March 1, 2013
The activists fighting the Keystone XL pipeline are radical-and right
The respectable center has recognized that climate change is not only real and man-made but also a genuine emergency. The scientific evidence has become too stark to indulge denial or dithering. The earth is hotter; Arctic ice is melting at a terrifying rate; staid institutions like reinsurers and the CIA are sounding dire warnings about rising seas and extreme droughts. There’s an emerging consensus that fossil fuel apologists are on the wrong side of the battle of the century.
But there’s also an emerging consensus-among newspaper editorial boards, respectable-centrist pundits, even the magazine Nature- that the rabble-rousing activists who have tied themselves to the White House gate and clamored for President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline are picking the wrong fight. Stopping Keystone, these critics point out, wouldn’t prevent catastrophic warming. It might not even prevent the extraction from Canada’s dirty tar sands. It wouldn’t cut emissions as much as new coal regulations or clean-energy subsidies or carbon pricing. Meanwhile, approving the pipeline would create jobs and reduce our dependence on petro-dictators while signaling that Obama isn’t as radical as the tree huggers protesting outside his house.