After months of input from hundreds of thousands of people, and recent protests from the White House to Portland, the Obama administration has decided to reevaluate the environmental review of the dirty Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline. This massive pipeline would bring oil mined from the tar sands underneath the wild boreal forests of Alberta to oil refineries on the Texas Gulf coast, further hooking the US on the dirtiest of fossil fuels.
In Portland on November 6, Sierra Club activists rallied in solidarity with a simultaneous protest against the Keystone pipeline in Washington, DC, which drew some 12,000 people to the White House.
Here’s a recap from one of the organizers of the Portland event, Ted Gleichman, co-chair of the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club’s anti-LNG committee:
Alberta vs. Ontario: What does that mean for the energy and climate future of Oregon?
First, Alberta: This past Sunday, November 6, the Oregon Chapter of the Sierra Club was the key grass-roots environmental group working with Occupy Portland in a peaceful and enthusiastic rally and march against the Keystone XL pipeline proposal.
This pipeline would take the dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet, the Alberta Tar Sands, 1,700 miles across the Midwest and the Ogallala Aquifer to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Whether it would then be burned in our vehicles or exported to China, it would be the most drastic contribution to irreversible global warming of anything we could do in North America. A sour deal on every level, this pipeline must be stopped.
Sierra Club volunteers, with staff support, worked with Occupiers to demonstrate West Coast solidarity with “Hands Around the White House,” where 12,000 people demonstrated three and four deep to urge President Obama to stand against further exploitation of the Tar Sands – one year to the day before the 2012 general election.
The Portland event completely encircled the downtown block of the historic Pioneer Courthouse, at the busiest transit intersection in the city. The 250 demonstrators, fully compliant with free-speech laws, chanted and sang for an hour on a beautiful clear afternoon.
Previously, we’d heard from six speakers, including me and Bonnie McKinlay of the Chapter Beyond Coal campaign. We were among the 1,252 people arrested at the Tar Sands Action protests at the White House in late August and early September.
We focused on the future at our Portland event: More than 100 people signed up for more involvement, and we passed out 200 brochures on ways people can get involved with all types of Club activities and other organizations that share Sierra Club values.
And now we’ve learned that President Obama has heard enough of our urgent message to at least delay the pipeline for additional environmental review for a year and a half – well after the 2012 voting.
And that’s where Ontario comes in. They’ve taken the opposite path from Alberta. Instead of drowning their eggs in a basket of toxic fossil fuel waste, they are hatching renewable chickens!
In 2010, Ontario passed the first true “feed-in tariff” program in North American, where utilities are required to pay folks who generate renewable energy a guaranteed contract price that lets them finance their equipment and generate a fair return on investment. Oregon currently has a small-scale pilot feed-in tariff, which has been highly successful, and needs to be improved and expanded.
Through its program, in just one year, the Ontario Green Energy & Green Economy Act has generated five thousand megawatts of renewable-energy capacity and created more than 40,000 jobs. Most new solar photovoltaic and other renewable-energy systems are being installed in small- and medium-sized configurations, on individual homes and public buildings, on churches and farms and factories. Many are being done as community-based projects with many neighbors or tribal members participating in common: even renters can own a piece of a solar system!
As a result of this dramatic explosion of clean energy and green jobs, Ontario will close all of their coal-fired power plants by 2014!
Here in Oregon, the Sierra Club is once again leading the way. Chapter leaders have developed a strategic alliance with Oregonians for Renewable Energy Policy (OREP), a leading non-profit working on a feed-in tariff program for our state, and other clean energy organizations. The groups plan to influence the development of the Governor’s 10-year energy plan, including a hoped for expansion of Oregon’s small-scale pilot feed-in tariff program.
The Oregon Sierra Club is also leading the way on energy efficiency. Working with Clean Energy Works Oregon, the Oregon Chapter is promoting deep weatherization: a powerful remodeling program that allows homeowners to cut energy use dramatically while improving the livability, comfort, and value of their homes. This program provides for loans that are repaid through utility bills, providing convenience to the homeowner and security to the lender.
Overall, the Oregon Chapter Sierra Club is showing the way on both the positive and the negative: stepping out front to stop destructive efforts like the Keystone XL, coal export, and LNG terminals and pipelines – and simultaneously taking concrete, practical steps to create the sensible clean energy future and good local jobs we all know we need.
Alberta vs. Ontario? We’re choosing Ontario!