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Bill McKibben: Trump May Have Approved Keystone XL, But People Will Stop This Pipeline Again

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The Trump administration has approved a permit allowing TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of crude every day from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast for export. TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Yellowstone River, as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the United States. Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is a reversal of the Obama administration’s decision to halt the project in late 2015 following massive, sustained resistance from Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and environmental groups. For more, we speak with Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org and author of several books, including "Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet."

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JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The Trump administration has approved a permit allowing TransCanada to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil every day from Alberta’s tar sands to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast for export. Trump addressed reporters in the Oval Office on Friday morning.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today I’m pleased to announce the official approval of the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline would cross the Yellowstone River, as well as the Ogallala Aquifer, the largest freshwater aquifer in the United States. Republicans and the oil industry say the pipeline will create thousands of construction jobs and provide national energy security. However, environmentalists and scientists have long warned about the devastating impact of further fossil fuel extraction on a rapidly warming planet.

Trump’s approval of the Keystone XL pipeline is a reversal of the Obama administration’s decision to halt the project in late 2015, following massive, sustained resistance from Native Americans, farmers, ranchers and environmental groups. In response to Trump’s decision to greenlight the project, the group 350.org tweeted, quote, "US State Dept. may approve #KeystoneXL, but this pipeline won’t be built. People stopped it once & will again." On Friday, protesters gathered across from the Trump International Hotel in New York City and outside the White House in Washington, D.C.

AMY GOODMAN: The pipeline is not yet a done deal. The company TransCanada still needs to secure funding, acquire local permits, stave off potential legal challenges. Meanwhile, environmental groups and community organizers say they’re gearing up for a major showdown with the Trump administration over its climate policy. Next month, protesters will gather in Washington, D.C., on March 29th [sic], for the People’s Climate—on April 29th, for the People’s Climate Mobilization, where they say they’ll push forward a vision of a clean energy economy.

For more, we’re joined by Bill McKibben by Democracy Now! video stream from his home in Vermont, co-founder of 350.org.

Bill, talk about this announcement that was made on Friday. It seemed as if, Bill, this was right at the time when Trump was going down over healthcare, was extremely angry and issued this unrelated executive order around the pipeline permit.

BILL McKIBBEN: Yes, it was directly in between pretending to drive a big truck and losing on healthcare. And the interesting thing was, he signed his piece of paper and then turned to the CEO of TransCanada and said, "When does construction start?" And the CEO of TransCanada looked a little abashed and said, "Well, we still have some permits to get in Nebraska," which is a great understatement. They’ve got a lot of work to do if this thing’s ever going to get built. And there are lots of people standing in their way.

What it really underscores, Amy, is how much the world has changed in the six years since this fight began. Look, six years ago, the world’s climate scientists and others said this is a terrible idea. In the time that’s come since, the price of a solar panel has dropped in half, and we’ve had the three hottest years in human history. The plan for the Keystone pipeline, which was bad then, is preposterous now. And the only good news is that the fight against Keystone has gone on to spur thousands of other battles with other fossil fuel projects all over the world. And some of those we’re winning, some of those we’re losing. But every place—every oil well, every frack well, every coal mine, every coal port, every pipeline—they’re all being fought.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Bill, as you say, the price of solar panels has dropped, but also the price of oil has plummeted, as well, making it even less of a feasible project economically for those who are backing it. I’m wondering if you could talk about that, the issue of the oil economics, and also of the role of Prime Minister Trudeau in Canada on this issue?

BILL McKIBBEN: Absolutely, and it’s a really good question, Juan. Look, the tar sands is not only a climate disaster. It’s more and more an economic disaster. The price of oil has fallen so far that people have abandoned tens of billions of dollars’ worth of plans for expansion. And the Trudeau government up in Canada is sort of operating in the shadow of the craziness of the Trump administration. Trump is so creepy and evil that everybody else looks somewhat normal in his—you know, in his shadow. But Trudeau is the perfect example, in this case, of why that’s not true. He went down to Houston, couple of weeks ago, to speak to a bunch of oil men. And he had them up on their feet cheering when he said, "No nation would find 173 billion barrels of oil"—

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bill, I think we—I think we have a—we have a clip of that. I want to turn to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking earlier this month.

PRIME MINISTER JUSTIN TRUDEAU: I said, on the very first trip to the oil patch back in 2012, no country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: You were talking about it. Go ahead.

BILL McKIBBEN: That got a standing—that got a standing ovation from the oil guys. But since you guys were in Paris for the climate talks, you’ll remember that it was Justin Trudeau in Canada that pushed hardest to have the world set a goal of not increasing the temperature more than 1.5 degrees, and he got a lot of credit for that. That 173 billion barrels of oil from the tar sands that he wants to dig up and burn represents 30 percent of the entire planet’s carbon budget that would get us to 1.5 degrees. That is, a country with one-half of 1 percent of the planet’s population wants to burn 30 percent of the planet’s carbon budget. Trudeau and Trump in collaboration in the tar sands is a really sick picture. And that’s why, you know, Native and indigenous peoples on both sides of the border, it’s why farmers and ranchers, it’s why climate scientists, it’s why all the rest of us are coming together around this fight and so many other fights.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us how this fits into President Trump’s larger plan involving the EPA, cutbacks there, ending climate research, etc., and what the plans are for April 29th in Washington?

BILL McKIBBEN: His whole plan is: What can we do to save the oil industry? The oil industry is in trouble, because demand is beginning to disappear. Yesterday, at midday in California, more than half of the state’s electricity was being provided by renewables—a new record. That’s pretty amazing. You know, we’re about to see the big advent of electric cars. These things terrify the oil industry because they destroy demand. That’s why the Trump administration is getting rid of the mileage standards for cars. They’re going to try and get rid of California’s Clean Air Act exemptions. They’re stopping climate research so no one will be noticing that we have less ice than we’ve ever had in the Arctic and the Antarctic. I mean, this is—this is craziness.

And the only possible response to that craziness is a lot of people in the streets, just as with healthcare, making it clear to our leaders that we simply won’t accept this kind of retreat, this kind of return to the past. And that’s what April 29th will be about. You remember, because you were there covering it, the big climate march in New York City. This is the D.C. version two years later. And it comes on the hundredth day of the president’s administration. We’ve got to make some noise.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Bill McKibben, we want to thank you for being with us. We’re going to ask you to stay with us for a post-show for a few minutes, talking about what’s happening in places like Peru and with the record weather events that are taking place throughout the world. Bill McKibben is co-founder of 350.org, author of several books, including Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet.

That does it for our broadcast. We have a job opening. It is a news fellow. You can go to democracynow.org.

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People's Climate March: A Protest Against the Fossil Fuel Industry Taking Over the U.S. Government

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