National Commentary

XL Pipeline

President Obama had a breakthrough on climate change, striking a surprise bilateral deal with China. The agreement would lead to China capping its carbon emissions by 2030. America’s target is to slice its emissions by 26 percent to 28 percent of 2005 levels by 2025.

This is good news for the environment and bad news for climate change denying Republicans. When asked during the midterm elections if they believed in climate change, the stock answer given by GOP politicians was, “I am not a scientist.”

Well, they also aren’t coal miners, but that didn’t stop these hypocrites for having strong opinions in favor of dirty coal. They aren’t gynecologists, but that hasn’t stopped them from opining on women’s reproductive issues. They aren’t military generals, but that hasn’t dissuaded many Republicans from having grand plans to bomb half the world into oblivion. And, they aren’t bouncers at gay bars, yet they consistently attack gay rights.

One of the main arguments that Republicans used to do nothing to halt climate change, was to say that what we do is irrelevant, because China will still pollute the earth.

The deal with China – a nation literally choking to death on pollution – obliterates this flawed argument. The delusional Republicans who are selling our childrens’ future down a filthy, congested river for a quick buck no longer have this lame excuse.

What I loathe about the “what about China” argument is that it diminishes America’s international standing. It sends the message that we are no longer world leaders – just passive followers. It told other countries that we are corrupt, short sighted, and would pawn the future for present profits.

This is yet another victory for President Obama and the Democrats. Let’s hope they take out their megaphone and celebrate, so they get credit for this advancement of America’s strategic interests.

Meanwhile, the GOP House voted 252-161 to ram through a bill that would expedite the controversial XL Pipeline. They don’t have time to vote for immigration, but they have time to vote in favor of the world’s dirtiest form of oil. This is all you need to know about their twisted priorities.

The House vote sent a mixed message to the world on America’s commitment to addressing climate change. It also reaffirms America’s addiction to oil and shows that the pollution lobby has the Republican Party in its pocket.

Fortunately, the United States Senate – which is temporarily controlled by Democrats – stopped the Keystone XL Pipeline in its tracks by a single vote last week. The vote was 59-41. Fourteen Democrats voted in favor of the pipeline joining all 45 Republicans. The vote probably killed whatever remaining desperate hope Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu had for keeping her Louisiana Senate seat.

When the GOP takes over the Senate, they will promptly vote again on the pipeline – and will likely have the votes necessary to have a filibuster proof majority. But will probably fall short of the 67 votes needed to override a presidential veto. This gives President Obama enormous leverage. He can veto and make environmentalists happy or he could use the Keystone XL pipeline as a grand bargaining chip.

Personally, I love the idea energy independence. The pipeline would create some jobs – though not the jobs bonanza touted by Republicans. I love sticking it to oil tyrants such as Russia and Nigeria. I love lower gas prices.

There is only one problem. Virtually every credible scientist in the world says climate change exists and if we don’t deal with it, it will come at our own peril. My home state of Florida is already dealing with its effects – with high tides bringing floods to urban areas.

I happen to believe the scientists. So, I’d support the XL pipeline if it were 1990. But given what we now know, how can we in good conscience support shipping the dirtiest form of oil, from Canadian tar sands, to countries across the globe? It seems reckless and irresponsible. And for whatever money we gain on the front end, we will have to pay it on the back end – many times over – to clean up the mess.

Given Obama’s recent defiance of the GOP, I’m not sure he will compromise on XL. But, if he does, he should demand a substantial fund be created – where profits from the XL pipeline are funneled directly into research and development on alternative energy. This way, maybe the XL pipeline can help serve as a bridge to the future. If Obama signs a bill without extracting a pound of flesh to fund alternative energy, he’d be missing a grand opportunity to jump start new technologies.

Of course – maybe it’s already too late, and we have done irreparable harm to the environment. Have we mortgaged tomorrow for a quick hit of cold hard cash today?


Wayne Besen is a columnist and author of the book “Anything But Straight: Unmasking the Scandals and Lies Behind the Ex-Gay Myth.”