The Evil At Our Door

When the odds were ten to two, darling I went down and fighted for you. Though I’m leaving in the morning to meet the evil at our door, I will return to you my darling… You are the one I fight my battles for, you are the one that I adore.

These are lyrics from my favorite song this summer, Battles by The Smart Brothers.

It’s a love song, but I also hear a call to action, a call to protect that which we care most about.

The Keystone XL pipeline, and the tar sands extraction it would spur, is so obviously one of the worst actions the United States could take with regard to climate change, not to mention all the communities along the pipeline route whose water and ecosystems would be threatened by crude oil spills. Today, leaders of the largest environmental organizations in this country united to release a letter calling on President Obama to block the Keystone XL pipeline.  You know when Environmental Defense Fund teams up with Rainforest Action Network that something big is in the air.

The tar sands industry has been trying for years to send tar sands crude to American refineries, and the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, in James Hansen’s words, would be game over for the climate.  The predecessor to Keystone XL, the Keystone pipeline, has already had 15 spills in the United States and over 20 spills in Canada since it became operational last year.  The Enbridge pipeline dumped 800,000 gallons of tar sands crude into the Kalamazoo River, and the pipeline that spilled 42,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River also carries tar sands crude (a full list of pipeline accidents can be found here).

Continue reading ‘The Evil At Our Door’

Electing Our Movement

About a year before the 2008 elections, I had a conversation with a fellow organizer to the effect of “wouldn’t it be amazing if we had smart young people all over the country running for office on climate and energy?”  That idea gradually morphed into the Power Vote campaign, which sought to mobilize young voters in support of strong climate and energy candidates.

But that original vision still remains unfulfilled.

In the last four years, our movement is has grown bigger, more diverse and more experienced.  So why aren’t we running for office?

It won’t be easy (neither is stopping a coal plant).  We may be new at this (same with creating sustainable communities).  But unless we take a risk and try something a little crazy, our communities will be stuck with the same candidates as usual. Continue reading ‘Electing Our Movement’

Utah Approves First Tar Sands Mine in US

Today, the Utah Governor’s Energy Initiative Task Force will hold a public hearing to gather input on Utah’s 10-year energy plan. This hearing comes one day after the Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) gave final approval for a tar sands mine in Eastern Utah, the first tar sands mine in the country.

“Approving tar sands one day, then asking for public input on the state’s energy future the next is either dishonest or dysfunctional,” said Ashley Anderson, coordinator for Peaceful Uprising, a US climate action organization based in Utah.

The PR Springs mine, to be operated by Canadian-based Earth Energy Resources, would occupy 213 acres in Grand and Uintah Counties in Eastern Utah. The site is within the Colorado River watershed, which supports 30 million people across the region. Earth Energy Resources expects to produce 2,000 barrels of crude bitumen per day, 350 days per year for 7 years.

“This project has no real value or contribution to society,” said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper and Conservation Director of Living Rivers. Continue reading ‘Utah Approves First Tar Sands Mine in US’

First Tar Sands Mine in US Faces Fierce Resistance in Utah

Yesterday, the tar sands industry met unexpected opposition.

The Salt Lake Tribune captured it best:

“A small Canadian company, in need of millions for its ambitious plans, also is facing stiff opposition from two Utah environmental groups that are trying to thwart its efforts to build one of the first commercial tar sand mines in the country.”

Photo credit: Sarah A. Miller/Deseret News

The Utah Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM), held a hearing on Canadian company Earth Energy Resources’ proposal to mine tar sands in Grand and Uintah Counties in Eastern Utah.  Well over half of the people attending the hearing came to support Peaceful Uprising and Living Rivers in opposing the mine.  John Baza, Director of the the Division noted that there were far more people than usually attend these hearings.

“This project has no real value or contribution to society,” said John Weisheit, Colorado Riverkeeper and Conservation Director of Living Rivers.  “The total amount of oil produced by this mine over seven years of operation would cover just 4 hours of American oil demand – a tiny blip on the radar. However, it will take millennia to restore the watershed they are about to destroy.” Continue reading ‘First Tar Sands Mine in US Faces Fierce Resistance in Utah’

ANOTHER Oil Spill: 800,000 gallons in Kalamazoo River

That’s right, another oil spill.  Monday, July 26th, over 800,000 gallons (25,000+ barrels) of oil from an Enbridge pipeline spilled into a creek that flows into the Kalamazoo River.

It appears that the spill was detected and shut off much faster than the Salt Lake City Oil Spill in June, but spewed nearly twice as much greasy scum as the Chinese Oil Spill just over a week ago.  It pales in comparison to the disaster in the Gulf, but is more than enough contamination for Michigan.

Enbridge, I should mention, is proposing a new tar sands pipeline to bring Canadian tar to Asian refineries.  Because we need more pipelines and tankers… Thankfully the Enbridge pipeline is facing massive opposition.

So that makes 4 major oil spills in 4 months.  Let’s hope that we learn to break this pattern.

Continue reading ‘ANOTHER Oil Spill: 800,000 gallons in Kalamazoo River’

Moab Joins the International Fight to Stop the Tar Sands

This weekend, Moab residents hiked up to Delicate Arch to call on governments and banks to stop funding the expansion of tar sands in North America, as part of the International Stop The Tar Sands Day.

