Part of the lead up to this week's demonstrations in Washington's against the XL Pipeline was an April 15 Google Hangout sponsored by the People's World. The event, one of a series of monthly hangouts put together by the Peoples World focused on the battle against the pipeline which many see as the most important environmental issue of recent times. EcoWatch founder and CEO Stefanie Spear, and Public Citizen Climate and Energy director Tyson Slocum were the featured panelists. The event was moderated by People's World labor editor John Wojcik and produced by writer Blake Deppe.
The State Department on Apr. 18 announced it would indefinitely delay the decision on Keystone XL - a small victory, but a victory all the same. But the question Spear had posed during the Hangout was troubling: "Could we win the Keystone XL battle but still lose the tarsands war?" she remarked. "The quick answer is yes. Even without the Keystone XL pipeline, the [oil industry] is still going to do everything it can to get the tarsands to a coastline to be able to export it. There are other pipelines underway that will lead the tarsands to the East Coast - through Montreal into New England. So we have a big battle on our hands." With or without Keystone XL, she said, "Somehow, some way, we need to get people motivated and ready to say no."
Meanwhile, Wojcik pointed out, groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) spend a lot of money on dismantling environmental laws and setting up other laws on the state level that serve their interests. This makes one wonder how such corporate power can be fought.
According to Slocum, "We have to continue to build support at the grassroots level. It starts with your mayor, your city council, your state lawmaker, your governor, your representative, your senator, and the President - contacting all of them to say that we need to support a formal, binding resolution that would amend the Constitution to say that these corporations are not people. That is the only way we're going to get past these disastrous pro-corporate decisions. And we have to start investing aggressively in alternatives to oil, because we can talk about Keystone and the tarsands, but unless we've got a concrete plan, we're not going to make those things irrelevant."
"There is a lack of support and investment in alternative energy and transportation," Spear agreed. "We're living in a country that doesn't have a renewable portfolio standard. We don't have a [federal] energy bill that says we should generate X amount of power by a certain year. Because of that, so many states have said, 'Well, we're going to do it, since the federal government won't.' But those states are under attack from groups like ALEC."
In the midst of this struggle, corporations falsely tout natural gas development as a "clean energy alternative," further complicating the issue. "If we're talking about reducing environmental harm and carbon emissions," said Spear, natural gas operations like fracking are "not the solution. It's yet another wrong direction for us. I compare it to similar issues, like nuclear power; we have high-level radioactive fuel rods, and we still don't know what to do with them. With fracking, the water that comes up from deep underground is also radioactive, and again, we don't know what to do with it. One of the purported solutions, injecting it into underground wells, is causing earthquakes. Natural gas is an example of, yet again, continuing to rely on non-renewable fossil fuels instead of taking the right steps forward.
"This is why it's so important to vote," she continued, noting the need to vote in politicians that support renewable energy. And when you put the pressure on those politicians to do what needs to be done, she said, it can make a difference. "But again, it's a matter of getting more people involved in this movement and educating them on the issues."
The Hangout was concluded with a question-and-answer session. Topics discussed included retraining workers to work in the clean energy sector, including solar; addressing unions' concerns over potential jobs lost if the opposition to Keystone prevails; and the idea of an environmental dividend to help transition from polluting industries to green alternatives.
The entire event can be watched in the video below.
Actvists are urging, meanwhile, that people join the ongoing demonstrations in the nation's capital - actions involving a coalition of ranchers, farmers, native tribes, and others. The demonstrations there will continue through April 27.
Photo: People's World Google+ page.