the windows and door, hoping that Obama might come out to greet all of these Americans who came to DC.  But he was nowhere in sight.  We stood for 90 minutes or so as cameras and video recorded our message. 

I left DC hopeful and committed to keep up the fight because I wasn’t convinced that our action would change Obama’s mind.  Despite all of the scandal and controversy surrounding the pipeline of late, all indications seemed to point to Obama giving the nod to the project before the end of the year. 

Then on Thursday, the Obama Administration announced that it would delay a final decision until after the November 2012 election.  Some believe this delay will kill the pipeline.  Bill McKibben claimed victory and said we had won.  The Sierra Club and many other environmentalists claimed victory too.

But if this delay is a “victory,” then someone changed the goal posts in the middle of the game.

Certainly we need to acknowledge the progress, and the tremendous impact that the 99% have had on this project.  I’m not a curmudgeon who fails to appreciate movement in the right direction.  But Obama’s decision to delay his decision is neither a “win” nor “victory” and it is tortuous logic to consider it as such.

I read the State Department’s Thursday briefing to the press about the decision to delay. 

“OPERATOR: Our next question comes from Juliet Eilperin with Washington Post. Your line is open.

QUESTION: Hi, Assistant Secretary.  One thing, can you talk about whether – how much you would be examining the greenhouse gas implications for the extraction of this oil as part of this supplemental impact statement? It sounds like your – that that’s not a factor.     . . . .

ASSISTANT SECRETARY JONES:     . . .   The purpose of what the review that we’re going to be doing is specifically to look at the alternative routes through Nebraska. It wouldn’t be broader than that.”

This is not a “win” but a calculated punt to avoid making the decision until after the 2012 election.  I’m disappointed in Obama, and disappointed in the response and apparent gullibility of so many people who oppose the Keystone XL Pipeline. 

The International Energy Agency announced last week that the “world is headed for irreversible climate change in five years."  Wake-up everyone!  If Obama won’t even utter the words, and if the State Department is not even examining the issue, how can this be a victory? 

I know the people with whom I spoke last Sunday at the White House will not let up on Obama until he sees the light of day.  As one clever sign noted – “If you won’t let us dream, then we won’t let you sleep.”  The fight is on and Obama still doesn’t “get it.”

November 14, 2011 at 07:38 PM in Energy, Environment, Guest Blogger, Occupy Wall Street (Everywhere) | Permalink


Do not forget that the Right Wing can be an ally in this fight. The Libertarians and the ones that live in the path of that pipe-line are against the draconian eminent domain that will be applied over private and public lands threatening the ground water. The issues involved are more than climate change and they should all be put forward at all times.

Posted by: qofdisks | Nov 15, 2011 12:07:10 AM

gofdisks - thank you for weighing in. excellent point!

Posted by: Mary Ellen | Nov 15, 2011 11:49:01 AM