Utah could soon have first tar sands mine in the country, located north of Moab in the Colorado River watershed. Canadian company Earth Energy Resources aims to extract 2,000 barrels a day of tar sands oil from their PR Springs Mine. Earth Energy Resources has received all of the required permits to begin operation except for the Conditional Use Permit from Grand County.

“Grand County Council has the power to choose between investment in a dirty fuel that destroys our land, water and wildlife, or development of clean energy sources that enhances our beautiful and vibrant way of life,” said Moab local Ashley Anderson. Continue reading ‘Moab Joins the International Fight to Stop the Tar Sands’

Oil Spill in China

On Friday, two oil pipelines exploded while an oil tanker was unloading outside Dalian City, China. The spill covers an area of appr0ximately 71 miles, and low end estimates of the amount of oil spilled are around 1,500 to 1,650 tons of crude oil (or about 11,000-12,500 barrels).  The explosions last for about 15 hours and created flames about 30 meters high (video here).  No people were hurt and the leaks have been stopped, but now the clean up begins.

So in the past couple of months, we have seen the worst oil spill in American history in the Gulf, and oil spill in Salt Lake City, Utah that spilled 785 barrels into streams, parks and backyards, and now this explosion in China.  This is not to mention all the oil spills across the world that escape media attention because they are poorly monitored, like the five decades of oil spills in Nigeria.  Oh, and don’t forget the 27,000 abandoned and unmonitored oil wells in the Gulf of Mexico.

These are not isolated incidents.  They are symptoms of an energy system that is inherently unsafe and unstable.  Disasters like these will continue to to occur, unless we actually start to get off oil.

ACT: Tell the State Dept. to Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline

Tomorrow, July 2nd, is the deadline for public comments on the Keystone XL pipeline that could bring 900,000 barrels of tar sands to American refineries each day. Tar sands are the dirtiest fuel we use, creating 3 times the greenhouse gases as conventional oil, contaminating entire rivers and watersheds from leaking toxic tailings lakes and devastating an area of Canada the size of Florida.

Last August, the State Department approved the permit for the pipeline, but they opened up the process to receive comments from the public.  From the perspective of the State Department, this pipeline is in the public interest, bringing in oil and jobs.  However, they fail to fully account for the massive impact that tar sands oil has on the climate, the pollution created by refining tar sands into gasoline and the danger the pipeline poses to landowners and communities along the pipeline route.

The good news is that public opposition is rally to stop the pipeline.  Continue reading ‘ACT: Tell the State Dept. to Stop the Tar Sands Pipeline’

Attack of the Sticky Menace

[The following is a creative perspective on the recent verdict finding Syncrude guilty in the death of 1,600 ducks that landed in one of their tar sands tailing ponds.]

Sixteen hundred ducks flew over the Canadian sky in the annual migration to their mating grounds, guided by genetic compasses, as they had for millennia.  Instead of cool, dark forest as far as the bird’s eye view could see, smokestacks pumping out heavy black fumes and tangles of pipelines carrying modern day alchemy stretch for miles.  You see, the earthmovers had discovered a way to turn tar into gold.

Where once had grown the one of the richest ecosystems on the planet, now refineries and boom towns and pit mines have taken hold like any other invasive species.  That’s right, the tar sands are the Asian carp of Canada.  And despite our best efforts, they show now signs of going away.  Fifteen years of reckless and drunken expansion have led to the most destructive project on the face of the planet.  And, you know what the word for unrestricted growth is?  Cancer.

But to the ducks winging their way home, they only saw a choice between landing on pit mines and machinery or those large, still lakes that stretch for miles.  Kind of a no-brainer for these birdbrains.  Continue reading ‘Attack of the Sticky Menace’

The Meaning of Opportunity

Merriam-Webster defines opportunity as: a favorable juncture of circumstances; a good chance for advancement or progress.

Few things seem to be going right in the this country at the moment: the economy is still weak, the oil spill continues to devastate communities along the Gulf, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq continue to drain our country’s resources without much progress, the social fabric of this country feels frayed and divided.  It would seem that our only shining bright moment was Landon Donovan’s goal in the World Cup yesterday.

It would seem that way if you simply focus on the headlines. Amidst the bad news is an underlying narrative that the current trajectory is not working.  And when something is not working, it is time for a change.

The pessimistic conventional wisdom would tell a story like this: Eventually the oil spill will be stopped, tighter safety regulation on the oil and coal industries may pass to appease public outrage, but we will continue to throw billions of dollars overseas each year for oil, we will continue to drill and mine and frack our communities for the energy beneath them, while energy companies continue to make record profits.   Superficial changes will be politically popular but will do little to change our dysfunctional energy system.  Then the next energy crisis will hit.

Here in Utah, it would seem that this story is playing out. Continue reading ‘The Meaning of Opportunity’

Juliana Williams

Juliana Williams grew up in Washington state and began organizing at Whitman College in 2004, working to get her campus to purchase renewable energy. She volunteered with the Sierra Student Coalition and help found the Cascade Climate Network. Following that, she lived in Iowa for two years, working as the SSC's Great Plains Organizer with amazing students in MN, IA, MO, NE and SD. After working with the Breakthrough Institute she is now pursuing her Master of Public Policy at the University of Maryland. She is an avid ultimate player, plays string bass and spends way too much time on wikipedia.

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