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Sierra Daily

Feb 19, 2013

Anti-Keystone Campaigners Doing It All Wrong

Kxl rallyLike many 7-year-olds, my daughter Ada has a standard response when faced by a difficult situation: She screams "I GIVE UP!" New York Times columnist Joe Nocera did something similar in his column yesterday, How Not to Fix Climate Change. According to Nocera, the 40,000+ people who had rallied on the Mall in Washington, D.C. the day before to demand that President Obama nix the Keystone XL pipeline were doing it all wrong:

In fact, this should be a no-brainer for the president, for all the reasons I stated earlier, and one more: the strategy of activists like McKibben, Brune and Hansen, who have made the Keystone pipeline their line in the sand, is utterly boneheaded.

Nocera's argument is simple: There's still a big worldwide demand for fossil fuels, Canada has a lot of 'em, so Canada will eventually win. He's good enough to note famed climatologist James Hansen's call for a carbon tax, but concludes that "[I]t would also likely make the expensive tar sands oil more viable,"--an argument demolished by Wonkblog's Brad Plumer.

After dismissing James Hansen, Michael Brune, Bill McKibben and 40,000 others as boneheads, Nocera leaves us hanging as to what we should be doing about climate change. Regarding Canada's dirty tar sands, he says, "The emphasis should be on demand, not supply. If the U.S. stopped consuming so much of the world’s oil, the economic need for the tar sands would evaporate"--ignoring that the whole point of Keystone XL is to export the dirty oil abroad.

It could be that Nocera's right--the immediate economic pressure (as opposed to the far greater economic consequences of ignoring a rapidly warming globe) will win out, and the Keystone XL pipeline will be approved. But for the sake of my kid and all the other 7-year-olds out there, I'm really proud of the folks who braved the cold in D.C. the other day and didn't give up.

Photo by Shadia Fayne Wood/Project Survival Media

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PAUL RAUBER is a senior editor at Sierra. He is the author, with Carl Pope, of the happily outdated Strategic Ignorance: Why the Bush Administration Is Recklessly Destroying a Century of Environmental Progress. Otherwise he is a cyclist, cook, and father of two. Follow him on Twitter @paulrauber

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