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Sierra Daily

Aug 30, 2011

The Dog That Didn't Bark

Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

The clip above from the PBS Newshour is as fine an introduction to the debate over Canadian tar sands and the ruinous Keystone XL Pipeline as you could wish for. (Today actress Daryl Hannah and renowned climate scientist James Hansen joined the more than 500 people who have been arrested thus far protesting the proposed pipeline in front of the White House.) It's also valuable for another reason, but you have to watch it first. That's OK, I'll wait.

Alrighty, anything strike you as strange about that interview? It's not what McKibben or Bryce said--it's what PBS's Jeffrey Brown never asked: "But Mr. Bryce, what's the use of cheap, abundant, and reliable fossil fuel if it leads to catastrophic climate change?" Fossil fuel flacks almost never get asked that question in forums where they can be quizzed about their answers. Bryce could have tried the sort of dodge that works so well for many politicians ("Well, I think the science on that is unsettled. . ."), but a smart guy like McKibben would have hit that argument out of the park. And that gets at what I think is the value for Big Coal and Big Oil and Big Tar Sands in promoting climate denialism: By ghettoizing climate change as a "political" issue, they can scare off even journalists who know better from asking tough follow-up questions out of fear of appearing "partisan."

--Paul Rauber

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