It was a just over a year ago that 350.org founder Bill McKibben first heard about TransCanada Corp’s efforts to build the Keystone XL pipeline—a 1700-mile-long project that would carry Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta right through the heart of the U.S. to the Gulf of Mexico, where it would be refined and shipped overseas.
Since then, McKibben’s efforts against the Keystone pipeline, along with those of other educators and organizers, have ignited a media firestorm, and inspired the largest civil disobedience event in 12 years, when over 1,200 protesters were arrested at the White House in August. In January 2012, after immense public pressure, the Obama administration denied a presidential permit that would allow TransCanada to continue construction.
But the fight is far from over. States like Nebraska are gearing up to pass legislation allowing the pipeline to reroute right through its delicate Sand Hills, and the State Department has made it clear that TransCanada may apply for another permit in the future.
Tar sands oil is among the dirtiest on Earth: Canada’s tar sands contain “twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history,” according to NASA climate scientist James Hansen. Allowing the tar sands to be exploited would signify “game over for climate,” he wrote in a recent op-ed in The New York Times. “Civilization would be at risk.”
At a panel yesterday at Netroots Nation in Providence, Rhode Island, organizers reflected on what worked in the struggle to stop the Keystone pipeline—and the challenges that lie ahead.
(Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images)