Thanks to the Trump administration, the Keystone XL pipeline is back. What’s that? You thought it’d already been defeated? Well, it was. And the folks at Bold Nebraska are looking to score a victory this time around with a plan we love called Solar XL. They and their local partners want to build solar panels in its path.
All this got us thinking of an old expression: if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. To us, that just means that if you’re in trouble, you ought to stop doing the thing that got you there.
Well, we’re in trouble. Climate change is happening because we’ve dug up a lot of the earth’s fossil fuels and burned them to power our society. Seems clear to us that we should stop digging (literally), especially when renewable energy alternatives like solar have become so cheap and effective. So why would anyone think it’s a good idea to build a new pipeline and double-down on the antiquated dig, drill, and burn approach that got us here? Great question…
The Pipeline That Wouldn’t Die
Like a zombie, the Keystone XL pipeline keeps coming back from the dead. This nearly 1200-mile-long pipeline would pump about 830,000 gallons of dirty oil from Canada’s “tar sands” to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. This would lock us into another generation of dirty energy production. We all celebrated when President Obama seemingly put an end to that project back in 2015. But then the Trump administration reversed his decision.
President Trump no doubt had his reasons (we wonder if all his administration’s connections to the oil and gas industry had anything to do with it, or perhaps it was just because he doesn’t believe in climate change?) for resuscitating Keystone XL, but it’s up to all of us to make sure all that oil stays where it belongs, in the ground.
How We Got Here
Ever since the dawn of the industrial revolution, our strategy of digging ancient fossil fuels and setting them on fire has had a glaring downside, but for many years people were willing to accept sooty skies, polluted rivers, and the like as the price to be paid for electricity, cars, and the other conveniences of modern life. We’ve made strong efforts over the years to clean up the pollution (ahem, thanks, EPA), but all that extra CO2 in the atmosphere isn’t going away.
So now we’re in a hole. And, with unassailable evidence that continuing to dig up and burn carbon puts us on a path to an uninhabitable planet, with overwhelming evidence that solar and other renewables are outperforming, and will continue to outperform, the old dirty-fuel economy, we think it’s time we stop digging.
The Sunshine Strategy
Bold Nebraska has been working hard along with a coalition of groups including our friends from 350.org for a long time to make sure the Keystone XL pipeline never gets built. Right now, all eyes are on the state’s Public Service Commission, which recently held a formal hearing and results are expected in late November.
The group wants to erect solar panels right in the middle of the proposed pipeline route, which Keystone’s developer, TransCanada, has threatened to take from local ranchers by eminent domain. It’s an inventive and attention-grabbing tactic, and possibly part of a very cool trend:
- In Pennsylvania, nuns are building a chapel on the route of a proposed pipeline that crosses their property
- Activists in Massachusetts built a replica of Henry Thoreau’s cabin on the proposed path of natural gas pipeline there
- And in another project, Bold Nebraska built a solar barn in 2013 directly in the path of the Keystone pipeline
Pipeline opponents believe that putting up those solar panels demonstrate that it’s possible to generate good jobs and good clean energy. Nebraska rancher Bob Allpress lives on land that’s been in his family since 1886. He’s concerned that if the pipeline were built and then sprung a leak, it would pollute the water that he and his cattle depend on. “It would take out us and people all the way down to the Missouri River.”
Just Say No to Pipelines
There’s no such thing as a safe pipeline. And there’s no way that we’ll ever effectively combat climate change if we keep investing in dirty fuels. Enough with all the digging, already! The fossil fuel era is over. It’s time to invest in clean, renewable energy. Whether it’s solar panels in Nebraska or turning abandoned coal mines into giant solar arrays, the clean energy future isn’t the future, it’s already here.
That’s a fact that even TransCanada would begrudgingly admit. They recently revealed that they’re having trouble drumming up enough customers to make the pipeline viable!
Nonetheless, we have to keep the pressure on. Join us and Bold Nebraska and our friends at 350.org to support Solar XL and let’s keep that dirty tar-sands oil in the ground.