News Release

Hurricanes, Climate Disruption and “Canada’s Dirtiest Needle”: 140 Arrested at White House


Peter Shumlin, Governor of Vermont stated this morning: “I find it extraordinary that so many political leaders won’t actually talk about the relationship between climate change, fossil fuels, our continuing irrational exuberance about burning fossil fuels, in light of these storm patterns that we’ve been experiencing.”

For over a week, people from across the country have been gathering in Washington D.C. to oppose the Keystone XL, a 1,700 mile pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico. The group Tar Sands Action estimates about 140 people have been arrested so far today from a crowd that included 60 religious leaders and NASA’s Dr. James Hansen.

BILL MCKIBBEN [via Jamie Henn in D.C.], bill.mckibben at
McKibben is the author of a dozen books on the environment, a scholar in residence at Middlebury College, and founder of He said today: “President Obama must decide whether or not to grant a ‘presidential permit’ for a Canadian company, TransCanada, to begin construction of the Keystone XL, a 1,700 mile pipeline from the Canadian tar sands to refineries on the Gulf of Mexico.” McKibben argued against the pipeline this morning.

DAPHNE WYSHAM, daphne at
Wysham is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. She said today: “Climate change has begun. And yet our press is not discussing extreme weather events — droughts, fires, flooding — in the context of climate change, so the populace is ill-informed. And our politicians are not connecting the dots between our continued reliance on carbon-intensive fuels — like tar sands — and the crazy weather that threatens us all. Both need to change.”

Background: James Hansen stated in a interview on Friday: “President George W. Bush said that the U.S. was addicted to oil. So what will the U.S. response to this situation be? Will it entail phasing out fossil fuels and moving to clean energy or borrowing the dirtiest needle from a fellow addict? That is the question facing President Obama.

“If he chooses the dirty needle [a reference to Canadian tar sands] it is game over because it will confirm that Obama was just greenwashing, like the other well-oiled coal-fired politicians with no real intention of solving the addiction. Canada is going to sell its dope, if it can find a buyer. So if the United States is buying the dirtiest stuff, it also surely will be going after oil in the deepest ocean, the Arctic, and shale deposits; and harvesting coal via mountaintop removal and long-wall mining. Obama will have decided he is a hopeless addict. …

“In my first major paper on this topic, in Science in 1981, I listed the amount of carbon dioxide that would be introduced by each fossil fuel. I concluded that the world would recognize that it had to phase out coal without burning it all, and not develop unconventional fossil fuels such as tar sands. I was assuming that policymakers would be rational. I did not realize the power that fossil fuel special interests have over policymakers and the public. …

“Turn on your television and listen to the advertisements that the fossil fuel companies are broadcasting. How can we compete against such enormously powerful moneyed interests? Look how difficult it was to fight against the tobacco companies. They are puny compared with the fossil fuel special interests, which permeate governments around the world. The dynamic can change and will change, but it requires a growing movement. I don’t know exactly how we can do it, but we must.”

Solve Climate News notes: “Before the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the air measured about 280 parts per million (ppm), according to researchers. Today, it measures about 390 ppm. That means, for example, that every million pints of air contained 390 pints of carbon dioxide. To keep climate disruption to a minimum, many scientists say ppm shouldn’t rise above 350.”